Home Winsights
No. 49 (April 2001)

Introducing a Guest Contributor — Elroy Carter's frequent insightful contributions to Mindlist@YahooGroups.com have greatly helped that listgroup to become one of the outstanding golden-ages-in-progress in our Internet times (alongside ImageStreaming@YahooGroups.com, of course!), fully as generative of new thought and perspective as was Bonn University physics in the 1920s or the Aegean islands in late classical Greece. Elroy has just now become Moderator of Mindlist. When the opportunity arose to add one of his contributions to this Winsights column, how could I possibly resist? Following below is a brief by Elroy on forming rapport. Enjoy! — Win

A Rapport Story
by Elroy Carter

A few months after I started training in NLP [Neuro-Linguistic Programming], I was talking with a good friend and explaining the concepts of rapport to him. I said that rapport was a state that occurs when you interact with people in such a way that there is a matching of personal patterns, and with that there often comes a feeling of understanding, a sense of everything flowing comfortably between you and the other. He frowned a little, trying to decode the statement that I had just made, so I went on to explain some more.

"Have you ever noticed that when you're with a really good friend, things can flow really well? How you can be listening to a friend, nodding at his words, agreeing with his ideas? Now when you're in this state, you can call this rapport. So many people have tried to understand how with some people you just don't click, or don't get into the same groove, while there are some with whom you can get along just fine.

"With me I think the key in these situations is how closely you match each other's personal patterns, the way they think and act, either deliberately or unconsciously. NLPers call this process 'pacing'. People tend to like those who are like them; friends tend to like the same things, have the same kinds of tastes. Even when they don't have similar ways of thinking about the world, they can understand and acknowledge the other's outlook.

"I was talking about this to a friend who works in advertising. Early in his career, he was talking to his boss about how a certain contract had to be handled, and they had differences in opinion. My friend couldn't really understand where the boss got this idea from; why couldn't he figure how bad that way would be? He got into quite an argument with his boss; he thought the boss' idea was just stupid, why couldn't he think like him? My friend stood his ground, refusing to budge from what HE thought was right. The boss didn't fire him right away. He waited for a few more incidents like these, and gave him the sack with little ceremony.

"You can see how that guy was not able to match his boss' way of thinking, his map of the world. He thought that his own way was the only way, he couldn't step outside of himself and think about what it would be like to be his boss. The boss must have had reasons for why he was doing it his way. In my friend's eyes, he himself was right, and in the boss' eyes, his own ideas were correct. Each thought that he was right. The keystone to building great rapport is to fully realize that everyone is right in his own opinion, that everyone has a way of thinking about the world that is unique. When you really understand that, you'll be right on the way to shifting your own way of thinking so that it matches anyone else's to build the strongest rapport you can."


My friend was getting the idea, and he started asking about what happens after you shift your way of thinking. I told him that many sales courses and books tell the reader to match a person's body posture and ways of gesturing. They say to speak at the same level of volume, use the same kinds of pauses, really gets into the rhythm of the other person.

A good method is to pay attention to and pace the kinds of sensory words and phrases a person uses. For instance, if they say, "I SEE where you're going," you can reply with, "Yeah, it's pretty CLEAR when you think about it." If a person seems to use many words having to do with sound, you can use such words yourself. You can really get a sense of harmonizing with a person when you get on their wavelength. Someone who is in touch with his feelings will feel good with you when you get a handle on his ideas.

"That's true," said my friend. "You can really feel in tune with someone when you see eye to eye."

I said that these techniques are good and effective by themselves. They will help you think the same way as your customer, friend or family member and have them feel comfortable with you; but until you can really let your way of thinking shift to accommodate the other, then the techniques will only go so far.

"Imagine for a moment that we were both watching a football match. You're on one end of the stadium, and I'm on the other. From where I am, the game looks a certain way, and from where you are, the game will obviously look different. If we were to discuss the match, you'd be remembering the game in a different way from me, and this might cause some confusion. However, if we were to sit in the same place, we'd have a much better chance of seeing the same things in the same way. When you can shift your way of thinking in that same way, so that you are aware of the same things as the other, that's when you'll get the best rapport."
I also said that there were ways of speaking that will pace the way a person thinks and perceives his world, and that these techniques are most easily done by matching the mental outlook of the other. You can say things which are observations or truths. "For instance, we've been talking for a while now, and I've been telling you about rapport. Some of it may not seem fully familiar to you, but as you think about all the ways that you have observed this all through your life, maybe without noticing it consciously, it will make much more sense as we go along. Like now, we're sitting in the same way, and feeling pretty good, right? We've been talking at the same volume and pace, so you can naturally understand how this works."

"Yeah, so it does!"

"And you can notice how what I just said paced your experience. We HAVE been sitting for a while, we HAVE been talking about rapport. Some of the stuff may not have been totally FAMILIAR to you, but you CAN think about the times when you've observed this in your life."

"Yeah, so I can!"

"When you begin to effectively use rapport in your life, I believe the first step is to understand how everyone has a way of thinking, a map of the world. Some people's maps are big, some are detailed, some are simple, and we all orient ourselves with our maps. When you build strong rapport with people you recognize that they may have a map different from yours, and you shift your map to be more like theirs. From there you can pace how they think, acknowledge what they believe and value. If you want to convince someone of something, you do it in a way that will match what they have on their map. From there you can help them find ways to expand their map to include elements of yours, in an atmosphere of understanding and acknowledgment."

"Great!" said my friend. "So you mean that if I can understand a person's map and pace it with the way I move and the things I say, I can get them to have a similar map to mine? And they'll begin to think things my way as well?"

"Hey, whatever you want," I said unthinkingly but encouragingly.

"Hmmm... I'm going to go see my boss about a raise. I already know what he values, and I think that I can understand what I'd need to present and do to get that raise." My friend looked up musingly in the air, chortling to himself at the images of dollars floating before him.

"Hey, if you want to do that," I laughed, "we may need to talk a little more."

And we did.


Comments and questions to:
Elroy Carter or Win Wenger

This article ©1999 Elroy J. W. Carter, reproduced here by permission. Views and perspectives expressed in this article are those of the writer, who in this instance is working mainly from within the context of the honored sister discipline of NLP.
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