People buy people
No business can operate without communication, and effective communication can only take place once a strong sense of rapport has been established. To buy into someone else’s ideas, opinion or influence, we must first buy into them, and this involves creating a strong element of trust and perceived mutual understanding and respect.
If you think about the people whom you’ve allowed to influence you and your decisions, what quality is it they possess that attracts you towards them, and what makes you buy into their concept again and again?
The friends we choose, as well as bosses, colleagues, clients, teachers, coaches, retailers and sales people, all of these individuals have the ability to influence your opinions, your thoughts and your subsequent decisions, and recognizing this will allow you to begin purposefully influencing them in turn.
However, before anyone is able to influence anything, we must first establish a baseline of trust. Trust is paramount if any relationship is to exist, and can only be created through established rapport. Without rapport we have nothing but meaningless words and actions.
So what is rapport and how do you know when you have it and when you don’t?
Trust is paramount if any relationship is to exist, and can only be created through established rapport.
Where does rapport come from?
Rapport is the seamless communication between individuals, and it is created as soon as a mutual connection and understanding is made and conversation becomes allowed to just flow.
Words do not have to exist for rapport to exist. According to the research conducted by Professor Mehrabian of the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), 55 per cent of all our communication is body language, 38 per cent is tonality, and only 7 per cent actually consists of the words that we say. Even those words are further subjected to representational system translation (sensory language) and perceptions (beliefs and values).
Every single action, facial expression, sigh, posture, tone, rhythm and hand gesture creates an impression and communicates an idea. Your mind and body are one and neither can exist without influencing the other.
This means that whatever thoughts we are thinking internally in our minds will always be reflected upon our external physiology. You cannot not communicate!
Have you ever experienced a time when you were tempted to buy something, but then found yourself being put off because the salesperson was incredibly obnoxious or simply appeared uninterested in selling to you? What quality was it about them that made you change your mind?
Remember, as individuals we respond to the world through our perceptions and our judgements, and any decisions or actions we take are driven by our values and beliefs.
Everyone, no matter who they are or how important others perceive them to be, likes to feel acknowledged and valued. Our opinions count, our feelings matter, and we believe that we are worthwhile enough to expect respect from others, whether it be in the work place, at a conference or in the high street.
You cannot not communicate!
If we believe someone is uninterested in our thoughts, our wants or our needs, we reject them. There is no respect and no understanding, and fundamentally no rapport, which means no matter what the other person has to offer, the chances are we are very unlikely to choose to hear them out or respond to anything they have to say.
In fact, have you ever noticed that the more you dislike a person, the more likely you are to do the very opposite of what it is they have asked of you?
No relationship can exist without rapport. If you want to influence your boss into offering you that promotion, the interviewers into giving you that job, or your client into buying your product over your competitors, then you must first establish a relationship of trust, understanding and rapport.
Rapport is not something you can just switch on and off at will, it is something you have to create, and sometimes that may mean becoming flexible in your own behaviour and angles of perception.
No relationship can exist without rapport.
Rapport exists on a subconscious level, and it is a major part of the 93 per cent of our non-verbal communication. Rapport also works on various levels within the human psyche. From our brain’s point of view, everything we subconsciously comprehend and respond to is strongly linked to our already established and recognized behavioural patterns.
This means, if your subconscious mind notices another person demonstrating a similar gesture, facial expression, tone of voice or even a shared opinion, your subconscious mind will automatically acknowledge a similarity between the two of you and therefore create a link. This perceived similarity becomes enough for you then to begin feeling as though you understand what the other person is thinking, leading you then to believe you now share some common ground of thought. This creates a feeling of unity, perceived mutual understanding and eventually, should more similarities continue to be noticed, a deep level of trust and rapport is established.
At another level, human beings like to feel part of a group and accepted. It makes us feel safe and allows us to feel confident within our thoughts and actions. If our subconscious notices our subconscious communication being reciprocated, mirrored and responded to, then this is seen subconsciously as a mark of acceptance and again of unity.
“Towards” and “away from”
One thing that is phenomenally important to remember, especially if what you are aiming for requires you to be liked by the other person (and this is very important in sales, presentations and interviews), is the basic “towards” and “away from” strategies and how to apply them to basic attraction.
We are all drawn towards things that make us feel good and away from things that make us feel bad. There is a reason why you don’t put your hand over a flame, jump out of a ten-storey building without the use of a bungee cord, or stick your fingers into the company paper shredder, and this is because we are all incredibly hard wired to avoid pain or anything we believe will be unpleasant to us – including people.
