Back in the 80’s when I was in a quest to find the Holy Grail of human performance strategies, I ran across Tony Robbins and his assorted technologies. One of those technologies was NLP. Robbins wasn’t the creator of NLP, but he did help put NLP on the map using his marketing expertise. He later had a little discussion with Richard Bandler which resulted in any similar technologies that Tony Robbins promoted fell under the term NAC or Neuro Associative Conditioning.

One of the things that I was introduced to during that period was a relatively new concept called achieving rapport. Today, everybody routinely talks about getting rapport with important people in our lives as if they were describing how to put on a coat.

However, I get the impression that most people think of rapport the same way I did back in the ‘80s, a shortcut to molding their audience’s thinking and getting them to like you.

When I first started looking into human performance strategies back in the 80’s, I read all of the books written by all of the gurus that said you had to sit like the other person, use the same vocal range, cadence and tonality, etc… If you were cognizant of all of these conditions in the other person and mimicked them, the other person would magically start to think, “Hey, I like this person. They are just like me.” Moving the head up and down while asking a question like, “You really want to do this, don’t you?” would produce a yes response based on pacing, leading and using nonverbal congruity to “persuade” the other person to say ‘yes’. Rapport was considered a tool for turning the other person into a puppet with you as the puppet master.

Since that time, I have continued my research into NLP, hypnosis, human behavioral performance and adult learning strategies. Based on what I’ve seen, read and used, I think a better analogy for achieving and using rapport is the following.

Think of two people communicating as two pipes transferring water. One is sending out a stream of water, and the other is receiving the stream. The water is the flow of information. The pipes map to a single channel of communication between the two parties (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, etc…).

Naturally, the more pipes you have at your disposal, the more water (information) you will be able to channel to your audience.

The pipe types have to match up. A visual pipe on the receiver’s end must receive water that is transferred from a visual pipe on your end or the water you’re transmitting will spill onto the floor. Transference fails to take place.

The channels also have to line up as well. For example, supposes you have a pipe on your end that shares only a 20% cross sectional area in common with the receiving pipe. Transferring water over this arrangement will only allow 20%of the water stream to flow from one pipe to the other. 80% of the water will again spill outside of the pipes and onto the floor.

In order to transfer the maximum amount of water with the least amount of waste, you will need to have the right pipes connected together and lined up properly so that no water escapes to the floor.

If you think of your communication with other people in this fashion, then the concept of achieving rapport shifts. It changes from being a clandestine operation of coercing someone else to do something for you into a necessary communication strategy to insure your message is processed and understood.

Achieving rapport is not something that you do to someone else in order to persuade them to your way of thinking. Achieving rapport is an activity you do to yourself to insure alignment with your client and that your complete message is accepted.

In a sales situation, achieving rapport is not a luxury that we can indulge in whenever we feel like it. Achieving rapport is a necessity to getting to the first stage. If you don’t have rapport, you don’t get heard.

We use a variety of ways to achieve rapport in our office. In the next few days, I’ll touch on some of the ways that rapport is reflected in the Dale Carnegie principles. Currently, however, it’s imperative that we think of rapport as a necessary step to maximize communication effectiveness and not as a luxurious shortcut quickly employed to persuade someone to our way of thinking.