Effective relationship skills are the keys to establishing and strengthening
interpersonal confidence and trust. With good rapport skills, people want
to work with you and your associates- they will be more willing to have
open and honest communications. Without these skills, unconscious defense
mechanisms can come into play which may damage relationships. Whether
dealing with customers, subordinates, vendors, peers or friends, these
rapport skills are key to any successful interaction. This article provides
a summary of key concepts which you will find immediately useful.
It is important
to realize that you already employ many of these techniques unconsciously
in the majority of your interactions. It is wise to consider these techniques
as "tools" which you have available for those times when things
don't seem to be going right. You'll be able to review a mental checklist
to quickly determine how you may recapture the missing rapport.
What is that certain "chemistry" that exists between some
people and not others? What are its elements? Can chemistry be replicated
at will? How can you establish an atmosphere of trust and confidence?
The answers to these questions are summarized here.
There are many fine
books which provide some of the elements of making an initial favorable
impression. It has been suggested that an initial impression - good
or bad - is made within three seconds. Whether or not this is fair is
immaterial. How we look, talk, and act contribute to the feeling that
this person is like me or not like me. Fortunately, we can "package"
ourselves to create the image we want to initially project. This package
provides the first opportunity to influence others unconsciously. The
next opportunity to positively influence a person occurs when we begin
occurs on both the conscious and the unconscious level. How to develop,
enhance, and maintain rapport on the unconscious level is the subject
of the next few pages. Unconscious rapport is initially dependent
upon how you "pace" the other person. You pace another person
to the extent that you are in agreement or alignment with him or her.
It is being or becoming like other people so that you get their attention
and friendship. For example, matching their rate of speech.
There are many ways
you can pace another person and thereby establish rapport. The methods
presented in this article fall into three basic categories:
People like those
who are most like themselves -- literally and figuratively. As
social beings we tend to associate with those people to whom we can
most easily and comfortably relate. We respond to people on three
primary levels: physical, mental and emotional. Those to whom we can
relate on multiple levels often become friends. If you want someone
to form a favorable impression of you or to become your friend, you
can increase the odds by being, as much as possible, like them.
Rapport is gained
by employing a variety of techniques. In a sense, you already do many
of these things naturally. Yet, conscious appreciation of what you already
know how to do will permit you to accomplish your task whenever and
with whomever you choose. Rapport has a number of aspects. Each aspect
is important, yet it is the cumulative effect that makes it powerful.
No single pacing method will automatically establish rapport with another
person. However, the cumulative effect of these basic techniques will
assist you in establishing, maintaining and enhancing rapport with virtually
Pacing Physically: Matching BODY POSTURE
posture is one of the easiest and most effective methods to initiate
and maintain rapport below the conscious level of awareness. It
involves positioning your body in a way which is similar to that of
your partner. If you think of yourself as being a perfect or near-perfect
mirror image of your partner, you have the key idea. The two illustrations
demonstrate the basic idea of matching. You'll note that their similarity
promotes an automatic level of comfort.
Similarity of Body Postures is associated with
comfort and good communications.
On the other hand, the dissimilarities (mismatching) of the figures
below causes most people to attribute poor communications or discomfort
to the pictures.
Mismatched Body Postures (lack of similarity)
are often associated with discomfort.
Leading: a way of Testing for Rapport
After you have matched
a person for a couple of minutes, you'll probably find that if you shift
your body posture they will automatically re-adjust their body position.
This re-positioning, which may take between 2 and 40 seconds to occur,
indicates that you have established rapport at the unconscious level.
If they do not shift their posture, merely continue matching for a longer
period of time while concentrating on the other methods of achieving
rapport described below.
Of course, it is
not always possible, and is occasionally inadvisable, to identically
mirror someone's body posture. Cross-matching - the matching of some
part of the person's body with another part of your body - can be used.
