Rapport: Heart and Mind


Joe was the MC for the NLP Awards, London. A job requiring great Rapport building skills

(Part Two: Monkey See, Monkey Do)

By Joe Cheal

This article is the second in a trilogy aiming to provide a little background on the neuro-science of rapport.


As an NLP Trainer,  standing (or sitting) at the front of the room, you have a significant impact on the state and brain chemistry of the audience. Of course, the way you behave, the language you use and the stories you tell could have an obvious, conscious effect on the emotions of the audience, but it goes much deeper than that… every move you make has an impact…




When you carry out an action, for example kicking a ball, there are a set of motor-neurons that fire in the brain.  In addition, when you see someone else kick a ball, you have another set of motor-neurons called ‘mirror-neurons’ that also fire. As far as the mirror-neurons are concerned, you are kicking the ball too. In fact, you can hear a ball being kicked and as long as you know what it is, those same mirror-neurons will fire. Even talking about kicking a ball or thinking about it or reading about it appears to set them off.


Marco Iacoboni (2008) suggests that mirror neurons create a map of the body and are triggered by ‘potential actions’ of the body as well as actual actions. There are different types of mirror neurons that fire for different reasons:

  • when perceiving or grasping a particular object,
  • when perceiving or carrying out a particular action,
  • when perceiving or carrying out actions that achieve a similar goaland
  • when perceiving or carrying out actions that lead to other actions.


So what does this concept of mirror neurons add to NLP?



Mirror Neurons and Rapport


Joe using his knowledge of Rapport when working with groups

The most obvious connection is with empathy and rapport. In order to get a sense of how someone else is feeling, your mirror neurons tell you. As long as you have experienced a particular emotion or action yourself, you can then empathise with that. If you have not experienced a particular emotion or action, no mirror neurons will fire. It is as if mirror neurons are programmed with particular types of experiences once you have had those experiences first hand. Afterwards, they will fire off if they see, hear or feel something similar. Indeed, the more practised you are at a particular action or emotion, the stronger the mirror neuron reaction when you perceive that action or emotion in others.


It is equally possible that mirror neurons have played a part in your ability to socialise and connect with others. They may be responsible for your ability to learn from others and indeed to model others successfully. Perhaps they even have a role in your morals and ethics. If you had no connection to others, you would feel no sense of the hurt or joy that you might instil in others by your behaviour.


Research about mirror neurons has also demonstrated that mirroring someone else’s body language (e.g. your right hand with their left hand) lights up the mirror neurons four times more strongly than basic matching/mimicking (your right hand with their right hand). Mirroring produces higher rapport than basic matching. Indeed, according to Marianne LaFrance (1982), when an observer sees two people mirroring, they regard them as having more closeness than when they simply match.


Peter Enticott at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia and colleagues (2008) have discovered that people who are good at interpreting other people’s facial expressions tend to have more active mirror neurons. Whether some people are born with more mirror neurons or develop more because of life experience is unclear. It seems that mapping other people’s expressions and actions onto our own bodies, helps us to understand and predict that person’s intentions and emotions. This also tends to boost empathy levels. It is clear that mirror neurons must also play a key role in calibration and emotional intelligence.




  • Enticotta, Peter G. et al (2008) “Mirror neuron activation is associated with facial emotion processing” Neuropsychologia (article in press)
  • Iacoboni, M. (2008) “Mirroring People” FSG: New York
  • LaFrance, M.  (1982) “Posture Mirroring and Rapport” in M. Davis ed “Interaction Rhythms: Periodicity in Communicative Behaviour” Human Sciences Press: New York

What causes hearts to synchronise? Rapport of the heart

Rapport: Heart and Mind


By Joe Cheal


(Part One: Two Hearts Beat as One)


This article is the first in a trilogy aiming to provide a little background on the neuro-science of rapport.


Joe Cheal MSc Organisational Development
NLP Master Trainer

As an NLP Trainer, it can be helpful to understand what creates group rapport. This might be between group members and/or between the group and the trainer. In addition, as a trainer of NLP it doesn’t hurt to have some recent scientific research to refer to!



