Building Rapport in Coaching: Why It’s the Key to Client Success

building rapport in coaching - two people shaking hands
I'm Steph!

Digital strategy is my professional expertise and emotional intelligence has long been my personal strength (did I mention I'm also a certified mindset coach?). Put them all together, you've got yourself a dynamo partner you want in your corner on your success journey!

hey there

Get My Free Guide 


TOp categories

While fine-tuning your coaching packages or building an effective marketing plan are important, let’s talk about another area of coaching that’s equally, if not, more important – building rapport.

Today, we’ll discuss what that is, why it’s crucial for your coaching business, and tips you can apply to build on this skill. 

What Does Building Rapport in Coaching Mean? 

building rapport in coaching - a woman waving at someone she's talking to on the tablet

When you meet someone and immediately feel a sense of connection, that’s rapport at work. 

It’s like an invisible thread that ties two people together, creating an atmosphere of trust and mutual understanding. 

Successful rapport building in a coaching relationship provides your clients with a safe and supportive environment.

With it, your client is more likely to feel comfortable sharing their challenges and aspirations, paving the way for more effective sessions. 

Without it, they might hold back and limit their growth potential. And as a coach, that’s the last thing you want to happen. 

Key Benefits of Building Rapport as a Coach

Enhanced communication

When you share good rapport with your clients, communication flows effortlessly. You don’t need to force them to open up or share their concerns. 

Instead, clients naturally feel inclined to discuss what’s on their mind because they feel at ease and perceive you as trustworthy enough. 

In addition, conversations become more meaningful. This fluid exchange of ideas, strategy, and dialogue becomes the core of every successful coaching session.

Increased client commitment

A genuinely connected client is more inclined to stay committed to the coaching process. They sense your investment in their success, which amplifies their dedication to the journey.

Without rapport, your clients frequently reschedule sessions, skip assignments, or put in just the minimum effort. Instead of a collaboration, your coaching relationship will feel more like a one-sided effort.

Foster client relationships

Let’s say your coaching client encountered an unexpected roadblock in achieving their goal.

If you’ve established enough positive rapport, they’ll look to you for guidance and feel empowered by your shared belief in their potential. They’ll be quicker to pivot, adjust, and move forward, knowing you’re right there cheering them on.

On the other hand, without this bond or trust, a client might feel isolated in their struggles, making setbacks appear bigger than they are. 

Higher client satisfaction and long-term engagement

When clients sense a genuine connection, they’re happier with each session. And as that becomes consistent, they’ll be more inclined to stay with you for a long time. 

In addition, when you decide to offer new coaching programs or expand your services down the road, these satisfied clients are more likely to come aboard. 

Their trust in you, built over time, makes them open to exploring new avenues of growth alongside you.

5 Practical Steps to Build Rapport With Your Coaching Clients

1. Listen Actively

In coaching, active listening is the key to truly understanding your client. 

If you’re not familiar with it, imagine this situation. Your friend is sharing a story about their tough day, and rather than thinking of what to say next, you’re absorbing every word and feeling their emotion. 

That’s active listening! It’s the art of being fully present and attuned to your client’s words.

Besides showing courtesy, this action also helps you address your client’s needs head-on. 

To harness the power of active listening. Here’s what you can do: 

  • Avoid interrupting. Allow your clients to complete their thoughts. Jumping in too soon can make them feel unheard or rushed.
  • Practice the pause. After your client finishes speaking, take a moment before responding. This shows that you’re digesting their words and thinking deeply about them.
  • Minimize distractions. When in session, put away any devices, close unrelated tabs, and ensure your environment is conducive to attentive listening. 

2. Show Empathy 

Empathy is the power to feel and understand another’s emotions like they’re yours. But remember, it’s not about pity or feeling sorry for them.

When building rapport in coaching, empathy is vital. Your client’s journey will be fraught with highs and lows, and your empathetic touch can make all the difference. 

