“Anything is possible in the presence of a good rapport”
- Dr. Milton Erickson
What is Rapport?
The definition of rapport is “a relationship between people, especially one of mutual trust or emotional affinity.” This definition doesn’t really do the relationship of being in rapport justice, but since rapport is something you feel it is hard to put into words. Perhaps you can remember a time in your past when you met someone with whom you had an instant connection. Right from the start you just “clicked” so to say. The conversation came easily; you had similar interest and became the best of friends in moments. Even though you had only known him or her for a short period of time, you had the feeling that you have known them forever. The feeling of being “connected” or “in sync” or “clicking” is the feeling or rapport.
Have you ever bumped into a really good friend somewhere totally unexpected? Perhaps it was an old friend that had been on your mind, but you hadn’t seen them in years. You were walking around doing your own thing, when all the sudden, a face stuck out in the crowd. As you adjusted the focus of your eyes to get a better look, you realized it is your good friend that you see and at that very moment you felt this connection to one face in a crowd of people. This feeling is also rapport and it is a subconscious connection between people.
All of us naturally establish rapport. It is really just a fancy word to say you can make friends. If you have people that like you, then you have already established rapport. The difference is you probably did it accidentally. Persuasive people understand how to create rapport intentionally. In other words they make friends easily with everyone.
Building rapport is not difficult once you understand that people like people who are similar to them. I bet that you can usually tell if you are going to like someone or not the first time you meet them. Before you ever had the chance to find out what you have in common, you knew whether the two of you “clicked” or not. In the times that you did click it is because you were similar to the other person on a subconscious level. You had an unconscious rapport. Being similar at a subconscious level simply means you share similar behaviors that are under the control of your unconscious mind.
The subconscious or unconscious mind controls things like breathing rate and rhythm, facial expressions, blinking, hand gestures, and many other behaviors that often go unnoticed by the conscious mind. When two people share similar unconscious behavior there is a feeling or rapport. This is a key concept in building rapport.
The secret to building rapport is to copy the other person’s unconscious behavior. In NLP we call this matching or pacing the other person. An example would be adjusting your breathing rate to match another person’s. This is not only a good example it’s a powerful technique for building rapport. Here is a list of some more unconscious behaviors that you could match or copy.
• The rhythm they speak with
• The tone of voice they use
• The speed of their speech
• Head tilt
• Blinking pattern
• The hand gestures they use
You can match any one of these things or as many of them as you wish. I find it very powerful to match someone’s breathing, posture, and rhythm of speech. You maybe thinking, “Will this just annoy people?” No, in fact I have never had anyone notice. The reason no one notices is because it is out of their conscious awareness. If you do this elegantly no one will notice. You do it elegantly by not making it obvious. Do not do everything they do right after they do it. You are not playing the “copycat” game. Give some time between the change in behavior and the matching of the behavior. If he changes his posture wait a few seconds before adopting a similar posture.
I know at first doing this seems a little weird but it is something that happens naturally in the presence of rapport. People in rapport share similar behaviors. Take some time to go where there are a lot of people interacting. Get something nice and refreshing to drink. Find yourself a comfortable vantage point and just watch people. As you watch people you will see rapport. You can see groups of people acting in similar ways. For instant if you go to a bar and see a group of people having a good time, watch them and notice that when one of them takes a drink the rest of them tend to take a drink within seconds. Like everyone was thirsty at the same time. You will see one person shift their posture and within seconds people they are with adopt a similar new posture. Watching people can help you get over the fear of being to obvious. Once you see this happens naturally you can relax and match them without even thinking about it.
Another way to avoid being obvious when building rapport is to use a technique called cross-matching. When you cross match someone you match one of their unconscious behaviors with a totally different behavior of your own. Here are some examples.
• Match your rate of speech to their rate of breathing.
• Match your rate of breathing to their rate of speech.
• Tap your finger to the rate of their blinking.
• Blink at the rate they tap their foot.
• Cross your legs when they cross their arms.
Cross matching can be between any two unconscious behaviors and is very effective at building rapport.
Now that you have learned the secret to building rapport go out and practice. Practice matching people and just observe what happens. As you practice this it will begin to become second nature. Just as you can drive or walk without thinking about it you will soon be able to match without giving it a thought.
In this post you learned how to go about building rapport. In another post I will show you how to use this rapport and begin to lead people in new and exciting ways.
Once we you are a pro at building rapport “Anything is Possible.”
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