Rapport is the ability to relate to others in a positive and constructive way which emphasises the humanity and ‘otherness’ of other people. Its purpose is to optimise communication, minimising misunderstandings and making it most likely that others will get what we mean (and vice versa of course).
Rapport creates a number of attractive outcomes and byproducts, including
People who are good at it can establish and build rapport with anyone, at any time.
It is important to see that rapport is being responsive, not necessarily liking the other person.
We communicate best when we are in rapport, and the most common and a very natural way we all do this automatically is by ‘mirroring’, or ‘matching’. We can match the other person’s or even the group’s body language and/or how they are speaking. So, when two people are naturally in rapport you can notice that they may both be sitting in the same way or holding their hands in a similar way, or both speaking fast, or both speaking quietly and so on.
When we match, we are seeking to reduce resistance by playing down differences while building on similarities. It is as if the similarities of behaving or speaking stand for deeper similarities of shared beliefs and feelings.
The way in which you interact with others has a major bearing on your success as an influencer.
So, when you want to get on well, or better, with someone; or you want to bring someone around; or when you want to influence or negotiate with them, you can consciously build rapport by matching them. Use similar postures and gestures, or stand or sit in a similar way, perhaps speeding up or slowing down your speech to match theirs, matching their tone or volume.
Some people will even match other’s breathing to get into rapport. Breathing is the single most important physical component to work with because it influences tonality, words, thinking and emotion.
Now a word of warning! Do not, whatever you do, copy their every move – it will be very noticeable and irritate them. You should aim to have similar body language, not identical. And it’s well worth practising this on friends, or in short doses, before you use it when it really matters. One of the things you’ll notice though is you do do it quite naturally – the trick is to become more aware and subtly do it more and better to build rapport and improve communication.
Once you’ve matched someone and built some rapport you can also then be much more natural and they are likely to start matching you. When that happens, you can do what is referred to as leading. This is deliberate attempt to have the other person match you. This is a valuable technique as it is possible to then lead them in another direction. A change of pace from you will usually result in a similar change in the other. This will help you share someone else’s experience (and vice versa) and will facilitate making suggests and influencing.
You can also influence behaviour in others by mismatching. It is useful to mismatch, for example, if we want a meeting to come to an end. You might (unconsciously) start clearing up papers or putting your pens away. This is picked up by the others in the meeting – again, probably unconsciously. Or, if we want a conversation to end and we can’t get a word in to say so, we might stop matching and again that is picked up.
Is matching manipulative? Some may say, Yes! But, is it manipulative to wear different clothes to work than you would to a party or at home? Or to speak to your boss differently than you would speak to a brother or sister? Welcome to social behaviour! We all do it. You could say we are manipulative whenever we modify our behaviour to suit the occasion – But perhaps that can be the most useful thing to do. Going back to the definitions, it is usually felt that there is an element of unfairness in manipulation. So, whether matching is manipulative really depends on our intention when we are doing it.
And, of course, the best way to build rapport is to take a genuine interest in getting to know what’s important to the other person. Start to understand them rather than expecting them to understand you first.
© 2011 Jeremy Marchant Limited . by Jeremy Marchant . uploaded 25 may 2015 . image: Free images
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