To enhance your empathic connection, do the following: 

  • Recognize and validate the client’s emotions. When your clients share their feelings, acknowledge them. This simple act assures them that their emotions are legitimate and worth addressing.
  • Avoid being dismissive. It’s easy to trivialize someone’s concerns inadvertently. Always treat their feelings respectfully and avoid responses like “It’s not a big deal” or “You’ll get over it.”
  • Put yourself in their shoes. Imagining how the client might feel in their situation will help you understand their perspective better. 

3. Be Genuine 

As a coach, authenticity is your strongest ally. Being genuine means you’re not trying to be someone you’re not or saying something to impress someone.  

When you’re genuine, clients can sense it. They’ll feel more at ease, knowing they’re not just interacting with a ‘coach persona’ but a natural person who genuinely cares about their progress and well-being. 

However, being authentic does not give license to rudeness. Practice honesty with compassion and mindfulness. This way, you can respectfully uplift and empower your clients with the truth. 

Here’s how you can practice genuineness:

  • Provide constructive feedback. Give inputs that foster growth and development, not just pointing out flaws.
  • Don’t overpromise. Ensure that what you promise aligns with what you can deliver. Overcommitting might seem like a way to win trust, but it often leads to disappointment when expectations aren’t met.
  • Practice transparency. This means being open about your coaching strategies, potential outcomes, and limitations. Being transparent assures your clients that there are no hidden agendas, helping you establish trust.

4. Pay Attention to Non-Verbal Cues

Non-verbal cues are the unspoken signals people convey through their body language, facial expressions, posture, and even tone of voice. 

They often say more than words ever could and play a massive role in building rapport with your coaching clients. 

When you catch these silent messages, you’re tapping into a deeper understanding of your client’s feelings and thoughts. 

You can do the following to become more aware of non-verbal cues:

  • Stay present. You’ll notice subtler signs in your client’s behavior when fully engaged in the conversation.
  • Educate yourself on body language. Many resources and courses teach the basics of interpreting physical gestures and expressions. You can start with this guide.
  • Ask for feedback. If you’re unsure about a specific cue, gently ask your client. This can lead to more open communication and understanding.

5. Ask Open-Ended Questions 

Open-ended questions aren’t just helpful in gathering information. 

For you as a coach, these questions offer a window into your client’s mind. They allow your clients to share more of their story, creating a platform for discovery and clarity.

For instance, instead of asking, “Did you achieve your goal this week?” you could pose, “What challenges did you face while working towards your goal, and how did you address them?” 

That way, your clients can elaborate, reflect, and think more critically. 

Here’s how you can effectively integrate open-ended questions into your coaching:

  • Be genuinely curious. Let your questions stem from a genuine desire to understand and help. This authenticity will encourage more sincere responses.
  • Listen more, talk less. Allow your clients the space to think and express themselves. Resist the urge to fill silences immediately. 
  • Follow up for clarity. If a client’s answer sparks genuine interest or seems vague, dive deeper with follow-up questions. This demonstrates your commitment to truly understanding their perspective.

Improve Your Rapport Building Skills

I hope this list has shown you the significant impact establishing rapport with clients can have on your coaching success. 

Remember, it’s about establishing trust and connecting deeply and authentically with your clients. 

So, take the time to refine these skills and watch as your coaching relationships improve healthily.

We’d Like to Hear From You

Which of these steps do you want to apply in your coaching sessions immediately? Share your thoughts below! 

+ show Comments

- Hide Comments

add a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Go from employee to entrepreneur with my top four mindset shifts in this free guide for the aspiring entrepreneur.

It's time to overcome your self-doubt as an entrepreneur

Download the Guide


Hey, I'm Stephanie Sam! Personal Development Mentor and Certified Mindset Coach serving clients worldwide. Welcome to Hello Thrivers™!

©Hello Thrivers Media LLC 2023
All rights reserved. | Privacy Policy
Terms and Conditions 

Stay in Touch


Stay informed and inspired - Sign up to access valuable tips, tools, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox!