So, there you are face to face with a new client, collaborator or anyone that you may want to connect with, but it’s not working. you are doing everything that you normally do and it normally goes well, so well. You are using your usual pitch that works well but it feels like you are speaking different languages, well maybe you are.

It’s not what you say but how you say it that counts. In order to be listened to, you have to first listen and if you do, you will learn the language that the other speaks and that will enable you to synchronise. This is the basic principle of Mirroring and Matching, a NLP (Neurolingustic Programming) technique that you will find makes all the difference when breaking down the barriers to communication.

People are different. Yeah, I know that will not come as a surprise but understanding how they are different will give you a head-start in being able to using the others values and motivations to get your message across. If you haven’t read my introduction to DISC personality profiling, I strongly suggest you do. It will make this article even more valuable.

How many of you have watched people talking?

  • Just waiting for the other to stop talking so they can say what they want.
  • Going on and on so interested by what they are saying to even notice that the other is not listening.
  • People answering a different question to the one that was asked.
  • Not noticing that the other has something to add to the conversation and by the time they do what they had to say is irrelevant.
  • Saying “I thought you meant…” when what they mean is “I hoped you meant…”

Listening, really listening should be the beginning of all communication

Of course, we have friends who we can chat for hours with and complete each others’ sentences. This is rapport. But what if we could do that with more people? What if it didn’t take years to get there? What if we could achieve this with our colleagues, with clients and with people we would like to know better?

In this article…

  • I will show you some techniques that if you practice them regularly will help you achieve rapport.
  • I will show you how you can help people to feel comfortable with you, quickly.
  • I will show you how you can build rapport, the most important part of human interaction.
  • Learn how to use mirroring and matching to quickly understand the DISC personality type that you are communicating with.
  • And even use this to influence the people around you.

Sometimes we connect with people quickly, we are like instant friends. There are 3 types of people we feel this way with.

1.      People who are like us

We connect with these people as we do the image in the mirror. There is an immediate understanding and trust. We trust these people because we know them, we know their values; they are like us.

This is familiarity, kinship, shared values.

Do you trust yourself?

2.      People who are like we would like to be

These are people who are, in some way, how we would like to be. This is admiration, aspiration, respect. This is why people with confidence are so attractive. They have what you want.

Now think of people who you feel comfortable with, people you connected with easily.

Do they belong to the first group, people like you?

Or do they belong to the second group, people who you admire?

If they were from the first group, how are they like you?

The second and third groups… OH! The third group!

They are the people you want something from. Now, that sounds cynical, even mercenary! BUT this could be someone you want a good working relationship with or someone you need to negotiate with or do business with. It could be an attractive someone you’d like to know better.

Now, we talked about the first group and how you felt comfortable and safe with them almost immediately and how they felt good with you almost straight away. So you know everything you need to know to make connections with the other two groups, right?

Well, there is one thing that I said before that we didn’t mention… safety. The main obstacle to doing what you do with group one is your own safety… this is what confident people do, they create safety; they don’t expect it from others.

If you already have that and connect with people easily, then great! You are going to learn how you do it and learn how to do it better!

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” – Aristotle

 So who do people feel comfortable with?

Who do people like?

People like who?


And how do we know that people are like us? They are like the person in the mirror.

Now, you may look in the mirror some mornings, maybe many mornings and not like who is looking back but you know you and that is the basis of your trust mechanism.

Milton Erikson

There was a guy called Milton Erickson, he was a psychiatrist psychologist. He contracted polio in his late teens and ended up in a wheelchair. He got plenty of opportunity to watch people and the knowledge and skills to analyse what he saw. He watched people who gained rapport and realised that they mimicked each other. Don’t take my word for it! Next time you are at a bar and you see a couple sitting together watch their actions and movements. You will notice that they take their drinks at the same time, the cross their legs the same way, if they are smokers they will synchronise their smoking. If they don’t… they are going home alone!

So, how can you do that?

In formula 1 you may notice that cars sit close behind a team mate; this is called slipstreaming. The car behind follows the movements, they mirror the car in front to exploit the momentum and lack of drag. When the time is right the car behind will shoot in front and win the race.  

In behaviour, this is called mirroring and matching. If you use this in conjunction with DISC personality types, you will not only learn how the other wants to be spoken to but due to mirror neurons and empathy, you will understand them better.

Things to mirror and match in order to gain rapport:

Posture: Body language often reflects feelings and attitudes. When you mirror and match a person’s body posture, you actually begin to understand more about him. Is your client sitting, standing, relaxing or slouching? Are her legs or arms crossed? Is she leaning in any particular direction? Are her feet together or apart? Is she holding anything, such as a pen or cup of coffee? If your client crosses her legs or places her hands on a table, wait for 4-5 seconds, then match that in the same way. The same applies to shifting to another position, hand placement, etc. Observe how your client moves. If he or she moves quickly and you move slowly, your patterns are out of sync. Speed yourself up just a bit or slow down until you’re both comfortable with one another.

Gestures: People often use gestures along with posture to give insight on how they categorise their experiences. To gracefully pace and match gestures, observe each in context. Does your client gesture with their hands in a particular way, or with a nod or tilt of their head? Are hand gestures exaggerated and expansive, or protective and restrictive? Discreetly mirror the gestures of the person you’re listening to. If they lean their head to the left, wait a few seconds and lean to the right.

