NLP, Mirror and Matching; the basis of Modeling

By John James Santangelo C.Ht.,
On Tuesday, June 12, 2007 – 16:35
Rapport is the foundation for any meaningful interaction between two or more people – rapport is about establishing an environment of trust and understanding, to respect and honor the other person’s world. Which gives a person the freedom to fully express their ideas and concerns and to know that they will be respected by the other person(s). Rapport creates the space for the person to feel listened to, and heard and it doesn’t mean that they have to agree with what the other person says or does. Each person appreciates the other’s viewpoint and respects their model of the world. When you are in rapport with another person, you have the opportunity to enter their world and see things from their perspective, feel the way they do, get a better understanding of where they are coming from; and as a result, enhance the whole relationship.

A 1970 study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania by Dr. Ray Birdwhistle concluded that 93% of our communication transpires non-verbally and unconscious. NLP rapport skills teach us how to communicate at that unconscious level. Mirroring, matching, pacing and leading skills will enable you to become “like” the other person. Anthony Robbins stated: “People who like each other tend to be like each other.” NLP teaches how to mirror and match physiology, tonality and predicates (process words).

Researchers at the Boston University Medical School studied films of people having conversations. The researchers noticed that the people talking began (unconsciously) to co-ordinate their movements (including finger movements, eye blinks and head nods.) When they were monitored using electroencephalographs, it was found that some of their brain waves were spiking at the same moment too. As the conversations progressed, these people were getting into rapport with each other.

The key to establishing rapport is an ability to enter another person’s world by assuming a similar state of mind. The first thing to do is to become more like the other person by matching and mirroring the person’s behaviors — body language, voice, words etc. Matching and mirroring is a powerful way of getting an appreciation of how the other person is seeing/experiencing the world

For words, match predicates. If your partner is using mainly visual words, you should also use mainly visual words and similarly for auditory, kinesthetic and auditory digital words. To the extent possible, you should also use the same words as the other person. For example, I may say something is ‘awesome’. In your model of the world, you may interpret ‘awesome’ as ‘outstanding’ and use this word when speaking to me. For me ‘outstanding’ may have a different meaning or evoke a different feeling than ‘awesome’. In this case, you would not be matching but mismatching my words.

Some people find the idea of matching another person uncomfortable and they feel that they are trying to fool or take advantage of the other person. To overcome this uneasiness, realize that matching is a natural part of the rapport building process and that you are doing it unconsciously every day with your close family and friends. Each day gradually increase your conscious use of matching at a pace that is comfortable and ethical for you. Matching done with integrity and respect creates positive feelings and responses in you and others. Rapport is the ability to enter someone else’s world, to make him feel you understand him, and that there is a strong connection between the two of you.

The purpose of the following exercises is to provide some experience with the basic processes and procedures of modeling. They primarily focus on the information gathering phase of the modeling process, and cover a range of modeling skills, including “implicit” and “explicit” modeling formats, and the use of multiple perceptual positions to gather different types and levels of information about a particular performance.

Mirroring Exercise
Mirroring is a method of building a strong “second position” with someone else. It is a fundamental skill for modeling another person and for developing intuitions about the person’s internal experience. To get a sense of the influence and effects of mirroring, try out the following exercise.
1. Choose a partner, or person to converse with. Do not tell the person initially that you will be mirroring him or her during the conversation.
2. Enter into a conversation with the person, asking for his or her opinions about various subjects.
3. As you are conversing, begin to subtly mirror the other person’s physiology (including voice tone and tempo). [Hint: This can be most easily done in the context of 'active listening'; that is, reflecting back statements the person has made, by commenting, "So what you are saying is....", and then stating your understanding of the person's opinion.]
4. When you are fully mirroring, you will be sitting in the same posture, using the same types of gestures, speaking at a similar speed and volume, and in a similar voice tone range, as the other person. If you are completely mirroring the other person, you will even be breathing at the same rate and in the same part of the chest cavity as the other. Notice what it feels like when you have reached this level of rapport.
5. One way to test your degree of rapport is by “second guessing” the other person’s opinion on a couple of subjects that you have not yet discussed. Often mirroring will give you access to information that is being unconsciously communicated and received, and you will “pick up” information about the other person without being consciously aware of how you got it. This is why mirroring is such a powerful tool for modeling.
6. To get another sense of the influence of mirroring on your interaction, you can try out what it is like to abruptly mismatch the other person in posture, gestures, voice tone and breathing. Both you and your partner should experience quite a jolt if you do this, and feel as if your quality of rapport has changed dramatically.
7. Before concluding your conversation and letting your partner in on what you were doing, make sure you have reestablished rapport by once again physically mirroring your partner.
One way to help rapport to develop is to mirror the micro-behaviors of those we wish to influence. Any observable behavior can be mirrored, for example:

