Rapport: Create that Connection, or Risk it All

Establishing rapport is such an important skill for working with either individuals or groups because it deepens responsiveness and engagement.

There are many ways this can happen successfully but what you are looking to achieve is to assist that person to be at their most engaged with the material you want to share. Without this, it’s doubtful that you’ll achieve the set of responses you’re looking for. I remember a time when I realised that I’d missed out this valuable point and kicked myself for not noticing sooner.

Getting resistance

I was delivering a session and we’d been lucky enough to be using the drama and dance space for the sessions. Since chairs hadn’t been provided, I’d asked the group to use the available mats. This was at the fifth session and so the group was pretty well established. But as they sat on these mats and I worked through the material for that session, it was apparent that they weren’t settled and had begun to distract each other and play with the mats or their journals.

Standing in front of them attempting to engage them was proving more and more challenging. I felt my frustration increase as I saw the session not go as I’d hoped. As they played around and I tried to focus on the material, another part of me whispered, “You’re only as good as the feedback you get”. Since the group was playing around, clearly I’d lost rapport with them. I wasn’t communicating, I had to change something that I was doing.

Lightbulb moments

In a moment I realised that I was standing in front and above the group, they on the mats. I’d not met them at their level. With no small sense of relief – as well as the hope that this would work – I grabbed a mat and sat with the group, asking them to form a circle together.

These two actions: sitting with them and forming a circle changed how we interacted. It reset the group dynamic and I took the programme material and reworked it to achieve the session outcome.

Reflections on resistance

What may be useful to think about is that if you’re not getting the response from your child you wanted, perhaps rather than asking the child to ‘pay attention’ or ‘listen’, I’d invite you to change something you’re doing and find alternatives.

What did I learn? I enjoyed learning not to lose myself to the outcome and nurturing a responsive behaviour from the children is uppermost. I’d lost sight that I needed to maintain rapport before expecting the pupils to engage. It’s a lesson learned and, as ever, it’s always nice to be taught by children.


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