Years ago, long before I was a hypnotist, I used to have a terrible time building rapport with people. Recently I was thinking about what’s needed for effective hypnosis, and realized that rapport is one of those things.
Rapport is the state two or more people enter into when they become somewhat synchronized in their emotional states. The easiest way to build rapport with anyone is by moving into agreement with them. This is important because it leads to building a lot of other things such as trust, understanding, appreciation and liking. To discover how this works, read on!
As you might imagine, as an introvert and a scientist, rapport wasn’t particularly important to me for a long time. And the things that people did to try to build rapport, like engaging in small talk, didn’t seem to be meaningful in any way. So for a long time, I ignored it.
There’s a good chance that one of two things is true for you. Either you already effortlessly generate rapport with everyone you meet. Or you don’t. If you’re in the first category, you might find some tips in this article to help you to become even more awesome at it. And if you’re like just about everyone else, I hope to share some insights with you that you can steal to effortlessly increase the rapport you have with your own subjects.
It would not be an understatement to say that I was absolutely shocking at building rapport before I became a hypnotist. So in this article, I’m aiming to share what I do that allows me to effectively build rapport as an introvert without engaging in small talk. And as you can imagine, if it works for introverts like me, it’s going to work for people right across the scale.
What is Rapport
Before we begin though, we need a definition of rapport. At the start of this article, I made the claim that rapport is what happens when our emotional states are somewhat synchronized with others. But what does this mean? Let’s break it down. Consider this:
As human beings, we are equipped with these wonderful brains that allow us to achieve a diverse array of things as we move through our lives.
Now, on the face of it, that statement is nothing more than an obvious truth. It’s very hard for anyone to disagree with it, because doing so would be equivalent to making the claim that people in general can’t achieve a diverse array of things throughout their lives. And we know from experience that this just isn’t true. People can, and do, achieve stuff.
It might seem like a tiny thing, but each time we make a statement that is impossible to disagree with, we move further into rapport.
So how does that work?
How Resonance Works
Let’s start with a simple model that almost everyone is familiar with: the swing. You’ve almost certainly swung on a swing, and you’ve probably pushed someone else on one as well. And you will be familiar with the different ways you can push yourself, or someone else, on a swing.
When you get the timing right, the swing swings ever higher. Up to a limit at least. And when you get the timing wrong, it doesn’t.
In physics, this phenomenon is known as interference. When it is timed right, it leads to resonance, and is found everywhere in nature, across systems of all kinds. If you want an obvious example of just how powerful it can be, there is a famous video of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge Collapse, that you can find with a very quick search on the internet.
The key feature is that there is a cycle of some kind through a relatively static background.
Since whatever is cycling has to periodically get back to the start, the motion itself is both forward and backward. In the simplest terms, if we push the system when it is going forward, it moves faster and we get constructive interference.
Resonance is nothing more than us moving in sync with the cycle and adding our own energy to it.
Resonance happens when we move in sync with a cyclical system and add our own energy to it while doing so.
Now, when I say that resonance is found everywhere in nature, I do mean literally everywhere. And that includes our minds.
How Resonance Applies to Minds
You see, when we’re thinking about things, our minds run in loops. We process information coming in from our environments and bodies, and we also process our ongoing thoughts.
In the case of our minds, our current thoughts provide the cycle against a relatively static background made up of the environment, our body, and everything we’ve ever experienced up to that moment.
Someone smiles at us, and the neural pathways associated with seeing people smile light up inside our own mind. Since people tend to smile together a lot, many of those neural pathways have good feelings associated with them. So we start to feel a bit better. We will usually find ourselves automatically smiling because that’s hooked in with the same pathways. We feel comfortable and safe. If we’re in a relatively flat mood, that simple smile can lift our entire day since it flips us from flat to happy.
We have a chat with someone about a shared interest, and all those neural pathways light up. When it’s an interest that we enjoy, that causes the pathways associated with happiness to light up as well, and it has a similar effect to the smile.
Someone asks us about ourselves, and if we’re like most people, we can talk about ourselves for hours. We’re the world’s leading expert on that topic after all. And once again, all those associated feelings of happiness, comfort, safety and belonging light up.
This is the key to rapport. It’s not about small talk. It’s not about team building or trust.
Rapport is what happens when we move in sync with another human being. It can be as simple as a smile or a nod at just the right time.
Why we need rapport for effective hypnosis
When we’re hypnotizing someone, the most important thing we’re doing is leading them to a new place inside their mind. This can be a place where they no longer feel anxious. It can be a place where they’re a non-smoker. It can even be a place where they feel comfortable clucking like a chicken for a while.
The possibilities are endless.
Now, if we want to be able to effortlessly lead someone into hypnosis and a new reality of some kind, we need to understand a tiny bit about what makes people do things.
So take a moment, and think through the people in your own life. Chances are that there are people you get on with well, people you don’t get on with at all, and people you are oblivious to. And of course, everything in between.
Not only that, but where a specific person sits will often change on a daily basis. You might get on amazingly well with someone one day, only to find that the very next time you speak with them it’s awkward and feels like there’s no common ground.
The Background Context of Our Thoughts Is Important
This happens because every one of us is unique, so there are parts of our lives that don’t fit in with everyone.
If we happen to be in a state where we’re lost in idle thoughts about knitting, and the person we’re talking to is lost in their own thoughts about dirt bike racing, it is a mismatch, and so things feel awkward even if we try to talk about something we have in common.
The important thing is the underlying state.
Luckily there are easy ways around this, and even though they are totally obvious once we know them, they also do not tend to readily spring to mind until we do. So if we’re unfamiliar with these ways, or don’t use them at the time, the state persists.
Now, as you can imagine, feeling awkward or uncomfortable is often not a useful state when we want to hypnotize someone.