Facial Expressions: Humans have 53 facial muscles that contribute to a wide range of possible expressions; each can tell volumes without uttering a word. Are brows raised or lowered?  Furrowed or smooth? Is the bridge of the nose wrinkled or smooth? Is the jaw tense and squared off? What is the client’s approximate blink rate? In general, the average blink rate is 15 times per minute. Someone feeling anxious or who is lying blinks more often, and a person deep in concentration blinks less often. By matching your client’s blink rate, you may have greater access their emotional/physiological state. Admittedly, this takes some time to master and match with discretion, but as the “eyes are the windows to the soul”, it’s worth the effort to consider. I discuss this in more detail HERE 

Impeded facial movement, impairs empathy

A modern study by David T. Neal, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Southern California, and Tanya L. Chartrand, professor of marketing and psychology at Duke University, tested the abilities of Botoxed women to decipher emotions. When confronted with a set of photographs of human eyes, women with Botox were significantly less able to match the eyes to the appropriate human emotions than plain old wrinkled adults.

Speech Rate: If your client speaks slowly and deliberately, the quickest way to break rapport is to speak to them in a rapid-fire manner. Matching the pace of your client creates a sense of alignment and allows you to more easily match her energy level. Your matching pace should be natural and subtle. If you’re naturally a slower, more deliberate speaker, you might consider just ‘dialing it up one notch’ to narrow the gap between yourself and a much faster-paced speaker. I do this often with friends, family and clients from UK. I haven’t lived in Britain for many years and my speech has slowed, in fact much of my interaction is with non-native speakers. However, it quickens when I’m ‘back home’ or when I’m with native speakers .

Tone/Inflection: Aspects of voice matching (tone, rate, volume, etc.) are most effective when done indirectly.  Subtle adjustments in your normal voice so that it is more like your client’s, but still essentially ‘you’ is all that is required. Your ‘mirrored’ voice should never be radically different from your own. To significantly alter your voice is distracting and off-putting. Don’t outright copy tonality. Can you imagine a man with a tenor voice trying to match a woman’s high-pitched tone? That would be ridiculous. He could, however, try raising the pitch of his (natural) voice just a bit to be more in sync with her.

Sensory Predicates: Most people tend to favour one of four types of sensory-based systems that help us understand our world and experiences; the words we choose describe these experiences. It’s very helpful to pick up on key words that reveal a person’s underlying favoured system, so that you can use those and similar words to build rapport and meaningful connections. Most people integrate all four systems in their vocabulary, but tend favour one in particular, either innately or from context. The four systems are:

Visual Predicates include words and phrases such as: see, look, view, foggy, clear, bright, reveal, focused, short-sighted, paint a picture, an eyeful, picture this, hazy, etc.

Auditory Predicates may include terms and phrases such as:  sound, hear, tell, listen, resonate, clear as a bell, loud-and-clear, tune in/out, on another note, give me your ear, etc.

Kinesthetic/Feeling Predicates include words and phrases such as: touch, feel, grasp, fuzzy, hard, concrete, sharp as a tack, solid, unfeeling, heated debate, get in touch with, make contact, hand-in-hand, etc.

Auditory Digital Predicates may include word and phrases such as: think, know, learn, process, decide, consider, understand, experience, motivate, learn, figure it out, make sense of, pay attention to, word-for-word, conceive, etc.

How can you use this in mirroring and matching to create rapport? When we ‘speak the same language’, we have a more solid foundation on which to build trust. For example, a client may say to you, “I like the look of the contract. The bottom-line is clear and your plan is focused.” You might reply with something like, “I’m glad that I was able to paint a clear picture of the project; let’s see how we can work together toward a common vision for the work.” The underlying system of communication is overwhelmingly visible…. See what I mean?

People integrate these predicates into their sentences, and if you detect them, you can incorporate similar words into your dialog. The result leads to a stronger connection by communicating in a way that is most familiar and comfortable for your client.

Energy Level: Some people are naturally relaxed while others are chronically gregarious and active, this is me. I tend to have the highest energy level in a group and this can trigger the aspirational instinct in others but I have learned to feed it in more slowly.  Strive to match energy levels. An effective way to match energy level is to mirror the breathing rate of your client. This is one of the most difficult aspects to match as it requires you to closely observe the rise and fall of your client’s chest and shoulders, among other cues, while simultaneously maintaining consistent eye contact and engaging in deep listening. However, once mastered, it’s very effective.

In DISC personality analysis, people are first separated into four quadrants according to whether they are high energy or low, then whether they are people or task oriented. Mirroring will help you feel where they are in this quadrant and this is important because if you spend ages trying to build a friendship with someone on the task-oriented part of the quadrant, you will lose them fast but if you get down to business with a people-oriented type, you are not going to build trust, which is more important to them.

Once you have achieved rapport by following your counterpart, you can then begin to lead the conversation and your counterpart should follow you. You will need to test the water first with little gestures and statements but once you have synchronised, you will be in a position of influence.

I am not saying this is easy and it takes a lot of practice, but if you are willing to put in the hours, you will notice the difference.

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