Want to have influence? Build rapport. Have you ever wondered how certain individuals seems to just know how to click with people while others struggle to even start a conversation? We often witness these phenomena across every aspect of our lives. And these individuals do not just come from one specific group of people either. They can be top professionals, business executives, the neighbourhood plumber or even the elderly couple you meet during your morning walk in the park.
So what is it about these people that makes them so at ease in connecting with others? What is it that makes people pause and talk to them? What makes us respond so positively to them? What's their secret? The truth is there are no secrets. However, there is a skill though. A skill that these individuals unknowingly picked up along the way. The minor shifts in their gestures or voice that make us feel so comfortable speaking and listening to them. A skill that takes away the awkwardness of being strangers to being good buddies. It is this sense of connectedness that makes us feels so in tune and sometimes felt as if time just flies. We witnessed it and yet couldn't pinpoint what it is. That's why it seems so magical when we experience it.
The good news is, we can learn this skill. The world of Neuro Linguistic Programming teaches this skill as a prerequisite to influence. It is called Rapport Building. But why is rapport so important for influence? Because for influence to take place there must be a certain level of trust and responsiveness from the people we are trying to have a positive impact on. Without trust and responsiveness, the impact would be limited simply because there would be some degree of resistance from our audience. Let's think about this for a moment, remember the time when you felt completely at ease with a friend or an acquaintance, what was the level of resistance towards that person? What about the level of responsiveness towards him, high? The correlation is quite simple: the more we feel connected with a person, the more readily we respond positively to that person. A recent study on the effects of rapport between people with developmental disabilities and their caregivers indicated that when rapport was high, problem behaviours were low, and when rapport was low, problem behaviours were high . So, with intervention designed to improve rapport between these participants with developmental disabilities and their caregivers, the results revealed that when rapport becomes better, participants showed a decrease in problem behavior and an increase in task completion.
In NLP, rapport building techniques are based on the concept of matching or mirroring the person you are interacting with. What is the difference between matching and mirroring? Matching is doing what the other person is doing, for example, if the person is raising his right hand, you match by raising your right hand. Mirroring is you become a mirror image of the other person, for example, if the person raise his right hand, you mirror by raising your left hand. Below are the areas to match or mirror in order to build rapport rapidly:
Why would matching someone's behaviour improved the quality of rapport? Human beings have a tendency to respond more positively towards similarity or familiarity than not. We unconsciously warms up to those behavioural traits that are more alike to ours because it matches the way we see and respond to the world. In NLP we say that people like us because they are like (similar) us. So the more similarity we create through our physiology, voice and choice of words, the more likely people will be connected with us. This simple yet powerful NLP technique is taught more extensively in the NLP Certifications Trainings.
An important principle about matching/mirroring is to always wait 15 seconds after the other person has shifted his movement before you match or mirror him! Now, just like any new skills we are learning, it's usually awkward at first because we are self conscious of our matching, however after a few practices, it should become second nature to you. The key is to practice! For other advanced techniques of NLP, check out the NLP Practitioner Certification Course.
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 McLaughlin, D.M. and Carr, E.G., 2005. Quality of rapport as a setting event for problem behavior assessment and intervention. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 7(2), pp.68-91.