Building Rapport and Listening to Coach

A good coach must have the ability to do two things well: Build Rapport and Listen. Among others, these two skills are paramount as it is the foundation upon which all other skills are built.


Where Building Rapport is concerned, ONE Coaching methodology founder Coach Jamil Wahab offers a simple acronym to remember what needs to be done during this process: GEMPAK.
Each letter stands for a particular activity that helps to improve trust and closeness with the coachee.

G - Greet + Name

A name is a personal object that is tied to one's identity. Therefore, to quickly establish rapport, welcome the coachee warmly and say their name in the most respectful and friendly manner possible. Care for their name as you would your own.

E - Excite the Senses

The human brain gathers data from the outside world through the five senses. When speaking to the coachee, use visual words like "I see", auditory words like "I hear you" or kinesthetic words like "I feel like" to connect with the coachee's mind by accessing anchored key words related to each sense.

M - Matching

Find similarities in terms of the content of their speech. Trust is built very quickly when they believe that you share their values, positions or even experiences. Discovering that you share a hobby or the same hometown or support the same sports team goes a long way towards breaking down barriers with the coachee.

P - Persuade

Find something positive in the coachee's speech or actions and provide sincere praise to give them a sense of achievement and being on the right track as well as showing that you focus on the good and are not primed to criticise. Avoid praising outcomes directly. For example, praise a muscular person's time and effort spent in the gym instead of saying how big their muscles are.

A - Attention

A coachee deserves your full attention. Thus, when they speak, set the phone aside, face them square, drop everything else and make them feel appreciated.

K - Keep Aware & Alert

As much you focus, stay aware and alert to the content, facial expressions, body language and changes in the coachee. Also, be aware of your own internal conversations and responses, lest your coachee assume you are judging them from your body language.


In listening to the coachee, four actions must be practiced iteratively throughout the process of building rapport: 1. Eye contact 2. Head nodding 3. Minimal encouragement 4. Paraphrasing

1. Eye Contact

Some people prefer direct eye contact while others, indirect eye contact. Manage your own style to match the coachee and set them at ease.

2. Head nodding

While listening, nod casually and naturally at parts of the coachee's sharing that you feel require acknowledgement. This visual cue confirms for them that you are paying attention.

3. Minimal encouragement

Your vocal cues help the coachee to continue the flow of their sharing. Things like a positive "Hmmm!", a surprising "Ohhhh" or a request of "Really?" helps encourage them to continue talking without fear of judgment.

4. Paraphrasing

Completing the visual and vocal cues is the verbal cue, where you respond to what the coachee has shared by repeating it in your own words. This makes them confident that not only were you listening, but that you understand it the same way.

Get Ready For What's Next

Master these two skills, Building Rapport and Listening, and you would have cemented the foundation for the next step in your development as a coach.