Because the truth is that if we want to guide someone, they have to feel comfortable knowing that we’re taking them to somewhere safe that they will benefit from in some way. When we’re the expert and we’re in rapport with them, they feel this comfort and safety.
It’s a little bit like when we go to the doctor or dentist. We might be scared of what we think is about to happen, but we also know that it is ultimately for our benefit even though we might not enjoy it.
What we don’t need for rapport
A quick look around the internet will show you that there is a huge amount of nonsense out there about what’s needed to build rapport. You’ll see things like you have to look good, or you have to engage in small talk. Sometimes they’ll even suggest something totally outrageous like a team building exercise of some kind.
So I’d like to invite you to consider a simple question.
If any of that stuff is necessary, how do therapists of all kinds generate rapport with their patients? For that matter, how do hypnotists, magicians, street performers, and even celebrities generate rapport with many people all at once when they’re doing a show? And why is it that all of these people can do it in minutes? Or even seconds.
Now it is true that it’s a good idea to dress a little bit like the person you’re talking with. What you might not appreciate is just how little.
To answer the question of just how little, all we have to do is think about others we observe. Take a few moments to notice our internal response to them. The key to appreciating this is observation.
Pay attention to your own internal response to how people dress, and you will quickly notice what’s going on.
How to use agreement to cause rapport to happen
So now that we’ve got a good idea of what rapport is, why we need it, and what we don’t need, we’re in a good place to start to setup how to use agreement to cause rapport to happen like magic.
Rapport Building in Webinars
One of the things that I do on a regular basis is that I will watch webinars. If you’re not familiar with them, these are a type of selling system where the seller delivers some education for free in the hopes that some of those watching will want to buy their products or services and go further.
I really like the webinar model, because when it is done well, literally everyone wins. The seller wins, because they build the webinar once, and then have a stream of ideal customers show up wanting to buy from them. The audience wins, because they gain understanding, not only about how to overcome their problem, but also they get to decide whether the seller is someone they are happy to get more help from if they want it.
A properly designed webinar will help everyone who watches it to the end, and will filter out all of those who would be poor customers for the seller.
This tends to lead to exceptional results for those members of the audience who buy since it is really easy to get good results with people who resonate with you.
Now, an important part of webinars is building agreement. If you’re the seller, you want your ideal customers to get to the sales pitch at the end and go Yes! I want this! This is the solution I’ve been looking for!
Where it gets amusing is that most people running webinars will do this quite poorly. I’ve seen countless webinars where they will do nothing more than say something like Has this ever happened to you? Give me a YES in the chat box if it has and they will get a bunch of yeses.
Getting Them to Say Yes a Lot Can Be a Bad Idea
The problem with this is that it’s very obvious to the person typing the yes that they are agreeing. Now this might work in a webinar, but it is almost certainly going to result in a stilted conversation if we are building rapport with the intent of hypnotizing someone.
So how do we build agreement without asking someone to say yes?
As it turns out, this is a LOT simpler than it might first appear.
Every single thing that we do that fits into someone’s mind in a positive way will tend to build agreement.
Every single thing we do that fits into our subject’s mind in a positive way will tend to build agreement.
Things That Lead to Rapport
When we state their name, that builds a tiny amount of agreement, because they can’t disagree with it. Even if they’ve made up a name for whatever reason, it’s still partially attached to their identity internally.
When we smile, it moves them slightly towards agreement. It’s just easier to agree with people who are in a positive frame of mind and smiling indicates this.
When we nod our head when they say something, it moves them slightly towards agreement.
When we repeat back to them some of their exact words that they’ve just said, it moves them towards agreement. It has to, because when we do this it causes them to loop back into that part of their thoughts that they just had. And not many people know how to disagree with their own thoughts.
You will notice that this is almost the opposite of active listening, where you paraphrase what they’re saying. In the context of hypnosis, active listening is nowhere near as effective as simply repeating their own words back to them.
Now there are some tricks around this. If our subject is having a bad day and we go in all guns blazing and ultra-high on energy, there’s a good chance that we’ll have the opposite effect to that which we desire.
So what I like to do is simply observe them.
And then allow myself to move into a state that is congruent with their own.
This does not mean that I will become depressed if they are depressed. But I will shift my own state to one that they will feel comfortable being around.
When you play around with this, you’ll quickly discover that there are a handful of states that work for you with specific states that your subjects are in.
And once you’ve moved into a state that’s congruent with theirs, you can begin to lead them out of that to a state that’s more useful. That’s a topic for another article.
When we move into a state that is congruent with their own, it moves them slightly towards agreement.
When I speak, I will usually aim to match their rate of speaking and the level of energy they put into their words. Even just matching them like this moves them towards agreement.
If you can see them, allow some of your body posture to start to mimic their own. In NLP terms, this is known as matching and mirroring.
How to Be Congruent
Now, each of these things by itself won’t do much. But when you add all of them together and do them all the time, you will find that it becomes almost effortless to gain agreement.
I like to use the metric that each tiny thing I do will move them about 1% of the way towards whatever I’m trying to achieve. If you practice all of those things listed above regularly, and make them into habits, you will find that in the space of making a single statement, you can move them 5%, 10% or even 20% of the way there. Over the course of a typical hypnosis session, you can easily generate hundreds or thousands of these tiny pieces of agreement.
So what do you think your subject’s experience will be if they come out of hypnosis feeling like you’ve absolutely agreed with them and supported them the whole way through, while guiding them towards the changes they would like to have happen?
As you master each of these tiny agreement engines I’ve listed above, and build them into your own habitual behaviors, you will find that rapport building becomes effortless.
And if you’d like to know even more ways you can get people to agree with you, go check out my article on Ways to Get Someone to Say Yes next.