Pacing and leading is an iterative process in which small amounts of agreement are built and then leveraged to manifest a small change. These changes lead to rapport and may be stacked to create much larger changes. Pacing is done by copying some feature of the subject, while leading is a natural extension that follows on from the pace.
Imagine that you want to go hiking with a friend.
You could just go to a hiking track and hope that they show up. Even if they’re into hiking, it’s fairly unlikely that you’d accidentally arrive at the same track and at the same time as them.
You could have a discussion with them beforehand and talk about specific tracks and times that you like to hike. Now you’re getting closer, because you’ve pre-loaded information into their mind about when and where.
But we’ve still not led them to a place where they might show up. At best we’ve piqued their curiosity.
Or you could have a discussion in which you engage with their interests, naturally lead them from those interests into talking about hiking, help them to conclude that it’s something they might enjoy, ask if they’d like to join you for a hike, and specify the exact time and place. And then you collect them from their house.
The difference between these options lies in the amount of pacing and leading that was applied.
In the case of just showing up at the hiking track and hoping, we’re not doing any pacing and leading at all.
When we have a discussion about hiking without flowing into it from their own interests, we’ve got the leading, but there’s no real pacing. Which means that they are less likely to attach hiking to stuff they do.
In simple terms, there’s no obvious pathway to get from where they are to where you’d like them to be.
And in the case where you meet them where they are right now, and guide them step by step from that place, you are pacing and leading every step of the way.
This might sound like an obvious example, and that’s because it is. Whenever we want to understand something new, it’s important to start with a very obvious example.
Starting off like this makes it easy for our brain to take onboard.
Where this gets really cool is that it can be deployed in just about any situation.
And when we appreciate the underlying mental processes that make it work, many possibilities open up beyond simple conversations.
Pacing and leading is driven by using state dependency to take the critical faculty offline.
State Dependent Learning
State Dependent Learning refers to the tendency for human minds to form partially isolated bubbles of emotion, experiences, and learning. It is much easier to access information in the same or a similar state to that in which it was gained or experienced.
When we pace someone, they become more comfortable because the concepts are familiar to them.
This familiarity makes it easier for them to lower their guard.
Most people find it very difficult to reject their own ideas, so pacing them leads to building an agreement frame.
Then, once we have established enough agreement, we may lead with a related concept and it is more likely to be accepted.
When leading is done well, our subject will feel like it was their own idea.
Pacing And Leading Examples
Since we are working with the associative properties of the mind, pacing and leading can be applied not only in conversational logic, but also with things like physical posture, emotional states, and pretty much anything else humans can do.
The key underlying idea with pacing and leading is that we are building an agreement frame with our subject, and then extending it a little.
Agreement frames are very easy to create. It’s important to appreciate that agreement is bi-directional, which means that if we agree with someone, they will automatically become more likely to agree with us.
All we have to do is anything at all that will be perceived by our subject as being somehow like them.
When we smile and nod, we’re starting to build agreement. When we move some part of our body in the way they move, we’re starting to build agreement. And when we feed back their exact words, we’re building agreement.
Matching And Mirroring
Matching and mirroring are concepts from NLP in which we take on some of the physical properties of our subject to garner agreement.
Matching is where we do exactly the same thing as our subject. If they lift their left hand, we lift our left hand.
Mirroring is where we do the mirror image of something our subject does. If they lift their left hand, we lift our right hand.
Matching and mirroring are powerful because we do them automatically when we’re with someone we’re getting on well with. Which means that if we intentionally match and mirror someone’s actions, they will unconsciously begin to move into agreement with us.
There’s a slight problem though: If we instantly copy everything they do, they will think we are mimicking them. This tends to have the opposite effect to what we want.
When consciously matching and mirroring someone, introduce a small delay of a few seconds before copying them so that they do not perceive you as mimicking them.
Once you have matched or mirrored a few of your subject’s physical movements (pacing), make some movement of your own (leading) and notice if they follow along.
When you can make a physical movement and your subject follows along automatically and unconsciously, you can be reasonably sure that you have built the foundations of a solid agreement frame.
Use Someone’s Exact Words
One of the easiest ways to pace someone is to feed back their exact words.
Every word that someone knows has a representation inside their mind.
When we speak, specific neural pathways light up that drive our speech. These pathways are related to the exact words that we use.
People move into agreement with us when their experience of us causes those pathways to resonate.
One way to cause that resonance is to feed someone’s exact words back to them. When doing this, it’s important to use the exact tense, and to match their voice tone, pronunciation, and rate of speaking as much as possible.
Avoid the appearance of mimicking by repeating only a few key words rather than entire sentences.
