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Post No.: 0603rapport

 

Furrywisepuppy says:

 

The basis of all persuasive techniques and ‘mind control’ effects recreated in the performing art of mentalism is (said to be) rapport. This concept has been blown out of all proportion by self-proclaimed gurus in parts of the therapy and workplace management training fields in the past, but a basic understanding of what it means is worth knowing…

 

Rapport is the one-to-one ability to empathise and emotionally connect, and true rapport comes from having a genuine interest in others. It’s that feeling of being in tune, or in sync or harmony, with someone.

 

Having rapport with somebody means that the two of you are enjoying easy company with each other, and the usual consequence is that you’ll end up acting and talking in similar ways. I’m sure you have had the experience of getting on with somebody so well that you very quickly find that you both seem to know where the other is coming from. It happens unconsciously but if you consciously for a moment notice what has happened then you might find that you’re both perhaps sitting or crossing your legs in a similar fashion, or tilting your head when they’re tilting theirs and vice-versa, for example i.e. you are mirroring the non-verbal cues of each other. By contrast, I’m sure you have also endured trying to hold a conversation with someone who just doesn’t seem to click with anything you have to say.

 

When we experience rapport with someone, we will mirror their body movements, not just their facial expressions. The mirroring of movements, body language and tone promotes mutual empathy. It’s about feeling happy when they’re feeling happy, and feeling sad if they’re feeling sad, and so forth. Even just repeating something back to someone in confirmation can promote rapport. Something like dancing to a rhythm with someone will enhance social bonding too. (You might also be able to work out whether somebody has an introverted or extroverted personality through the way they dance; although this isn’t always reliable since some introverts can really let loose under a disco ball on a Saturday night!)

 

But for decades, rapport has been studied and turned into a high-powered ‘skill’ that can ostensibly be learned and then manipulatively ‘turned on’ whenever a person wishes to gain persuasive influence over somebody. The theory worked like this – people in tune with each other tend to mirror each other’s body language, use similar speech patterns and even breathe and blink at the same rate, which signal the outward signs of a comfortable and free-flowing interaction.

 

This holds some truth – if you, say, shift your posture during a conversation with a friend, you’ll find that they’ll soon follow to keep that unconscious rapport going. Likewise, you may be aware that you talk or act a little differently with one group of people you affiliate with than you do with another – we do this to allow what we have in common with each group to flourish and so ensure that our rapport with them is maintained.

 

However, it was then claimed that, by consciously exhibiting the outward signs of rapport – as in deliberately mirroring someone’s body language and feeding back their vocabulary, ideas, tone, tempo and maybe breathing rate too – you’ll automatically create rapport and really put the other person at ease.

 

This idea sounds plausible, but in practice, these signals will highly likely appear as clearly fake to the other person and so they’ll experience discomfort around you and feel mocked and alienated. It just won’t feel right and you’ll appear even less like an easy conversational partner with them.

 

So it can only work reliably when it’s natural and unconscious. This doesn’t mean that rapport with another person cannot be intentionally improved, but it isn’t worked at by just superficially trying to mirror someone’s outward non-verbal cues – it’s worked at by having a genuine interest in others and being mentally present (so not thinking of anyone or anything else but who’s in your company right now) and being attentive to their needs.

 

It starts with being a good listener. Remember and occasionally use people’s first names to make them feel valued and special. The way that lots of people casually and easily forget other people’s names means that when you care and put in the effort to simply remember someone’s name, you’ll stand out in a positive way in their mind. (Amongst peers, the only time when people don’t like to hear their first name is when someone uses a patronising tone. And if we suddenly hear our full names, it can feel like we’re being reprimanded by a teacher!) Some do find remembering names easier than others, especially when they’re being introduced to a whole bunch of new people at once (in which case, people tend to be reasonable and don’t expect you to remember their names immediately) – but one technique that helps is to instantly repeat it back to them as they first tell you it (e.g. “Nice to meet you Lonnie” as opposed to just, “Nice to meet you.”) Then keep repeating their name in your head whenever you spot them. If the person has a distinctive feature or attribute, try to link their name with it. If you cannot remember someone’s name then it’s better to ask them again rather than assume and get it wrong(!) Awk.

 

Eye contact and appropriate touch can be shortcuts to gaining trust and cooperation too – they help us to gain rapport with another person because they’re actions we associate and conduct with people we truly trust and have known for a long time. Physical touch is vital for creating a deeper connection with someone. But of course this doesn’t mean staring at people or touching them inappropriately, as this will again have the opposite effect. They best come naturally as a result of showing and feeling a genuine interest in someone and what they’re saying.

