The Basis for Harmony in Human Relationships
By Hoda Nassef
Everyone can recognise two lovers sitting close together in a restaurant, and notice how they look deep into each other’s eyes, their heads at the same angle. When one lifts a glass, the other does as well, with the same sort of movement. They are mirroring each other, and not only with their body language. They speak in the same manner, in the same soft tone, at the same speed, using the same sort of phrases and words. They even breathe in the same rhythm. They are pacing each other. They are in a so-called rapport situation.
Rapport exists when two people develop a mutual feeling of harmony, well-being and security. There is an interesting comparison with musical resonance. If you strike a note on a tuning fork and hold it near to another tuning fork, the second one will also start to vibrate, even though they do not touch. This rapport (resonance) occurs between people when they work and live in an open, trusting, contented relationship.
Rapport is also about meeting people on their own level and making them feel at home.
Rapport is based on agreement and mutual respect. A rapport situation exists when you are able to demonstrate your own one-ness with another person in what you say and in your body language.
When you relate to other people, you can choose one of two standpoints from which to start:
1. You can decide to concentrate on the differences between you.
2. You can emphasize the similarities between you, i.e. the things you agree on, feel and think the same about and react the same way to.
It is obvious that if you emphasize differences it will be virtually impossible to achieve a rapport situation. Concentration of similarities will help to overcome resistance, antagonism, distrust, doubt, fear, anger etc. People do have a lot in common, and with practice it is possible to find a way of seeking it out. The sympathy and understanding that comes from rapport helps people to take criticism, accept change, and put more effort into a situation.
Rapport is the finest situation that two people can have together, which is why the concept is so central to the service situation (such as in F & B or Housekeeping, Front Desk; i.e. Reception, etc. in the hotelier business).
People in a rapport situation, unconsciously pace each other.
Pacing is the best tool for achieving rapport.
Pacing is, literally, holding a mirror up to another person so that they see in your actions and statements a duplicate of their own, i.e. they see what their knowledge and experience tells them is right, real and genuine.
Pacing is, therefore, a question of entering another person’s model of the world; meeting them on their own ground by mirroring their body language, voice, vocabulary and mood in such a way that they feel comfortably in unison with you.
Pacing, of course, means showing the other person those aspects of you that are most similar to his/hers.
We all have a tendency to like people who are similar to ourselves, anyway, and so want to agree with them. We communicate best with people who feel as we do, who see the world in the same way and who have the same likes, dislikes and beliefs. We choose our friends from amongst those who make us feel at ease with ourselves.
Pacing occurs quite unconsciously with friends and when there is sympathy between people, i.e. rapport. Pacing can be used consciously as a technique to achieve rapport where it does not easily, or naturally exist, e.g. when people do not know each other, are hesitant, reticent, nervous, frightened, frustrated, defensive or aggressive.
The highest aim in any communication is to achieve rapport and the best tool for this purpose is pacing.
If you master a pacing technique, you can create winner situations and take control of any communication or service situation.
You can pace other people in different ways, for instance:
1. Body language
Sitting position, movement and position of the legs, arm movements, overall posture, angle of the head, walk, dress, facial expression, breathing, and touch.
Pitch, speed, tone, volume, choice of words, jargon, foreign words, slang, and professional terms.
Attitude, conviction, belief, enthusiasm, tolerance, involvement, respect for the other person’s skill, qualities and experience.
Avoid service conflicts through pacing:-
As a service-giver, you can use pacing to let the customer know that you are giving your full attention, are interested and like them. For example, you probably know what it’s like to catch the attention of somebody, perhaps a waiter or receptionist, who uses an air of professional ‘busy-ness’ in order to ignore you. This is a case of extreme ‘dispacing’ and can cause great dissatisfaction. A small turn of the body, direct eye contact, friendly nod and body language generally says, “I’ve seen you. Just give me a moment and I’ll be there,” is all that is needed to create a completely different impression and atmosphere.
By adjusting the pitch and speed of your speech to match someone else’s, you can achieve an improved level of rapport. Conflicts quickly arise between two people who are speaking at different rates. The person who is talking quickly gets irritated at the slowness of the other’s speech and speeds up. This leads to uncertainty and frustration and the other person slows down even further.
Service-givers sometimes make this mistake when handling complaints, when passing on messages to customers, or when using terminology familiar to them, but strange to the general public.
People who are experts in a field sometimes unconsciously make others feel small and ignorant, if they talk and act too quickly, particularly if they also use a lot of technical terms. An example of this are doctors who brush aside questions, do not look at their patients, and altogether pay too little attention. This behaviour probably reflects thoughts on the lines of, “I’m much too busy”.
Results of pacing:-
Members of a working team can be encouraged by pacing to increase their level of performance and their wish to produce new ideas.
A manager is sitting, writing a report. A keen member of staff knocks on the door, enters the office saying, “Have you a minute? I have an idea for a new product. I think you’ll like it.”
The manager says nothing, stays seated, does not look up, carries on writing and then, after a long silence, sighs and still looking at the page, replies, “I’m in the middle of a report just now. Later, perhaps?”
This sort of ‘displacing’ occurs every day all over the world and has a highly detrimental effect on the co-operative mood and efficiency.
A significant improvement might have been made if the manager had stood up when the member of staff entered the office, greeted him/her, listened attentively, and replied, “Sounds great! Tell you what, if I could have half an hour to finish this report then I can meet you in the conference room and look at it in detail. Why not organise some coffee for both of us in there in 35 minutes?”
You can improve relations with your children if you pace them when they want to talk to you, too.
A son says, as soon as his parents arrive home from work, “Dad, you promised to play a game this evening.” Father answers with a note of irritation in his voice, without bending down or looking at his son, and with his shoulder half turned away from him, “Okay, if I promised. Go and set the board up.” (His body language is saying, ‘The sooner we get started, the sooner we will be finished’.)
You tend not to get this sort of reaction so often with grandparents. If grandfather had given the same promise and had been asked the same question, he might have created rapport.
He would probably have bent down to his grandson’s level, and have looked at the boy with an expression that showed he was glad to be challenged to a game, and answered, “Come on, fetch the board and we’ll see whose side luck is on today!” His body language shows thoughts such as, “Thank goodness I can find time for my grandson, even though I never gave my children enough attention”.
To wrap it up, basically RAPPORT (pronounced ‘ra-por’) is that elusive ‘je ne sais pas quoi’ that makes you click with the person in front of you, or makes you avoid him/her, if the good vibes don’t exist, whereas the PACING part is how you inter-react and deal with the other person, if you have to. It deals with body-language, which is also good to acquire knowledge of, for your personal relationships as well as business life.