For some, connecting with strangers is easy. We all know people who can meet a new person and seem like their best friend within a moment.
We also all know the opposite person. You know, the person who always says the wrong thing and puts off new people to the point where conversations end quickly.
You may even be one of those people.
Not enough people stop and ask what the difference is between these groups of people. What’s the difference? The skill of building rapport. In my last post I discussed how to build rapport using the VAK modalities – but the ideas I’m going to discuss here are even more simple and still incredibly high impact: Matching and mirroring.
The idea is all based upon one fundamental truth of the world: People like people who are like themselves or how they would like to be.
As rapport expert Tony Robbins says, style is more important than substance at first.
There are a lot of things that you can’t control that will work for you or against you right away when trying to connect with new people – age, sex, race, and height being among them. There are few things that you can control beforehand like the way you dress and present yourself. IE, if you’re going to a meeting with Mark Zuckerberg you might be better off in casual clothes and hoodies. If you’re going to a meeting with the CEO of Goldman Sachs you may want to wear a more expensive suit.
While we all wish that the surface stuff didn’t matter, I assure you that for the purposes of rapport, they do. After all, fill a room with children and adults and you will watch the children migrate towards the children and the adults migrate to the adults based on nothing but size and age.
What is more important to our development as communicators and connectors is the stuff we can control in the moment – namely the concept of matching and mirroring. This is simply the concept that we can create similarity in the way we hold our bodies, the way we talk, the way we breathe, our posture, leaning in or leaning out, the tone of voice we use, our hand gestures (or lack thereof), and anything else we have at our immediate disposal.
Imagine if you will, a low-energy person standing there looking towards their feet and avoiding eye contact who then gets approached by an over-the-top ball of energy with a loud voice and a broad posture.
It might look something like this:
The late Chris Farley’s character in the above video thought that bringing energy and excitement to a boring conversation would build connection and intrigue, but in reality it broke rapport before it started.
Joseph McClendon puts it like this. If you say tomayto, then I say tomayto too.
If someone is a fast-paced talker who waves their hands and gestures furiously as they are talking, the best way to connect with that person and increase their comfort is to speed up your rhythm and express your hands in a similar way.
This kind of subtle connection will have them walking away going “I don’t know why, but I really liked that guy.”
A common objection to matching and mirroring is that it’s manipulation and inauthentic. That’s what I thought when I first heard it, at least. However, the truth is you are simply trying to make a stranger feel comfortable and at home when talking with you. You’re making an earnest effort to meet people who might have something to offer you than the people you connect with by default don’t.
Take some action:
Today in a conversation on the phone or in person, note the person’s body language, vocal tone, speaking rhythm, posture, which leg they cross, repeated phrases, and anything else that is plainly observable. In fact, do this in every conversation you have. Once you become aware, see if any of these patterns feel natural enough for you to match them. Step outside of your comfort zone to make them feel more comfortable. Once you’re in rapport with someone, the possibilities for connection are endless.
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