Body posture
Spinal alignment
Hand gestures
Head tilt
Blink rate
Facial expression
Energy level
Breathing rate
Vocal qualities (volume, tonality, rhythm)
Key phrases

Anything else that you can observe…

Exercise 1
Practice mirroring the micro-behaviors of people on television (chat shows & interviews are ideal.) You may be surprised at how quickly you can become comfortable as you subtly mirror the behaviors of others.
Pacing and leading is one of the keys to influencing people. It refers to meeting them at their map of the world (pacing) and then taking them where you want them to go (leading.) Rapport is a basic, behavioral signal that you have met someone at their map of the world. The simplest, most effective test for rapport is “if you lead, they follow.”
Exercise 2
Choose a safe situation to practice mirroring an element of someone else’s behavior. When you have mirrored them for a while, and think you are in rapport with the person, scratch your nose. If they lift their hand to their face within the next minute or so, congratulate yourself – you have led their behavior!
Skilled communicators have a wide range of behaviors they can mirror to build rapport. You can find a way to mirror virtually anything you can observe.
Exercise 3
Increase the range of behaviors that you can mirror, and introduce deliberate rapport-building into situations where it will benefit you and others (nb. Use your common sense and choose low-risk situations to practice in.)
Many people (especially in the area of sales) are familiar with rapport-building techniques and are particularly aware of body posture mirroring. Cross-over matching involves matching another person’s behavior with a different behavior of your own (eg. matching their breathing rate to your head tilt, or their eye blinks to your foot-taps.) This is a way of building rapport that is very difficult to detect, and still highly effective.
Exercise 4
During a conversation with another person; choose one of their behaviors (eg. breathing rate) to cross-over match with one of your behaviors (eg. speaking rate.) Notice how quickly the sense of connection develops!

To mirror another person, merely select the behavior or quality you wish to mirror, and then do that behavior. If you choose to mirror head tilt, when the person moves their head, wait a few moments, then move yours to the same angle. The effect should be as though the other person is looking in a mirror. When this is done elegantly, it is out of consciousness for the other person. However, a few notes of caution are appropriate:
Mirroring is not the same as mimicry. It should be subtle and respectful.
Mirroring can lead to you sharing the other person’s experience. Avoid mirroring people who are in distress or who have severe mental issues. Mirroring can build a deep sense of trust quickly, a responsibility to use it ethically.

Mirroring is as if you were looking into a mirror. To mirror a person who has raised his right hand, you would raise your left hand (i.e. mirror image). To match this same person, you would raise your right-hand (doing exactly the same as the other person). Some practitioners see a time difference between mirroring and matching. For example, if someone makes hand gestures while they are speaking, you would wait until it was your turn to speak before making similar (matching) hand gestures.

The fact that you’ve read this far means that you can see the benefits of increasing your rapport skills. Reading is sadly not enough – practice is the key to building skill, so do the exercises. When you first start the practice of mirroring, you may have to pay some conscious attention to what you’re doing. After a while, however, you will start to catch yourself doing it unconsciously. This is where you really begin to build rapport elegantly!