Pace someone for a few sentences by feeding back their exact words. Then lead using one of the clean language questions.
Pacing And Leading Emotions
Pace your subject’s emotional state by moving yourself into a state that is congruent with theirs. Then lead by slowly moving your own state towards a more useful and resourceful state. Check that they follow along.
States inside human beings can only persist for about 90 seconds by themselves.
This means that the only way we can keep a state running is by actively doing something to cause it.
If we’re angry, we can rant, either internally or externally, and it will effectively keep the state going.
When we’re sad, we can think about how bad everything is and we will effectively keep that state running.
And of course, when we’re happy, all we have to do is focus our attention on happy things, and we’ll generally remain happy.
You might wonder why anyone would choose to persist with running negative states if they can only last for 90 seconds.
This is where state dependent learning comes in.
Once we’re in a state, it becomes much easier for us to think of other things associated with that state.
And that keeps the state going.
So in order to lead someone to a more useful state, start by moving yourself into a state that fits in with their own.
It doesn’t have to be the same one. If they’re angry, you don’t have to become angry. You do have to move into a state that fits in with it though.
Then simply allow your own state to shift towards a more useful one, and watch as your subject follows along.
Copywriting is the art of using hypnosis in the written word to lead the reader to someplace new. Pacing and leading is used all the time in copywriting. In a way, it’s what makes copywriting effective.
Meet your reader in their reality, and then extend from there.
If you look closely, you’ll notice that this very article does that.
I opened by inviting you to imagine you wanted to take a friend hiking.
Imagine is a powerful word, because it allows your reader to momentarily step outside of their reality. Even if someone has never been hiking before, they probably know roughly what it is and can imagine it.
When writing copy, start by talking about something in your reader’s current reality.
And then lead them to somewhere that follows naturally.
How To Build Rapport With Pacing And Leading
To build rapport with pacing and leading, pace your subject’s reality by copying small components of their way of being in the world. Then tack on something genuine of your own.
Just about anything you can do to create an agreement frame will lead to increased rapport.
Start off by moving yourself into a state that’s congruent with your subject’s.
Go through your usual greeting ritual. This could be saying hello, shaking hands, or whatever else you usually do with that person.
Ask them something about their current reality, or make a statement about it. This can be small talk or anything else that makes sense in the context.
As your subject talks, allow yourself to start smiling and nodding. If your culture does something different, do that instead.
Whenever they say something you can agree with, indicate that in some way.
And that’s pretty much all that’s required. Getting to rapport is just a matter of noticing when things go astray, and gently guiding them back.
Pace their current reality. Reinforce the useful bits with agreement. And then lead them to wherever you’d like them to go.
The Easy Way To Pace And Lead
The easy way to pace and lead is to genuinely like and be interested in those with whom you interact.
We’ve covered quite a few things so far. It’s only natural to wonder how to even begin.
Luckily, there is a very easy way to do all of it automatically.
First, get a sense of what your subject is like. This can be as simple as noticing things about them, it can be intuitive as in when you feel empathy for them, and it can be as complex as running a full deep trance identification process so you know what it’s like to be them.
Next, find something about your subject that you can genuinely appreciate. Then tell them about it. When you do this, make sure you choose something that is important to them.
Finally, be genuinely interested in them and curious about what they have to offer. Ask questions, and make it clear that you value their opinion.
How To Pace And Lead Hypnotic States
To pace and lead hypnotic states, anchor a series of useful states, then use the anchors to move yourself into a state congruent with that of your subject. Use a sequence of these anchors to move your own state towards the subject’s desired state and allow them to follow along.
One of the easiest ways to guide people into hypnotic states is to go into them yourself and allow your subject to follow you there.
In order to do this, it’s important to first anchor the states in yourself so that you can call them up on demand.
All hypnotists should be able to take themselves into hypnosis at any time.
And it’s also useful to have a series of other states available that you can call up whenever needed.
For each of the major emotions, generate and anchor a state that’s congruent with it.
I use symbols inside my mind as the anchors for this.
For example, I have a symbol which is made up of me on the deck of my boat in the middle of the harbor with little blue penguins splashing around. When I call up this symbol inside my mind, I immediately find myself in a peaceful and calm state.
Practice taking yourself into each state.
You don’t need very many.
I find that I typically only use the peaceful state, another one which is a mix of happy and excited, one that could be described as deep curiosity, and another that might be described as concern. And of course, my regular trance states.
Then whenever I am hypnotizing someone, I aim to start off in a state that is congruent with whatever state my subject is in.
And then I move them towards states that might be more useful to them.
The key is to move your subject in small steps and check that you can see a physical response at each step.
Match their state first by entering a state congruent with it, and then lead them from there.