Whatever it is that you want in life and whoever it is that you want to be, the ability to connect with others is a fundamental for success.
However, there are a cool 7.6 billion of us. And frustratingly, we aren’t born with 7.6 billion manuals explaining how to “click” with everyone individually.
But surprisingly, a one size fits all approach works perfectly when it comes to connection.
Genuine human connection is not only extremely easy to replicate, but actually authentically spark.
Understanding how to build rapport manually when it’s not happening organically will elevate your communication and relationship building (both professional and personal) incomprehensibly.
So let’s dive in.
What is Rapport?
Rapport is a state of responsiveness between people.
It’s easy connection. It’s feeling understood and being in harmony with your environment.
And, rapport is completely essential if you want to positively influence a person or a group.
To understand it, the first port of call is matching and mirroring.
Matching and Mirroring
Next time you’re at your local, take a peek at the rowdy group of friends.
Completely unconsciously, they’ll behave and literally look and sound alike. The same tone, expressions, colloquiums, gestures, volume (eye roll)…
And they won’t be replicas of each other in their own homes. It’s when they come together and find rapport that they become alike.
That is unconscious matching and mirroring at it’s finest.
When you’re in rapport with a person or group – you will unconsciously “match” and “mirror” each others communication (body language, expressions, voice patterns etc).
The magic happens when we flip the whole thing on it’s head and use conscious matching and mirroring to create rapport in the first place.
So Why Does Matching and Mirroring Work?
The results are in – we’re all narcissists at heart.
Matching and mirroring works because rapport is created by a feeling of commonality.
People like people who are like themselves.
It’s tribal, isn’t it? Not only that, it taps directly into our basic emotional needs which are highly addictive.
Being around people who are similar to you make you feel as if you belong. You feel recognised and safe. We’re hardwired to seek out those feelings.
When you intentionally match and mirror someone (also known as pacing), you’re communicating to them that you understand their map of the world.
So, matching and mirroring makes total sense. When you’re exhibiting similar characteristics to another person – you are alike.
Pacing and Leading
Pacing and leading refers to intentionally matching and mirroring someone to find rapport, and then using that rapport to influence the interaction.
So, once you have rapport you can lead. If you switch up your communication, the other person will start to unconsciously match and mirror you.
You can calm a stressed person, you can energise a bored boardroom.
Match their energy, get into rapport and then lead them to a different space by gently changing your non-verbal communication.
If you have rapport, they will follow. Pacing and leading is WAY more effective than you might think.
Two Important Caveats
Is it Ethical?
Naturally it can get a bit dicey here. There are many environments and circumstances where pacing and leading is inappropriate or even downright manipulative.
No one likes a sleazy salesperson. But there’s a big line between manipulation and positive influence – let your intuition guide you here.
There are so many situations where this is appropriate – teaching, 1:1 work, leading a team, communicating your opinion, selling yourself, making your case.
Is it Authentic?
Like the vast majority of NLP – pacing and leading is simply piggybacking a natural process.
You are hardwired to do this unconsciously.
Think about it. You’ll likely behave slightly differently around different groups. When you talk to a child you speak like a child.
And of course, there’s nothing more hilarious than taking a trip back to your hometown and slipping back into a thick regional accent.
This is something we all do, and have done from birth.
It’s an intrinsically human process, we’re just doing it purposefully.
Actionable Report Building Strategies
Let’s put your matching and mirroring skills into practice.
Get on their level visually.
From body language, to gestures, to facial expressions, we communicate with our bodies.
And there are so many opportunities to find commonality here.
How does the person carry themselves? What gestures are they using with their hands? How animated are they?
If you’re in a group, a good strategy to bring everyone into rapport is by matching your top half with someone and bottom half someone else. Eg – resting your elbows on armrests and crossing your legs.
Matching someones tonality is exceptionally effective at finding rapport.
And of course, if you’re communicating with someone on the phone, this should be your focus.
For me, this is one of the most natural modalities to match and mirror. It’s quite challenging to put this into words as it’s something we do so deeply unconsciously.
You can modulate your volume, pace, pitch, emotional intent, rhythm, pauses and stresses.
3) Emotional State
If you take one thing from this post – make it this.
The phrase “read the room” comes to mind.
Think about how jarring it is when you’re having an emotional moment with a friend, and another bursts into the room excitedly.
Meet people where they’re at emotionally.
An amazing focus to do this with is with breath. Synchronised breath is one of the most powerful ways to find rapport because breath is so closely tied to our emotional states.
