What makes some people able to instantly connect to others, while other people are left feeling awkward and stammering like they don’t know how to pronounce a single letter in the alphabet?
The answer is rapport. Rapport is a natural element of our brain’s inbuilt Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). In short, it’s how we have mentally evolved and developed to communicate and interact with other people and our environment.
It’s the words we use, the way we use them, our body language and our learning sets.
NLP is a technique you can learn about and enhance through practice. However it is also a natural process we already engage in every single day. Our NLP autopilot ability can be a bit hit and miss though, with some things working really well and creating lasting bonds, and others causing friction, temper tantrums and people being given the cold shoulder.
NLP training simply allows us to be aware of our automatic actions, pick the ones that work best and discard the ones that are damaging.
Without knowing anything about NLP the people who engage with others and build relationships quickly are naturally great at building rapport. They probably figured it out years ago in the playground at school and have been applying it ever since.
Every time they engage with someone and it goes well they feel great, get a confidence boost and it mentally reinforces that their pattern of communication works and they should keep doing it.
On the flip side, some people feel incredibly anxious and awkward talking to others. Because they feel uncertain about making a good impression and saying the ‘right’ thing, this can create a guarded communication set, and results in closed body language, crossed arms, lack of eye contact, head down as well as halted speech and short answer responses. All of this contributes to an uneasy feeling for both parties.
That negative body language is a natural rapport breaker. It gives the appearance of being uninterested and unfriendly, which is most probably not the desired effect. That lack of confidence can come off as, “Go away and leave me alone.”
The really tough part about broken rapport is that it creates a circle that reinforces that “I really suck at talking to people”. This results in less practice communicating, fewer chances to get it right and an overall feeling that talking to people sucks. “Everything you are doing is wrong and you should just stop doing it.” Without giving yourself some great things to do in place of the terrible ones, you are closing off options to meet people, build relationships and make incredible friends.
Anyone can learn great rapport techniques and get confident about creating relationships that really work.
When you have rapport with someone conversations flow really easily, you talk about things you have in common, stuff you love and you are passionate about. It’s fun and energising and you want to do it more and connect with even more people.
No matter what level of automatic NLP your brain is running on, everyone can benefit from understanding a little bit about rapport and how it works as the key to any relationship.
Remember that good relationship skills are important for work, family, friends and even talking to shop assistants, your accountant or asking for directions from a stranger, so it’s really worth getting it right.
You have probably heard rapport used to describe when people click quickly and automatically. That’s somewhat true, it’s actually more likely that they click quickly and easily because they have good rapport.
Have you ever had that warm feeling when you are talking to someone and the conversation is going really well? It feels like your insides are mushy and your get a warm tingly feeling; it’s not necessarily a romantic reaction, it happens when people are ‘on the same page’. You feel like you have known them for years, even if you have just met. It usually happens when you are talking about common interests and find you like the same sort of things.
That feeling is a sign of natural rapport. That’s what happens when you are communicating well and are in sync with each other. It’s the best way to share ideas, make new discoveries and move ahead in business, romance and work.
People who like each other, like each other.
When you train in NLP techniques you can look for even more ways that you and someone else are alike, instead of just waiting to happen upon a topic down the track by chance.
It’s not just hobbies and interests that can be similar, when people have great rapport they stand the same way, use the same facial expressions, tone of voice and hand gestures. They won’t be identical like a reflection in a mirror, it’s more subtle and milder similarities.
The best way to study NLP without taking a course is just to be observant. NLP is natural which means you will notice people using these tools every day in normal public situations. Of course, when you practice NLP and complete training in patterns of excellence you get to see these interactions in a lot more detail.
NLP tools are created by studying people who are excellent at creating rapport naturally and then teaching their natural patterns to others as a proven system for results. It gives us a way of knowing what the right thing to do is, instead of just knowing what we are doing wrong.
Next time you are talking with someone, just notice the way the two of you are standing or sitting, or watch other people interact while you are out at lunch or having a coffee in a popular café. People naturally mimic and match each other when things are going well and will create space and close off when things are going badly.
Get past the small-talk and into genuine conversations faster by accelerating the rapport building process. The key is to look for and create similarities and sameness.
Rapport building is really handy if you are on a first date, starting a new job or meeting your partner’s parents for the first time. All you are doing is putting everyone at ease and bypassing that awkward beginning time while you fumble for something you might have in common.
Just because you are taking shortcuts doesn’t mean you need to rush. Taking the time to get to know someone is rewarding in itself. Overall you will save time, be more successful and your connection will be more impacting. Just remember to take your time or it will seem like you have somewhere else better to be or have something you are trying to sell.
The first thing you can create a similarity for is voice. It’s one of the easiest things to notice about someone, you don’t even need to be face-to-face, you can do this over the phone.
Starting out you really only have to focus on volume and speed. That alone will help to make a great connection.
