ICS Magazine

Building Psychological Rapport

February 15, 2008
"Mirroring" can be a very effective technique


Last month I shared that “networking” is much more than just going to networking groups to “get business.” Networking is “the process of building relationships with the mutual desire and intent to connect to others.”

I also shared that, instead of networking to “get business,” you want to shift your thinking to becoming an asset to others before they become an asset to you. And by doing that, you will get so much more than just jobs. Finally, I shared my super secret networking phrase that has made me millions (to read the full article, see the January 2008 issue or visit www.icsmag.com).

This month I want to share a very unusual, but effective, technique for building “psychological rapport.” You have probably heard the phrase “building rapport.” Rapport is defined as “an emotional bond or friendly relationship between people based on mutual liking, trust, and a sense that they understand and share each other’s concerns.”

A psychological rapport is when you build rapport covertly instead of overtly. Normally, when we think of building rapport, we think of doing things like finding common interests and so on. That is very important, as you saw with the listening technique laid out last month.

Psychological rapport happens when a person automatically senses that emotional bond without you saying a word. Within 60 seconds of meeting someone, we make up to 11 separate assumptions about that person. What happens after that will either confirm or challenge our initial, automatic reaction. Our conditioning has trained us to do this. Everyone does it automatically.

So, you have entered into a conversation with someone who can be an asset to your company. You are learning about them, practicing emphatic listening. You are thinking about ways that you can serve them before spewing about your company. And as you are showing genuine interest in them, you are building rapport.

The way you present yourself will determine whether the conversation transforms into a positive business relationship or not. This includes how you dress, how you groom yourself, your body language and your tone of voice. Studies have revealed these items have more impact than what you actually say. Of course, what you say is incredibly important, and I will get to that later.

Psychological rapport occurs when sensory information picked up by the other person is congruent with their value system, and it is done without them even knowing it. So building psychological rapport is the process of managing the sensory experience that others have when they meet you. This is not impressing someone, as that is usually done overtly.

Building psychological rapport is done covertly. By learning how to use your image, your body language, eye contact, and tone of voice, you can manage the psychological rapport. Here’s is a very unusual, but effective technique to build psychological rapport called “mirroring.”

Mirroring is basically copying the other person’s body language. If they have their hands on their hips, you put yours on your hips. If they are leaning against the wall, you lean in the same direction. As you are speaking with them, if they scratch their head, you scratch yours. I know this sounds awfully strange, but it works! Now, you aren’t so obvious that the person notices that is what you are doing. You do it in a subtle way. For example, if someone adjusts their glasses and you don’t wear glasses, you would perhaps scratch your temple briefly.

This technique can be used on sales calls as well. If you are sitting across someone’s desk, mirror them. If they lean back, you lean back. If they lean forward, you lean forward.

Amazingly, this simple (and kind of weird) technique sends messages to their emotional sensors that say, “Hey I like this guy, I trust this guy.” The rapport is built automatically and immediately. Sure, you still have to listen and learn and consciously build the relationship. But this technique helps eliminate some of the hidden roadblocks you weren’t even aware of. You didn’t realize your body language wasn’t in agreement with their internal value system. Most people who are good at networking pick up on this instinctively, and their body automatically projects the right message.

For those that need a little help, and even for those who are experienced, mirroring is an amazing technique.

Now, here’s the most amazing part of all. Once you have practiced this for some time, you can actually check to see how you are doing. When you feel that you have secured psychological rapport with the person you are speaking with, change your position. If they change theirs, you know without a shadow of a doubt that they trust you internally. And that’s huge, because lack of trust is the number one barrier to building a relationship or making a sale.

The next time you meet someone, think about how you look. Think about how you smell. Think about how you sound. Make eye contact. Listen emphatically, and practice mirroring to see what happens. And by the way, since this is a very unusual tactic, I would love to get your feedback. E-mail me at hp@howardpartridge.com and let me know what you found in the “mirroring” process.