We are all drawn towards things that make us feel good and away from things that make us feel bad.
If you think about the people you choose to spend time with, whose company you enjoy, what is it about these people that makes you want to keep seeing them again and again?
Some reasons you may come up with are: they make you laugh or smile; you feel comfortable in their company; you respect that person’s opinion and feel as though you learn from them; you feel brighter, smarter with them, etc. Whatever the specific reason, there will be some quality about that person that leaves you feeling good on one level or another, a perceived gain.
Now, think of another person, someone whom you would do everything possible to avoid. This includes hiding yourself away in the works storeroom cupboard or crossing the street just to avoid spending time with them. This type of person is the kind of individual who makes your heart sink, your blood boil, or maybe leaves you feeling fearful, inadequate or just simply depressed. When you think of this person, what quality do they possess that makes you want to avoid them at all costs?
The chances are that these people leave you feeling insecure, unsettled, angry, upset, frightened, negative, pessimistic, and so on. These people probably demonstrate a specific quality that leaves you feeling negative on one level or another, and you perceive a sense of loss when you’re with them.
Imagine a client has two salespeople knocking on his door, both selling exactly the same product at the same price. How does the client choose which one to buy from?
Salesperson A is very professionally presented and articulate, but can only ever discuss business and make small talk about the weather.
Salesperson B’s tie isn’t fastened properly and his shirt is none too clean, but he has an easy sense of humour, remembers that the client likes to watch football and spent most of his sales pitch time discussing last night’s football game, only briefly mentioning the product once as he leaves.
Who do you think the client chooses to buy from?
The client chooses salesperson B in this scenario, as the client enjoyed his company more. Because the nature of the business required regular contact with his supplier (the salesperson), the client decided to choose someone whose company he would enjoy on a regular basis.
This scenario could have gone the other way if the client had valued appearance over company, which is why it is important to elicit an individual’s values and beliefs before attempting to influence their opinion.
It is important to elicit an individual’s values and beliefs before attempting to influence their opinion.
People who are very successful in creating strong rapport with other people are usually individuals who have understood the attraction element behind rapport. Attraction is not about who you actually are, but about how the other person perceives you to be and how you make them feel within themselves. If someone feels good in your company, they will come back to you again and again, selecting you over others, and this leaves you in a very powerful position of influence.
How can you recognize rapport?
It is obvious when two people are in rapport, as their body language can be observed demonstrating a mutual dance of gestures, rhythm, postures and expressions.
Have you ever noticed two people locked away in deep conversation with one another? The way the eye contact is held, how one person’s body mirrors the other, the rise and fall of their tonality, and also the way in which everyone else in the room seems to be leaving them to it, no one daring to intrude upon their deep discussion.
To create rapport you must start from genuine interest and respect, and you must feel confident in your own personal values and beliefs, outcomes and identity, but also flexible in your perceptions to understand another’s point of view.
A matching and mirroring exercise
Matching yourself into another’s style of communication is one of the quickest ways to establish rapport, and it resonates well with the subconscious need for recognizing and linking similar patterns. However, you must remember you want to match the other person’s behaviour – not mimic them.
You must remember you want to match the other person’s behaviour – not mimic them.
Things that you would aim to match:
• Physiology – Gestures, body posture, movement, positions and expressions.
• Breathing – The pace.
• Tonality and pace – The musical sound of the voice when talking, loud, soft, high, deep.
• Language – Key words or representational systems.
• Values, beliefs or opinions – The ideals the individual holds important.
• Experiences – Are there any shared experiences or passions?
To build rapport
Ask a partner to practise this with you.
1. Notice the breathing first, the rise and fall of their chest. (Get your partner to move their hand up and down as they breathe to provide you with a visual cue.)
2. Begin pacing your breathing to theirs, inhaling and exhaling when they do.
3. Ask your partner to talk about something they are passionate about.
• Notice the language they use – key phrases, representational systems.
• Notice they way in which they stand – for example, are their arms folded?
• Notice if they make a lot of eye contact – do they look away a lot or hold your gaze?
• Notice what are they talking about – is there something there you can relate to?
• Listen to the sound of the voice – slow, loud, fast.
4. Once you have elicited enough of their key qualities, choose three to use and reflect back to them.
5. Begin your communication with them, matching your chosen three gestures and mirroring their breathing, and do this until you feel comfortable.
