The ABCs of rapport
Drozdeck & Assoc.
Effective communication is a science — a science of knowing how our words and actions will affect another person. Knowing what to do is as important as knowing what not to do. There is much more to the process than we ever thought. It has been said that you will make it in this world partly based upon your ability to communicate with other people, yet until now, no one has taught us how to do it effectively. This article is the first in a series designed to further enhance your abilities by introducing concepts and techniques that you can immediately use to become a more effective communicator.
What is that certain chemistry that exists between some people and not others? What are its elements? Can chemistry be replicated at will? The answers to these questions are briefly explored in this article and more fully explained in other articles within this series.
There are many fine books which provide some of the elements of making an initial favorable impression. Some say 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 a certain person is either 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 communicating.
Communication occurs on both the conscious and the unconscious level. How we develop, enhance and maintain rapport on the unconscious level is very important. 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.
There are many ways you can pace another person and thereby establish rapport. The methods presented in this article fall into three basic categories:
Rapport is gained by employing a variety of techniques. In a sense, you already do many of these things naturally. 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 creating that chemistry with virtually anyone.
Pacing physically: matching body posture
Matching body 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 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.
After you have matched a person for a couple of minutes, you'll probably find that they will re-adjust their body position whenever you shift yours. This re-positioning, which may take between two and 40 seconds to occur, indicates that you have established rapport at the unconscious level.
It is not always possible, and occasionally inadvisable, to identically mirror their 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.
Body rapport techniques are useful in all situations in which you wish to enhance the probabilities of a successful communication.
Pacing physically: matching the rate of speech
People generally 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 had a slightly uncomfortable feeling during that conversation. If you were affected this way, others may have a similar reaction if your speech pattern substantially differers from theirs. For the person who was too slow for you, you were too fast for them and vice versa. Now two out of two people in the conversation are having a slightly uncomfortable feeling. Until now, you may or may not have been consciously aware of it, yet such differences contribute to what can be called "bad vibes."
Rule-of-thumb: 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. At this point, you verified that you established rapport. When you combine this with body-matching, you double your chances.
Pacing mentally: 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 above 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.
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 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 your message.
For example, let's assume someone is talking to you about some project they want to become involved in. 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 to you?", or
B) "It certainly sounds like a good idea to me. What do you have to say about it?", or
C) "It certainly feels like a good idea to me. How do you feel about it?"
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 his/her mode of thought, s/he 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. Literally and figuratively, matching predicates allows you to communicate on the same wavelength. A brief listing of words and phrases is listed below:
|Appears to me||Clear as a bell||Boils down to|
|Dim view||Loud and clear||Get a handle on|
|See you later||Speak to you soon||Keep in touch|
|In light of||Call on||Get the drift|
|Appears to be||Hidden message||Start from scratch|
Pacing emotionally: matching mood and emotion
Matching a mood almost occurs automatically if you pace someone's body posture and speech rate. It is your choice whether 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."
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.
Presupposing that 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:
Original statement minus negation equals unconscious message received.
Therefore, statements become internally transformed to 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
It's almost as if we're introducing conflicting programming into that computer which is our brain.
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.
"Feel good." "I hope you feel comfortable." "I want to be good."
Try this out for a couple of weeks and you'll notice significant changes in people's responsiveness to you.
It's unfortunate 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.
Chemistry 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. Additionally, you can lead a person to a better state whenever it would be helpful.