This method allows you to match a movement of their leg or breathing
with a slight tapping of your finger or head. Unconsciously, this indicates
that you are in "synch" with them.
Matching the RATE OF SPEECH
feel most comfortable with those who speak at the same rate that they
do. If you've ever had someone speak too quickly or too slowly for you,
you probably also remember having a slightly uncomfortable feeling during
that conversation. If you were affected this way, others may have had
a similar reaction to you if your speech pattern was substantially different
from theirs. For the person that was too slow for you, you were too
fast for them and vice versa. Thus, both of you were experiencing a
slightly uncomfortable feeling. Differences in speech rate contribute
to what might have been called "bad vibes."
People prefer to listen at the same rate as they speak.
You'll find that
after you initially match their rate of speech, they'll begin to pace
you. That is, if you incrementally slow-down or speed-up your rate,
they will often follow with a corresponding change in their rate. When
this happens, you have verified that you have established rapport. When
you combine this with body-matching, you have significantly increased
the probability that both of you would feel comfortable with each other.
Matching WORDS AND PHRASES
You've heard people
using phrases such as "It looks good to me," or "It sounds
good to me," or "It feels good to me." These phrases
and others like them, provide useful information about their thinking
processes and an excellent way in which to communicate even more precisely.
In the previous
paragraph, the phrases had a visual, auditory, and kinesthetic (feeling)
orientation, respectively. Some people think by using images in their
mind, others may mentally talk to themselves, while others determine
how something feels to them. Whatever method they rely upon, they will
express their thoughts using words and phrases most closely matching
how they think.
People tend to utilize
some senses more than the others. They therefore become most aware of
the preferred sensory component(s) of an experience and will usually
remember those components first and most clearly. Our thought process
is then determined by the sensory data most easily available to the
conscious portion of our mind. Eventually, we may even specialize in
how we think and process information and use words most closely correlated
with what we are experiencing or thinking.
Since we choose
words which most closely correlate with how we think, we "understand"
words and phrases most closely correlated to our thinking process. The
difference between being understood by others or not is sometimes simply
the choice of words that you might use. This determines whether or not
you are able to motivate them or to gain their acceptance or cooperation.
If you want to communicate
clearly with someone who uses a particular mode of thinking, you would
best use words that match how they are processing the information. Try
it out! You'll be amazed at the level of understanding that occurs when
you match these sensory-oriented words -- called "PREDICATES",
versus the difficulty created when predicates are mismatched. This may
be the difference between comprehension and confusion on the other person's
part. It can mean the difference between acceptance and rejection of
For example: Let's
assume someone is talking to you about some project in which they want
to become involved. The conversation may sound something like this:
"I was looking over the proposal they submitted and it shows a
number of interesting things that had not yet been brought to light."
Your responses could be:
A) "It certainly looks like a good idea to me. How does it look
B) "It certainly sounds like a good idea to me. What do you have
to say about it?
C) "It certainly feels like a good idea to me. How do you feel
The three responses
all mean basically the same thing. Yet, the first response more precisely
matches the way the person presented the information. By matching their
mode of thought, they will realize that you are "seeing things
the same way." Responses (B) and (C) may cause them to think that
you "don't have the picture." Matching your words to theirs
significantly enhances the communication process. Mismatching the predicates
often increases the barriers that may exist between two people. Remember:
predicates allows you to communicate on
the same wavelength.
The Three Houses
We have conducted the following experiment with over 20,000 people and
have found the results staggering. Each group was to imagine themselves
in the market for a house. Each person is told that he/she can choose
only one of the three houses based upon the descriptions below. The
houses are identical (size, location, rooms etc.) in every other aspect.
a house which I'm sure you would like to see. The first house is in
a beautiful neighborhood and is very picturesque. Even the doorbell
has a unique design. You'll certainly see for yourself that the rooms
appear large and have the right colors. If you go to the balcony,
you can see some really nice scenery. I'm sure you'll perceive this
as an excellent choice.