If they speak loudly you do not have to be as loud (or louder) than they are, just add more volume than you usually would. If they speak softly, rather than asking them to speak up lean in and get personal. Usually people who are softly spoken get told all the time they need to speak up and repeat themselves, go the extra mile and speak softly and get close, they will appreciate someone taking the time to act on a similar level to theirs.
If a person talks slowly with lots of pauses, insert a few breaks of your own and concentrate on your words a little before you speak. You don’t have to be as slow as them, just put in some effort to be aware of how they speak. If you notice yourself getting carried with your natural speed remind yourself to pause and breathe. If you are not a naturally fast talker and the person you are with is, it’s okay, just say whatever comes to mind and don’t worry too much about how it feels or sounds first.
It may feel weird at first because you are not used to it, but have fun, play with it and it will become more natural to you over time.
Always remember though to use your normal voice, you don’t have to sound like them or pick up any accents (although if you are someone who learns primarily by ear you will probably already do this instinctively and match and copy people’s voices accidently).
Matching body language is a super fast and easy one, however you do need to be subtle because if you get caught doing it, it can be very hard to explain. Just like voice matching and tempo matching be yourself and just slightly change your stance to be more erect if they stand tall, cross your legs if their legs are crossed (doesn’t mater which way you cross or if you cross just at the ankle or throw your whole leg over).
It’s really important to realize that people do this naturally. As soon as you pay attention you will notice little things, like all elbows on the table, same hands in pockets and small gestures during conversations. Even something as small as sitting forward or leaning back in a chair.
You don’t need to take it any farther or bigger than those natural tendencies.
Nothing breaks rapport faster than being fake. There is no reason to gush over someone, agree with everything they say and pretend that you like all the things they like. Be yourself, be genuine and if you have different interests ask them about it and learn something about them in greater detail. Take a real interest in their hobbies and interests, you might even discover a similarity hidden inside. More than anything they will like that you have taken an interest in their interest, and that you have opened a doorway to active communication.
You will notice when rapport is working by that warm feeling in your stomach, and also by the way the other person will start to also match and mirror you back.
While you have deliberately started out with matching their voice and movements, they will start to match and mirror yours in return so that you come to a nice balance between your two natural states of communication. That means if you started out at a louder volume than you are normally used to, you can now dial it back a little and have them follow you. Be careful about how far you go though, because while they will be willing to match you to some extent, they won’t feel comfortable about going to extremes and you will break rapport and need to build it up again.
Stick with it and maintain a good rapport to the very end of the conversation. You will probably find that things will move much more easier now that it’s natural with far less for you to actively think about, that doesn’t mean you can switch off and not worry about it at all though. Rapport can be broken at any time so make sure to stay interested, stay genuine and be conscious of it to the end.
In some cases holding eye contact with a person can make them feel uncomfortable, so be aware of their comfort level and make sure to respect it. The whole point of rapport is to create a feeling of natural comfort and ease, so rather than making deliberate constant eye contact, hold eye contact for roughly the same amount of time they do then break away and return back again.
The same goes for proximity. We all have different ideas about personal space. You will notice instantly when you get too close as people will be on alert or even take a step back. Never push to that level. Always allow the other person to create a comfortable space between you, even if it is farther back or closer than you would adopt yourself. Once rapport is going well both ways you can adjust your positioning to something that suits you both equally well.
People run on very different energy levels. While situations can impact and influence your energy levels, (like times of sickness, fatigue, grief or stress), typically people will run on a similar energy stream from day to day. When you know a person well you can tell something is off if they aren’t as high or low as normal. Most people approach a new situation neutrally, especially in a formal or business situation, so how you perceive them to be might not be who they are when you get to know them better. It does make it easier to match though, as you probably already slip into neutral yourself in new situations. You will also notice times when people are especially energetic, super chilled out or extremely nervous. Again, you don’t need to reach their level, just spice up your own a little, shift out of neutral and let them know that their energy level is totally fine with you.
It’s never a good idea to build rapport with someone who is in a negative state, so use your best judgment and stick to positive emotions rather than matching anger, aggression, depression or high anxiety. It’s really important that you avoid the urge to jump into these emotions, especially if you are talking with a loved one. Our natural instinct might be to mirror them, but this won’t help them or create any positive outcomes. Stay calm and create a connection that allows them to match you and gets them to a calmer place. As always, if the situation you are in is dangerous or escalating, don’t attempt to help them yourself, get out of their way and get in touch with a professional who can take care of the situation.
Rapport works because you get to step into the other person’s shoes for a while, to get a glimpse at how they think and how they move and what it’s like to be them, just through paying attention to who they are. There is no greater compliment than paying attention to someone.
Use rapport to get to know people on a deep and meaningful level, break the ice on introductions, make new friends easily and open up new interests and discoveries in your own life.
If you would like to learn more about rapport and how to connect with anyone in any situation, we would love to teach you at our free Live it Now event, where you will learn about communication and personality types!
PO Box 590,
MANLY NSW 1655 AUSTRALIA
1300 997 669