To create strong rapport, you must be sincere in your intentions and take an active and genuine interest in the other person’s point of view. Respect and acknowledge their perceptions, even though they may be completely different from your own. To influence someone, you must go to his or her side of the fence first.
To influence someone, you must go to his or her side of the fence first.
Pacing and leading
Once we’ve established basic rapport, we are then in a position to begin influencing the other person with our ideas and perception or towards implementing change.
Learning the ability of pacing and leading is a key skill in sales and business meetings, one-to-one interviewing, deal closure or any situation that requires you to introduce a new subject matter or a new way of thinking (potentially yours).
When you pace another person, you are looking for confirmation or feedback that the other person is in mutual rapport with you. Pacing is an ongoing process and involves constantly matching and checking in with another person’s level of rapport in response to you. It involves careful matching and mirroring, listening, checking for feedback that you are truly in rapport with the other person and operating within their reality, and that there is a mutual exact understanding of the intent that is being communicated back and forth.
If in doubt, pace, pace and pace again!
To check if you are in rapport and that you have achieved a strong level of trust within the individual, you should first test it before attempting to lead them in another direction of thinking.
Exercise: Testing to lead
1. After you have spent time mirroring your individual and you feel that you have a strong connection and a good rapport established, change one of your gestures from mirroring into something new. So, if you have been using your arms to talk, now cross them. It is important to keep everything else in rapport, so if you have been maintaining eye contact, continue to do so, and if you have been reflecting gestures or mutual opinions, continue to do so. You do not want to break rapport; you are simply testing the structure.
2. Now hold this new position for a while and notice if your partner also changes their posture to mirror into yours. Do they now fold their arms too?
3. Once you have a positive result, test it further by changing one more element, and observe the response. If it is positive, your partner is now ready to be led into your way of thinking.
When you feel you have established strong rapport, you have checked it and paced it again and again, you are now ready to change the direction of the conversation, alter the focus of communication and begin heading in the direction that reflects your desired outcome.
A clever way of introducing new concepts or ideas is by linking them to already established ideas and connecting them to the current conversation.
For example, a recruitment firm that one of us worked with suddenly found themselves operating within a market that was experiencing a recession. This meant that there were now far more candidates (due to redundancies) than there were jobs to fill, and also more recruitment consultants working on these limited jobs, causing the working culture to become much more aggressive.
The MD of the company was aware that the working environment had changed, and to ensure his company survived, he needed to retrain his staff, so they knew how to recruit in a recession.
This is what the MD did.
MD’s desired outcome – introduce new training
MD: So, how well do you think we are doing at the moment?
STAFF 1: OK, but not as well as we were last month; interview numbers are down.
STAFF 2: It’s not for lack of trying, though. We have spent all day hammering the phones, but no one seems interested.
MD: I recognize you are all working hard, and yes, you’re right, interview numbers are down from last month. Why do you think that is?
STAFF 1: I imagine it’s a sign of what’s to come; there are less jobs about and no one wants to pay our fees any more.
MD: Is there anything we could do to change that?
STAFF 2: I don’t know, I’ve been trying everything I know and nothing seems to be working.
MD: I agree you’ve never worked in a recession before. Do you think the reason why what we’re doing isn’t working is because the market has changed?
STAFF 2: I’m sure that’s the reason.
MD: In that case do you think we should adapt our working methodology to reflect the new market?
STAFF 1: The only way any company can evolve is by having the ability to adapt.
MD: I agree. How about we do some group retraining?
When we want to influence someone’s focus of communication into a new direction, it is easier if we link into their current train of thought and then use this understanding to guide them into a new direction.
Remember: rapport first; then pace, pace and pace again; then lead – and then add a little more pacing, just for good measure.
Remember: rapport first; then pace, pace and pace again; then lead – and then add a little more pacing, just for good measure.
There are many different ways of building rapport. Practise these:
1. Make a list of all the different ways you could choose to establish rapport with someone in the following situations:
• In a one-to-one meeting.
• Over the phone.
• Over the internet.
• At a party.
• Whilst delivering a presentation.
2. Once you have created your list, actively practise using them as often as possible.
Which methods do you find are the most effective for you?
Go for it! A smile can say a thousand words and it doesn’t cost anything. A smile is very similar to a yawn – it is very influential and very hard not to reciprocate. It is also one of the most popular anchors for creating happy states in others, because when you smile you release endorphins (the happy hormone) into the blood stream. Smiling can instil confidence, create relaxation and defuse many a situation, and better still, it doesn’t cost you anything.