On the Move


Recent research by Eleanor Palser at the University of California (2019) suggests that when people co-operate, their hearts tend to synchronise. This may also be true when people walk at the same speed.


Apparently, when we move (as part of an action), each movement is likely to end in the middle of a heartbeat (more often than during). Even if we watch someone else move (i.e. carry out an action), our own heart will tend to sync with the other person. According to a report in New Scientist: “Some hypotheses suggest the synchronisation may be driven by a feedback loop between the heart and the brain, which involves cells called baroreceptors that tell the brain when the heart muscle contracts.”


The rapport that happens when we watch someone else carry out a task also links to the concept of mirror neurons (which will be the subject of the second and third parts of this trilogy about the heart and mind of rapport).


If we take rapport a little further, according to research by Pavel Goldstein, when people hold hands (particularly loved ones), their breathing and heart-rate synchronise. As an aside, those holding hands also experience a reduced sensation of pain. Of course, we are not advocating you hold hands with the group… but by being in touch with audience… perhaps you will be creating just that little bit extra rapport.



On the Beat


In 2013, Björn Vickhoff and his team at the University of Gothenburg discovered that when people sing together in a choir, their heart beats synchronise. On one hand, perhaps this is unsurprising since the timing of a song requires particular breathing patterns, which in turn is likely to affect the heart rate.


The purpose of the research was to explore the effect of singing together on a person’s health. Apparently, as our breathing changes, it creates a positive ‘arrhythmia’ in the heart, which in turn is good for relaxation and wellbeing (akin to the calming breathing exercises in yoga).


However, assuming everyone is ‘in tune’, to sing in a choir could be described as an expression of total harmony. And if hearts synchronise as a result, what better example of group rapport?





  • Goldstein, P. et al (2017) The role of touch in regulating inter-partner physiological coupling during empathy for pain, Scientific Reportsvolume 7, Article number: 3252
  • Palser, E. (2019) (bioRxiv, doi.org/gfxcq8)
  • Vickhoff, B. (2013)Frontiers in Auditory Cognitive Neuroscience, DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00334


Did you know changing External Sub-modalities can transform your internal experience?

This morning I have been watching a programme called “Edwardian Britain in Colour”.

Old black and white film has had colour added digitally. I’m noticing an interesting internal experience within myself. Each reel starts off in black and white and then suddenly becomes colour.

I find myself being drawn in and feeling connected. The topics and storytelling are engaging in and of themselves and yet this digital change is causing a visceral response.

The most compelling moment was watching Emily Wilding Davison throw herself in front of the King’s horse to draw attention to the Suffragette Movement. I have seen this clip many times in black and white. I thought I was connected to it already and yet in colour the emotional response I felt was more than ten times stronger.

In NLP changing internal sub-modalities often drives the change work models. I am wondering how changing external sub-modalities could be harnessed to aid in psychological healing in a similar way.

How do you think this could be applied?


Researching memory coding and generalisation

Maria Wimber (University of Birmingham, UK) has been leading some interesting research into possible reasons behind generalisation in memory encoding. One of the studies involved inviting participants to memorise pairs of unrelated images e.g. a mountain paired with a kiwi fruit.

Two days later the participants were linked up to an MRI machine to measure brain activity during recall. They were then shown one of the images from a pair and asked to recall the other image. In NLP terms, this was a test of a mild anchoring (e.g. low level stimulus).

Participants on average, were 79% likely to recall the correct category the associated object belonged to when shown the stimulus picture. Using the example above, when shown the image of the mountain people might remember the associated image was fruit but not the specific fruit, in this case kiwi.

The MRI scans showed an increase in brain activity in the neocortex during the recall test that had similarities to the pattern of activity seen during sleep. According to Wimber, the pattern observed in both sleep and her study is likely to be connected with memory formation and consolidation.

The study goes into more depth about these processes however from an NLP perspective what is even more interesting is Wimber’s conclusions from a second follow up study. She created baselines using scans for an association exercise (images and words) and then again during recall.

