(First of a series)

How can you persuade or influence others through rapport?

In the world of neuro-linguistic programming, the true measure of a communicator’s success is based on how well he persuades or influences his subject.

Why? Because the main purpose of all human communication is influence, in its various manifestations. When a person speaks to another person, he does so with the intention of earning the person’s trust or at the very least, his agreement. All these outcomes can be examined under the rubric of influence.

Rapport is the single most effective tool you can use in any social setting to “prime the pump” and maintain a steady level of harmony throughout an interaction.

Harmony may not sound like something that you would need when talking to a client at work, but the principle of harmony is actually central to effective communication. When you establish rapport with your subject, you can dramatically reduce external objections to your arguments.

Why does rapport work?

Rapport (which is also defined as “harmony” or “agreement”) simply works because it eliminates signs of difference between the speaker and the subject.

Some people have a natural talent for rapport. These individuals are few and far in between. They don’t know they have the talent but they are extremely adept in getting people to trust them, even if it’s just their first meeting.

People who are talented with establishing rapport have three key qualities which are incidentally also the qualities of an expert communicator:

  1. They are very observant while talking to others. They see minute changes in their subject’s verbal, nonverbal and vocal language. Small behavioral changes that normally escape other people are seen and noted.
  2. They are dynamic communicators. They are generally good with words but their true strength lies in their willingness to “change tactics” whenever it is needed.

When something doesn’t work during an interaction, they use feedback observed or elicited from the subject to their advantage and they change how and what they are communicating.

  1. They know how to lead their subject until complete agreement is achieved.

How can you use rapport to your advantage?

I once spoke to a stage hypnotist who was known for his ultra-fast “hypnotic inductions” and his ability to make members of the audience do things like sing on stage or dance like a chicken.

I asked him what his secret was and he laughingly told me: “There is no secret!” I thought he was just being coy because it’s how he earns a living but a few minutes later, he finally answered my question: “I think of any member of the audience as part of my family or a close friend”.

When we departed, I thought long and hard about his answer. My background in NLP has taught me a few gems that aren’t found in textbooks and psychology manuals, but the stage hypnotist’s answer sounded a little cryptic to me.

So I did what any NLP practitioner would do: I went out and tried it! I was not new to NLP then but I always followed the usual “workflow” of establishing rapport. I decided to try this one technique from the stage hypnotist: I pretended that my subject was a close friend.

What happens when you see others as friends or family while interacting with them?

When I tried the stage hypnotist’s technique, I made a few observations about myself and after a long day, I compiled these observations:

  1. I smiled more (and more naturally, too!).
  2. My voice harmonized more easily with the other person’s voice.
  3. My speech rate adjusted itself at the beginning so my speech rate was similar to my subject’s.
  4. I did not feel anxious that I wasn’t doing something correctly.
  5. I felt genuinely interested at what the other person was trying to say.
  6. I empathized more with my subject.
  7. I felt an instant connection with my subject and my subject reciprocated.
  8. My arguments were sharper and persuaded my subject more easily.
  9. I was able to adjust to my subject’s feedback more naturally.
  10. I saw many opportunities throughout the interaction to improve the rapport and I went for them.

It turns out that the stage hypnotist’s technique was more than just a “trick.” It was a subconscious mental filter that worked wonders with my body language and my perceptiveness during social interactions.

The stage hypnotist has been dealing with different people for so long that he developed an excellent “shortcut” – an actual mental frame – that allowed him to get the results that he wanted in a heartbeat.