Yet, there is
another house that I'm sure you would like to hear about. This second
house is in a quiet neighborhood and is of very sound construction.
You'll certainly say to yourself that the rooms are large and have
the right tones. If you go to the balcony, you can hear the birds
chirping and the sound of the breeze. I'm sure you'll tell yourself
that this is an excellent choice.
There is one
more house that I'm sure you wold find satisfying. This third house
is in a warm neighborhood and is very solidly built. Even the doorbell
gives a welcome feeling. You'll certainly sense that the rooms are
spacious and have the right touch. If you go to the balcony, you can
feel the warm sun and a light breeze. I'm sure you'll feel that this
is an excellent buy."
The same house
was described using visual, then auditory, then kinesthetic/feelings
terms. On average, one third of any audience chose each of the three
house - which is in line with population norms. What was both surprising
and enlightening to the members of our audiences was that fifty percent
of any group either actively disliked one of the houses, or became confused
due to the description. They could then more fully appreciate the need
to appropriately "package" their messages.
Variations of the
above have been applied to product descriptions, advertising approaches,
persuasive communications and informal meetings with similar results,
that is, we have found that if a person's preferred thinking mode is
mismatched, miscommunication, confusion, distrust and an occasional
complete disregard for the message can occur. Remember, these are unconscious
responses. Therefore, if you wish to be an effective communicator, you
must match the person's preferred thinking modality. While not guaranteeing
success, it does substantially increase the probability that the message
will be understood and accepted.
Matching MOOD AND EMOTION
Matching a mood
almost occurs automatically if you pace someone's body posture and speech
rate. It is your choice to maintain your own mood or adopt theirs. Thoughtfulness
and appropriateness are the key ingredients here. If they are in a good
mood - fine! If they're in an "off" mood you can assist them
to a better one by getting into rapport and directing their mind towards
better times with "conditioning statements."
Statements" and the Power of Speaking in Positives
Did you ever have
someone tell you "there's nothing to worry about"? What did
you do? Chances are you wondered about what you shouldn't be worrying
about. Try this experiment for a moment. ... Pause ... and ...Don't
think about a pink elephant. Do NOT THINK of a PINK ELEPHANT. Chances
are that you had to think of the pink elephant, however briefly, in
order to consciously dismiss the thought.
the unconscious mind does not deal in negatives OR that our minds are
momentarily directed to the unwanted state in order to make sense of
a statement, the following communication formula is derived:
Therefore statements are internally transformed and become something
other than what we intend -- whether for ourselves or for others.
Don't feel bad.
= Feel bad.
Don't be in a bad mood. = Be in a bad mood.
I don't want to gain weight. = I want to gain weight.
Speaking in Positives
is a better alternative. Tell people (or yourself) what you do want
rather than telling them (or yourself) what you don't want.
"I hope you feel comfortable." "I want to be good."
that negative phraseology is such a common pattern in our language.
DON'T THINK OF THE ADVANTAGES THAT YOU WOULD RECEIVE IF YOU MAKE A CONSCIOUS
EFFORT TO CHANGE TOWARDS SPEAKING IN POSITIVES MORE OFTEN. Try this
out for a couple of weeks and you'll notice significant changes in people's
responsiveness to you.
occurs naturally and easily for many people. However, until now, it
was a hit-or-miss process. By pacing the other person physically and
mentally we more closely replicate that person -- allowing them to be
more comfortable with us because we are like them. It's almost as if
there's something about us that they like but can't quite figure out
-- it's themselves!
The awareness of
these techniques gives us a tool to use whenever we choose. If things
are going well, forget about it and enjoy yourself. If something isn't
quite right, you now have a tool box of rapport generating techniques.
can be applied in virtually any interaction. They are of special value
when active cooperation is necessary. Other specialized applications
can include: Coaching and Counselling; Advertising and Marketing ; Making
presentations to large audiences.