If you breathe at the same pace and from the same place as someone you will feel what they’re feeling.
4) Eye Contact, Touch and Proximity
Everyone has a comfort threshold when it comes to eye contact and proximity. And christ that threshold looks different for different people.
Have you ever had a conversation with someone that just loves to get suuper close?
While it might induce a “I had onion for lunch” panic-attack, matching their closeness will help you get into rapport. Of course, it goes the other way with people who prefer more space.
Same goes with eye contact and physical touch, some people like more, some people like less. Meet them where they are.
Use the same language to find rapport.
I remember visiting my friend at university and being baffled by the sheer amount of hilariously illogical vocabulary and colloquialisms being thrown around by the students.
They were so heavily in rapport with each other that they practically had their own language. (Seriously… I was whipping out urban dictionary every 5 minutes to figure out what was happening).
You don’t need to parrot back every sentence, but using the same colloquialisms and adjectives (especially in relation to someones experience) can be extremely useful.
If you want to go even further, you can use language that appeals to the other persons dominant representation system.
Most people tend to have a preference. Either visual, auditory, kinaesthetic or auditory digital (self-talk).
We experience the entire world through our senses.
So if someone favours a particular sensory modality, it’s not simply a matter of liking one more than the other. They literally have a primary way to experience, process and recall their universe.
Again, pacing is all about showing someone that you understand their map of the world. So is there really a more profound way to find commonality than this?
You can adapt your speech to include relevant words and phrases that will appeal to them.
As an example, you could modify the way you would ask someone if they’ve understood what you’ve said like this:
- For more visual people – “do you see what I mean?”
- For more auditory – “do you hear what I’m saying?”
- For more kinaesthetic – “do you feel me?”
- For more AD – “do you understand me?”
If you’re in a group, include language from all of the modalities.
Three Rules of Matching and Mirroring
The aim is to get the persons unconscious mind to notice your matching and mirroring. But, if their conscious mind notices it – you’ve fucked it.
You don’t want to come off super weird right?
Here’s how to make it natural:
1) Be SLOW
Think echo response.
You don’t want to look like synchronised swimmers – keep a bit of a time lag.
Luckily, in a typical conversation when someone goes to speak, they make a gesture, change posture or eye contact.
So, you can use a voice prompt to move into rapport with someone – this is especially useful for physical matching and mirroring.
2) Be SUBTLE
It’s called matching and mirroring – not copying.
Peripheral vision, meet matching and mirroring, matching and mirroring, meet peripheral vision.
Avoid an “my eyes are up here” situation at all costs.
Matching and mirroring really isn’t about precision – coping someones limp or accent is a surefire way to earn yourself a slap.
Don’t do everything they do.
Nothing breaks rapport as quickly as feeling as if the other person isn’t listening.
Mirroring in miniature can be really useful too. For example if someone crosses their legs, you could cross you ankles.
3) Be AUTHENTIC
Keep it real kids.
As I’m about to explain, non-verbal communication is so incredibly powerful.
And if your intentions aren’t genuine, then that’s what’s going to be communicated. It’s likely people will see straight through it.
If you think it – you leak it.
You can match and mirror all you like but if you’re thinking “I don’t like this person” – it will come across.
Non-verbal Communication is Key
You can’t not communicate.
Even if you don’t speak a word, you’re communicating.
In the 60’s Albert Mehrabian studied communication and found that only 7% of communication is verbal with 93% of communication coming from non-verbal sources.
These statistics do come with a caveat though as the study is often taken well out of context.
Mehrabian wasn’t looking at sentences or speeches but single words. Specifically, changing the emotional intent behind a word.
His message was that we get our understanding of the emotional intent behind words from non-verbal cues. And when there’s an incongruence with what you’re saying and what you mean, we believe the non-verbal communication.
A classic example would be saying “I’m fine” when you’re clearly pissed off.
But regardless of the numbers, when we’re building rapport, we universally need to prioritise non-verbal communication.
Not only because it’s so powerful but because it takes time to find commonality verbally.
Sure, given enough time you could find common ground with just about anyone.
But the thing is, with matching and mirroring, commonality pretty much instantaneous. You’re speaking directly to their unconscious mind – voilá!
Over to You
Try not to sweat it, remember you already know all of this unconsciously!
Where in your life can you apply this to find responsiveness? What is to gain by finding effortless connection?
Rapport is pretty much a cure-all for difficult relationships and challenging people.
I sincerely hope this helps you!
Love Rae x