What’s the key to establishing rapport? Flexibility. Remember, the biggest to rapport is thinking that other people have the same map you do, that because you see the world one way, they do, too. Excellent communicators rarely make this mistake. They know they have to change their languages, their tonality their breathing patterns, their gestures, until they discover an approach that is successful in achieving their outcome.
If you fail to communicate with someone, it’s tempting to assure that he is a hopeless fool who refuses to listen to reason. But that virtually guarantees you’ll never get through. It’s better to change your words and behaviors until they match his model of the world.
One essential tenet of NLP is that the meaning of your communication is the response you elicit. The responsibility in communication rests upon you. If you try to persuade someone to do one thing, and he does the other, the fault was in your communication. You didn’t find a way to get your message through.
This is absolutely crucial in anything you do. Let’s look at teaching. The greatest tragedy in education is that most teachers know their subjects, but they don’t know their students. They don’t know how their students process information, they don’t know their students’ representational systems and they don’t know how their students’ minds work.
The best teachers instinctively know how to pace and lead. They’re able to establish rapport, so their message gets through. But there’s no reason why all teachers can’t learn the same thing. By learning to pace their students, by learning to present information in the forms their students can effectively process, they can revolutionize the educational world.
Some teachers think that since they know their subjects, any failure in communication rests with the students who can’t learn. But response, not content, is the meaning of communication. You can know everything in the world about the Holy Roman Empire, but if you can’t establish rapport, if you can’t translate that information from your map to someone else’s your knowledge is meaningless. That’s why the best teachers are the ones who establish rapport. There’s story about a classroom in which all the kids as a prank arranged to drop their books at exactly nine am so as to throw the teacher off. Without missing a beat, she put down her chalk, picked up a book, and dropped it too. Sorry I’m late, she said. After that, she had the kids eating out of her hand.
The founders of NLP give a fascinating example of just how education should work. There was a young engineering student whose primary representational system was kinesthetic. At first he had terrible problems learning to read electrical schematics. He found the subject difficult and boring. Basically, he was having trouble making sense of concepts that were being presented visually.
Then one day he began to imagine what it would feel like to be an electron floating through the circuit he saw diagramed in front of him. Various reactions and changes in behavior as he came in contact with the components in the circuit symbolized by characters on the schematic. Almost immediately, the diagrams began to make more sense to him. He even began to enjoy them. Each schematic presented him with a new odyssey. It was so enjoyable that he ended up becoming an engineer. He succeeded because he was able to learn through his favored representational system. Nearly all the kids who wash out of our educational systems are capable of learning. We just never learned how to teach them. We never established rapport with them and never matched their learning strategies.
I’ve been emphasizing teaching because, in the end, it’s something we all do, whether at home with our kids or at work with our employees or peers. What works in a classroom works in a boardroom or a living room as well.
There’s final wonderful ting about the magic of rapport. It’s the most accessible skill in the world. You don’t need textbooks, and you don’t need courses. You don’t need to travel to study at the feet of a master, ad you don’t need to learn a degree. The only tools you need are your eyes, your ears, your senses of touch, taste, and smell.
You can begin cultivating rapport right now. We are always communicating and interacting. Rapport is simply doing both in the most effective ways possible. You can rapport when you’re waiting for a plane by mirroring the people in line with you. You can use rapport at the grocery store. You can use it at your job and at home. If, when you go in for a job interview, you match and mirror the interviewers, he’ll like you immediately. Use rapport in your business to create an immediate connection with clients. If you want to become a master communicator all you need to do is learn how to enter other people’s worlds. You already have everything you need to do it now.