The rapport-building tactic of mirroring & matching can sometimes produce stunning effects. As we subtly reflect back someone’s gestures and phrasing, they can experience a sense of comfort and relaxation, and a feeling of rapport develops.
The effect is based on the understanding that humans feel more comfortable with others who are similar to them, a social principle from prehistoric times, when predators and competitors, both human and animal, put us in perpetual jeopardy. 100,000 years ago on the African savannah, being part of a tribe meant safety and security, and lacking that communal support put you in a very dangerous position.
These days for most of us, tribal affiliation no longer determines our mortal survival, but in many social domains, including the world of business, being on the same wavelength with someone is often a necessary condition for fruitful communication.
That attunement doesn’t require agreeing, or liking the same people, the same songs or same movies. We can disagree a great deal but true rapport depends on our ability to empathize, that is, our capacity to understand what the other person is feeling.
As the saying goes, we never really understand what someone is going through until we can walk a mile in their moccasins. Knowing what it feels like to be in their shoes lets us establish a more direct connection with others.
And that brings us back to mirroring and matching. To develop rapport with people we need to do more than simply mimic their actions or phrasing. We need to feel what they’re experiencing.
Getting in Touch
People have different capacities for empathy and attunement, but we can all expand our emotional repertoire by paying more attention to full range of everyday experiences – the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Instead of boycotting feelings that make us feel vulnerable, like disappointment and sadness for example, we can lean in more and befriend them as ordinary parts of life experience.
By appreciating these states instead of avoiding them, we increase our capacity to be more attuned to others’. By becoming more aware of our own emotional reactions we understand others better.