 

In some cultures, like Chinese, it’s considered rude to engage in much eye contact. In other cultures, the amount of eye contact can be equated with romance. It signals interest. Appropriate and affectionate physical contact releases oxytocin and helps develop a bond and in turn feelings of love. It can help get people on your side as well as open them to your suggestions.

 

When someone tries to copy your accent, it can seem quite offensive, but unless they really are consciously intending to cause offence then mirroring someone’s accent is actually a sign of unconscious rapport. This was also mentioned in Post No.: 0470. So instead of jumping to conclusions, you’ll need to observe their other cues to determine whether they’re trying to be offensive or they’re actually just clicking with you. This one definitely has to come naturally rather than intentionally.

 

Find common grounds and shared interests. ‘Self-disclosure’ is when one person reveals something about themselves and then the other person reveals something of a similar amount of significance in return, and so forth reciprocally. It’s the natural way two people gradually get to know each other. Few people want to hear someone’s life story all at once, or want to be around someone who appears secretive about their own life without expressing a good reason. Shared interests and shared experiences can create an instant fluffy connection with someone, especially if those interests or experiences are uncommon.

 

You don’t need to take a training course in communication skills to be able to put someone at their ease. When you meet someone for the first time, they’ll be open to any signals you give them about who you are and how the two of you are going to relate. But if you have already decided (perhaps unconsciously) that the person you’re about to meet isn’t going to like you – then chances are that you’ll give off signals that’ll exhibit uneasiness and a presumption of dislike between yous. We therefore tend to get what we expect, which means that we should expect pleasant and productive interactions with everyone we meet.

 

Therefore expect good in others! If you enter a situation having decided that you are immensely likeable and worth knowing (even if you have to fake this bit), and so is the other person, then you’ll find that (all else being equal) you will get a better response. And over time as more people respond well to you, you’ll start to positively change your own genuine opinions about yourself. (Although ensure that this never ventures into self-importance or delusions of grandeur.)

 

So when meeting any new acquaintances with whom you wish to establish rapport – decide beforehand that you’re going to be very interested in them and what they have to share, and that you want them to feel good and comfortable. And don’t fake this part or overdo it. Smiling too much or constantly touching a stranger’s elbow will make you seem weird rather than a potential friend. People respond to natural, easygoing, confident behaviour. If you must fake this confidence, you’ve got to fake it well. But if you can do this then you’ll be essentially behaving as a confident person would in that situation. Attitudes affect behaviour, and behaviour affects attitudes.

 

Rather than seeing things from your own perspective – learn to see them from the perspective of the other person. Try to deeply understand their feelings and ideas.

 

What typically happens in conversations is that someone talks about themselves, you pick up on a few details that relate to you, you wait for them to finish so that you can say, “Yes, I…” and then you start talking about yourself. They then respond by returning to their own stories and opinions. And so the dialogue continues. In other words, you are merely listening to somebody to see how the conversation relates to you.

 

A better way to converse is by listening to whatever they have to say to learn how the content of their conversation relates to them. You build in your mind a representation of their way of seeing the world and piece together their patterns. Most people love talking about themselves thus they’ll be happy for you to ask them any questions to complete those patterns and gain more information about their world.

 

After a while, this behaviour will become almost second nature to you – so this is the true skill that can be practised here – and you’ll be able to simply look at someone you’ve paid a lot of genuine attention and interest in and tell almost immediately what their reactions to various stimuli might be.

 

Once you better understand their perception of a situation, you can mentally exist inside their heads, as it were. And if they want you to sort out a problem for them, you can do so more effectively – for you’re not letting your own prejudices, ideas and preconceptions get in the way.

 

In terms of performing tricks of ‘mind reading’ or ‘mind control’ – it’s (ostensibly) from this starting point that a mentalist can begin to play with people’s minds. It’s not really about controlling other people but about trying to see events through their eyes and second-guessing their thoughts and responses. Priming and suggestion may be employed; showmanship can make a trick seem more spectacular; and misdirection, moving on quickly or the gift of the gab can get one out of any misses.

 

In conclusion, gaining rapport with someone isn’t about trying to superficially fake mirroring their non-verbal signals. This will only get you so far and it can look off-puttingly unnatural to the other person. It’s about showing a genuine interest in them, which can be fostered by behaving like you truly want to see things from their point of view rather than your own.

 

It’s like you can fake an orgasm but it won’t beat the real thing. Yet you can work at achieving the real thing through better foreplay and deeply tuning in with your partner!

 

Woof!

 

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