The study looks at what appears to be activity in the visual processing centre 300 milliseconds before activity in the neocortex, during recall this process is reversed. Wimber hypothesised from the data that such activity results in abstract generalisations encoded in the neocortex without detail so that in recall it is a generalisation that is remembered.

Studying the data from scans and self-report experience of participants led Wimber to suggest some possible reasons. She suggests that abstract generalities are more advantageous than specifics in creating useful reactions and behaviours. The example she gives is where someone is bitten by a small white dog in a park. The generalisation may be that a free running dog (in any location) might bite.

Reading this study does leave me with questions. It does appear that there is a leap between concrete data of brain activity and what it might mean. I can accept these leaps as useful and can see that we could make links to our NLP map. What do you think?

Reference article: “Why your brain forgets details”, author Chelsea Whyte, New Scientist, 15thDecember 2018.

How is Scientific Research reporting on Time?

How we make sense of Time

I trust you will excuse the deliberate ambiguity in the title and look forward to hearing your thoughts on the topic. I have been making time to catch up on my reading and have just finished reading an interesting article on research into how we “make sense” of time in an old copy of American Scientific Mind.

Reference is made to how all cultures appear to use spatial metaphors to express time. You may have noticed an example in my first paragraph.

The authors, Cooperrider and Nunez describe the most common types of spatial metaphor in a way that students of NLP will find familiar.

“Using spatial metaphors, we imagine time in two ways: as a path we walk with future events in front and past behind or as a sequence we view externally, as in summer, fall, winter, spring.”

When teaching time based techniques in NLP there is a value in being able to reference scientific research.  The common use of the above definition in NLP seems to have escaped the notice of the scientific community however I feel it is essential that we remain willing to reference science our work.

The article also suggests that writing can have a priming effect on the spatial perception of time pointing to how cultures examined matched direction of time to direction of writing.

In NLP, we have long discussed the spatial orientation of time and when eliciting individual timelines place emphasis on calibrating the spatial layout of our “client’s” timeline. When teaching this I place emphasis on how easily the inexperienced Practitioner can inadvertently influence the client either linguistically or by indicating a direction unconsciously.

This article does provide some useful data for NLP Practitioner and NLP Trainers. Taking note of such research can help us to make links between the approaches we use and empirical evidence to support what we do.

Melody Cheal, MSc
NLP Master Trainer

Links to reference article in Scientific American Mind


Would you like to be an NLP Trainer? Sign up now for free Master Classes

A lot of people who would like to be an NLP Trainer have been asking us for PSiNLP Trainer’s Training 2019 dates… and here they are:


Are you ready…

  • To take your confidence to whole new level?
  • To gather the tools to become a world-class presenter?
  • To complete the NLP trilogy?
  • To become a Certified Trainer of NLP?


We believe that a personal development course begins as soon as you make the choice to sign up. In the same way, PSiNLP Trainer’s Training begins as soon as you decide to join us. And we can help to make sure that your journey begins immediately…

Here are three eminently good reasons to sign up early:

  1. For starters, you will get an NLP Trainer’s Training audio set that will begin your learning journey and whet your appetite for the main course in July 2019,
  2. You will be entitled to join a quarterly NLP master-class leading up to NLP Trainer’s Training,
  3. You will get a monthly self-learning activity to help you prepare at the profoundest level… for NLP Trainer’s Training.

Julie Silverthorn, NLP Master Trainer


The doorway to NLP Trainer’s Training 2019 is now open…

all you have to do is step through!

Click here for more details


Hypnosis Trainer’s Training Class of 2018

The weather was amazing, the students were brilliant and we had a lot of fun!

In 2018 we decided to offer Hypnosis Trainer’s Training as a stand alone event and we attracted a very talented group of hypnotherapists all ready to take the next step in their development. Many had attended the previous week of Advanced Ericksonian Health and Healing and were thus fully primed.

To give you a flavour of what went on here is a picture diary of Hypnosis Trainer’s Training 2018.


What happened at Training Trances Advanced Hypnosis 2018?

This year we decided to focus on Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy Training with two  advanced programmes to take our students to the next level. Students travelled from USA, Croatia and from across the UK.

