No Rapport

I was listening to the radio this morning about a patient visiting his GP. It wasn’t his usual GP and when he entered the room the Doctor was standing with his back to him and said nothing.

Eventually he waved his hand in the direction of a chair and the patient sat down. The session continued in this manner and it reminded me of a time, around Christmas, when I was fortunate to get an appointment with my GP, only in this case it wasn’t my usual one and in fact it was so long since I had seen my usual GP that I no longer knew who that was.

I was experiencing an extreme reaction to a flu jab and my whole body was covered in large red bumps that were very itchy.

The GP was a Locum which was OK as it was Christmas time but when I entered the room he was sitting at his computer typing away. He never looked up or made eye contact and told me it couldn’t be the flu jab as that never happened.

I had previously researched evidence about this particular jab and found that a large number of staff at Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge had the same reaction to this vaccine but I stopped myself telling him that. I didn’t want to annoy him and just wanted to get a prescription for steroidal cream and get out of there.

He tapped away on his computer and handed me the prescription without looking at me and I left.

The patient on the radio talked about how awful it felt to be treated like that and compared that experience with how he was treated by his usual GP next time he visited and said he couldn’t believe the difference in how he felt when the Doctor made the effort to build relationship with him which is also known as rapport.

In my book “Mutual Mindfulness”
I talk about matching in order to build rapport with someone else. This means matching their words, posture and tone and speed of voice.

In fact match in any way you can without it being mimicry. Do this by being careful in how you do it so that it is not noticed by the other person.

When the Doctor does this by facing the patient, making eye contact and matching their physiology he or she can then lead the conversation in a useful way.

The patient’s experience is then one of feeling comfortable and conversation can happen easily. The Doctor will also be able to read the patients body language. When he was standing with his back to the patient or just sitting facing his computer screen, this is a mismatch and communication becomes difficult.

In communication, matching and leading is the structure of influence.