Why physical rapport is the basis of trust
The dance routine was so moving and beautiful, I cried. There was a graceful and flowing rapport between the couple and they danced as if there was no-one else present, completely engrossed in each other as the dance itself evolved.
The gentle to-ing and fro-ing of the movements seemed to create a deep and exquisite understanding and a sense of connection between the couple. As humans, we long for this sense of connection with others but may not always be sure how to achieve it. Yet we can easily achieve it by establishing rapport.
But what exactly is rapport?
Rapport is a French word that doesn’t really have an English equivalent. When you have rapport with someone you have a feeling of connection, of being on the same wavelength, of seeing eye to eye. Rapport in this sense provides a basis of trust and understanding.
So how do you gain rapport non-verbally?
In a short sentence: You mirror the other person’s body language.
Mirroring involves behaving or reacting like a mirror image of the person you want to build rapport with. Imagine you are sitting with someone having a drink with no table between you. The other person bends their left leg and stretches out their right leg.
To mirror this aspect of their non-verbal language you would have your right leg bent and your left leg stretched out. You would lift your glass to your lips at the same time (or shortly after) the other person lifts theirs using the opposite arm to the one they use. This to-ing and fro-ing process would continue throughout the whole conversation. It becomes like a dance.
And this dance has been going on almost your entire life
Although you will have been doing this dance a long time, if you haven’t come across the idea of mirroring before it probably sounds a bit weird. So there’s something that you really need to know at this point. And that is that you’re probably already doing it naturally and unconsciously all the time you’re with other people. How do I know this?
I know this for two reasons
Firstly because a few years ago, scientists found a specific neuron in the brain which is responsible for our mirroring behaviour. Guess what they called it? The mirror neuron! Even monkeys and apes have this neuron. The scientific and evolutionary theory behind mirroring is that, as humans we tend to like people who are like us.
So when we mirror another person’s body language, we’re unconsciously saying; “Hey, look, I’m like you!”
But even before the discovery of the mirror neuron I knew that people unconsciously mirrored each other. That brings me to the second reason: Because I’ve observed them doing it.
I’ve observed them in everyday situations
I see them mirroring each other in every day-to-day situation imaginable, when they like each and/or want to get along. And I’ve seen people on training courses where I’ve put thousands of people through a simple exercise. The exercise involves pairs or small groups having a simple discussion. During the course of the discussion—and completely unconsciously—they mirror a complete strangers non-verbal language. This usually takes less than a minute.
Participants are always amazed when it’s pointed out to them what they’ve been doing unconsciously.
But being unconscious of what you’re doing can also be a problem
It can be a problem because there might be situations where you need rapport in order to move a relationship forward. For example on a first date, in a job interview or talking to someone who it’s imperative you get on with, but who you may not like.
Remember that rapport is the basis of understanding and influence.
But if you don’t know how to do rapport consciously, you can’t use it constructively.
What could have been a perfectly good relationship might crumble and fail – before you even get to know each other! So although I’ve shown you three good reasons why you’re doing rapport unconsciously, I bet you’d like further proof, right?
For further proof, just watch!
All you have to do to prove this to be accurate is go to somewhere where people gather; a cafe, for example. Then just watch. You’ll see people doing exactly what I’ve described; sitting like mirror images of each other, taking a drink at the same time, leaning forward or back at the same time. When you’ve seen enough to convince yourself that people do indeed mirror each others non-verbal language, you could try it out for yourself. How would you do this?
The key is to alter your own posture and non-verbal language as naturally as possible. If the person you’re with changes their posture, you don’t have to do it instantly as this would just draw attention to yourself. You can do it in your own time. You could also notice the other person mirroring you. It’s kind of like a dance. So notice who’s leading and who’s following the rapport. After a while try leading it. You lead the rapport by changing some aspect of your own behaviour and see if the other person follows your lead.
But make sure the dance doesn’t get too weird
If you are the opposite sex to the person you’re mirroring, mirroring some of their non-verbal language might be awkward or look strange. For a man to fully mirror a woman could be very strange, in some circumstances and might send completely the wrong message! And vice versa.
In these situations you can approximate the same behaviour. So, if the other person crosses their legs and that’s uncomfortable for you, or would look silly, simply cross your ankles. Remember your intention.
Rapport does not involve mimicking
When you mimic someone the intention is different.
The intention of mimicking is ridicule.
Ridicule is NOT the intention when we’re trying to establish rapport. In fact we want to do the opposite.
The intention of rapport is to build a connection.
The ability to build and maintain rapport will allow you to obtain deep and exquisite understanding. Rapport is extremely powerful so it’s important to use it with consideration and integrity. Then your relationships will become like a dance, based on a sound connection and an exquisite mutual understanding.
- Rapport is a natural way of behaving when we like someone or we want someone to like us
- Mirroring is the non-verbal aspect of rapport
- There’s a neuron which is responsible for mirroring behaviour
- You can mirror consciously as well as unconsciously
- Use rapport with integrity
- Go out and watch people mirroring each other.
- Notice times when you’re naturally and unconsciously in rapport.
- Try it for yourself.