The Co-Trainer’s for both programmes were Julie Silverthorn, Master Trainer of Hypnosis and NLP, and Melody Cheal, Master Trainer of NLP and Trainer of Hypnosis. Both Trainers bring with them a wealth of knowledge and experience. They both hold two University Degrees in Psychology, plus a wealth of other psychology based qualifications.

Julie has worked extensively helping  people boost their natural ability to heal conditions such as  Cancer. Melody has specialised in working with survivors of childhood abuse, a major cause of PTSD.

During the first week they introduced the students to the power of Hypnosis to assist in healing issues such as Cancer, Auto-immune diseases and PTSD.  Content was drawn from the original works of Milton Erickson, Positive Psychology, latest research and sources such as Bernie Seigel and Deepak Chopra.

Students had the opportunity to observe Julie working directly with a client who is currently in the process of healing from Cancer. The case study included three observed sessions with the client demonstrating what information to gather and then how to work supportively co-creating processes that moved the client forward.

The second week was devoted to training the next generation of Hypnotherapy Trainers and thus spreading more resources around the world.


Are you a Hypnotherapist wanting to take an Advanced Course this year or maybe you want to be certified as a Hypnosis Trainer?

If you answered yes to either of those questions read on…

This Summer we are hosting Julie Silverthorn, USA Master Trainer of Hypnosis and co-author of the best selling book, Training Trances(rated in the top ten books on Hypnosis in the world).

Julie will be co-training with Melody Cheal, NLP Master Trainer and Hypnosis Traineron two courses scheduled for July 2018.

The first course is Training Trances: Advanced Master Certification in Ericksonian Health, Healing & Deep Trance Work. It will run over six days and includes topics such as PTSD, Coping with Cancer, Auto Immune Diseases and Ericksonian Procedures for Pain Control.

This course is already Accredited with American Board of Hypnotherapyand will form part of an Advanced Diplomawith the General Hypnotherapy Standards Council.

14thto 19thJuly 2018

£1495 Early bird rate is available until 31stMay 2018

Click button to pay for your place on Training Trances.

 The second six day training is Hypnosis Trainer’s Trainingfor those of you wishing to run your own accredited training courses in Hypnosis. On successful completion of the evaluation process you will be eligible to apply to become a member of the American Board of Hypnotherapyand then deliver your own accredited Hypnotherapy Training Courses.

21stto 26thJuly 2018

£2395 Early bird rate is available until 31stMay 2018

Click buttons to pay deposit of £600 if you want Hypnosis Trainer’s Training only.

Both Courses will be held at our purpose built training centre overlooking beautiful Ashdown Forest in East Sussex, UK. The course will be limited to no more than twenty four students so book soon to secure your place.

Special Combined Rate for Both Courses

£2995 Early bird rate is available until 31stMay 2018

 Click button to pay your deposit of £650 and secure your place




Calibrating vulnerability in clients or students

As an NLP Trainer, our ability to recognise vulnerability in our students is a key skill set. So exactly how do you do it while running courses such as NLP Practitioner? This is just as important for the NLP Practitioner, Hypnotherapist and Therapist when working with clients.

One place to start is with a conscious decision to start calibrating a baseline for each student or client. We teach calibration skills on our entry level NLP Training and this is started on the free one day training workshop. This calibration includes processing visual, auditory and kinaesthetic signals from the client.

With larger groups this can be challenging just in terms of sheer numbers. Perhaps a more manageable approach would be to calibrate baselines for the group. As a student moves into a state of vulnerability there will be a ripple effect particularly in those seated nearby.

The baseline is critical because changes in state vary vastly both on the individual level and in terms of group processes. Where one person withdraws and internalises, another may become loud, while yet another response may be to become rigidly controlled. When calibrating the group, you are becoming sensitive to the waves and flow of what becomes a collective consciousness that may match the individual signs or not.

You might recognise that a student is becoming vulnerable by signs of rapport breakdown and separation from others. Or conversely you may see an increased rapport as group members nearby experience unconscious empathy that can be seen as physiological shifts.

The examples above are just that, examples. As an NLP Trainer or NLP Practitioner, remember to stay connected to the concept of NLP as the study of subjective behaviour.