And at times when a gesture is idiosyncratic to that person or otherwise to obvious, you can do crossover matching. Meaning, if they adjust their glasses, and you don’t wear any, then just move your foot. When you crossover match/mirror, you match/mirror a portion of the other person’s body, with a different portion of your own body. This is best to do when you are matching someone’s rate of breathing. You can use your finger to pace the rhythm of their breath. When matching or mirroring someone’s voice, do that with their tonality, volume, and the rate at which they speak. And remember you don’t have to do all of these things, just one or two will be enough to create rapport in most cases.

Practice
You may wish to start with family members and begin to match different aspects of their posture, gestures, voice and words. Have fun with it and see if they notice what you are doing. At work or socially, start by matching one specific behavior and once you are comfortable doing that, and then match another. For friends with whom you really feel comfortable, notice how often you naturally match their postures, gestures tone of voice or words. Matching comes naturally, what you need to do is learn how to do it with everyone, then matching will become automatic whenever you wish to deepen your rapport with someone.

Backtracking is another excellent skill to learn in order to maintain and deepen rapport. When you are in conversation with another person whether it is business or personal take the opportunity to give back to the person the information you are receiving. This lets the person know that you were listening and that you understand without judgment. It also gives you a chance to ensure your own understanding and/or ask for clarification. If you were matching posture, breathing, key words and gestures, voice characteristics and did not attempt to backtrack your rapport would eventually slip through the cracks. The backtrack is the thread that tightens the rapport. Backtracking is saying back the essence, not verbatim, of what the person had just said. There are times when you backtrack and the other person adds on or corrects you. Being corrected can strengthen rapport because then you backtrack again and the person really feels you understand. There is also the possibility that being corrected will cause you to lose rapport. However losing rapport is like losing your balance. You fall, recover, and get back up again. When you lose rapport you have to find a way to regain it. Some of the ways to regain rapport are to backtrack accurately, mirror posture, breathing, key words and gestures and voice characteristics. There may be times that you want to be “out” of rapport with someone. For example if it isn’t healthy for you to be around certain people, you are held hostage at a cocktail party or you are doing it for effect. Typically people think the way to break rapport is to be demeaning or disagree. Although that may work I recommend mismatching. This means intentionally mismatch posture, breathing, key words/gestures, and voice quality. Rely on mismatching the nonverbal communication and you will be out of rapport. For those of you who like experiments try this: Disagree strongly and maintain rapport. Agree completely while breaking rapport. All experimenting should be done in a non-critical environment.

The key element within establishing, building, deepening and maintaining rapport is the ability to pay attention to the responses you are getting. The response will let you know if you are in or out of rapport. When you are “in” continue doing your mirroring and backtracking skills. When you are “out” utilize your flexibility and change what you are doing until you are back on track.

Behind any technique there must be an authenticity of caring and real concern for the other person. (See “Technicians Need Not Apply,”Anchor Point 1987.) Rapport is such a people oriented process yet I am describing practical techniques to establish, maintain and deepen rapport. It can and does feel mechanical! However after a while they become streamlined in your behavior. If you practice these skills and have no real interest in the other person the rapport will not develop. If you don’t pay attention to the other person it doesn’t matter how proficient you become in your NLP techniques. It is the responses that you get and your own flexibility that hold the ultimate power in establishing, maintaining and deepening rapport.

Author’s Bio
John James Santangelo C.Ht., nationally acclaimed speaker, author, seminar leader, and success coach, has been a guiding force in empowering individuals, businesses, and corporations to excel at peak performance. John is a foremost authority in success principles and expert in the field of communication, an NLP master trainer, and clinical hypnotherapist. He has worked with companies such as The Learning Annex, Mary Kay Inc, Well-Point, Xerox, RE/MAX Realtors, the Teamsters Union, and the US Army counter-intelligence team. Whether you’re looking to fulfill short/long term goals, increase your sales performance, or conduct corporate sales/communication trainings, John can help you achieve the next level of success! For more information on Success Life Coaching visit http://www.JohnSantangelo.com or call (888) NLP-COACH

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