Ah, networking. How we need thee and sometimes loath thee.
Imagine walking into a room and not knowing a single person. Do you feel your stomach tighten? Your nerves tingle? Does your breathing quicken and become shallower? Is that little voice in your head questioning how you are going to connect to someone, anyone?
Now imagine walking into a room full of strangers. But this time, you are confident that in a few minutes, you will be building rapport with anyone in that room.
Which scenario would you like better? I bet the second one. There is only a slight difference between the two scenarios. The key is deliberately applying something we do naturally.
Before we get to the key – let me frame our conversation with this basic fact: like attracts like. We are drawn to people like us or share similar traits, interests, habits or patterns.
I had a whole city full of demonstrations of this fact last weekend. Chief and I went to a concert. As we were walking around town before the show, we saw a lot of people wearing shirts with the band’s name on it. Lots of people. From 10-year-olds to 70-year-olds. Every shape, size, color imaginable of person – all wearing similar shirts. And each time they passed one another they interacted. With positive hand gestures and shouted out the band name or something related to the band.
There was a lot of bonding among strangers in that little town. All because they had something in common.
Like attracts like.
How does this benefit you in building rapport quickly when networking? And what is this thing we naturally do anyway?
Matching and Mirroring. These are two terms used in NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming). Basically, it is becoming in sync with the other person.
There is a subtle difference between the two and, just for fun, let’s add another element: Cross Over Mirroring. In terms of body language, the three can be very simply broken down as:
Mirroring is literally being a mirror to the other person. If they raise their right hand, you raise your left as though they are looking into a mirror.
Matching is copying their move. If they tilt their head to the left slightly, you tilt your head slightly to your left.
Cross Over Mirroring is when you match their movement with a different type of movement. If they are tapping their foot, you tap your finger.
We instinctually perform matching and mirroring. The next time you are talking to a friend or loved one, pay attention to how you are interacting. Are you leaning in after they lean in? Do you use hand gestures when you talk and they respond using similar hand gestures?
Yet when you are aware of the implication of matching and mirroring and apply it deliberately, you will quickly create a trust bridge. You will be emitting, and their brain will be receiving, a message that says, “Hey, there is no danger here, we are cool. We can build a connection because we are alike.”
It first starts with the handshake. Match their handshake. If they are a strong shaker, shake their hand firmly right back. If they are a soggy-sock shaker, use very little pressure. No matter how hard it is – fight the urge to squeeze a gentle shaker’s hand. It sets up a roadblock to building rapport.
I mentioned above breathing and speaking. If the person you are speaking with is a fast talker, speed up a bit to be more in sync with them. If they are a more deliberate talker, slow it down.
Matching their breathing can be trickier. You can notice their shoulders to get the sense of their timing, but that may be more than you are willing to tackle at first.
Start with the body language, speed and pitch of their voice. Build symmetry naturally.
Naturally – that is the caveat. We want to match and mirror – not mimic or monkey. What does this mean? Have you heard the phrase ‘monkey see, monkey do”? It means when someone makes a move you immediately make that move. And continue to do so. That is way too deliberate. It is annoying and you actually break the rapport.
Be aware and be subtle. Wait a couple beats to match or mirror. Make your movements gentle and natural so they are unaware of what you are doing.
The next time you walk into that room of unknowns, take a moment to scan and observe. Notice how someone stands, leans and gestures. Then you can approach them and confidently, discretely and quickly build rapport so there won’t be a stranger left in that room.
Did you notice the matching being done in the picture above? The two gentlemen each have a hand in their pocket. All three are holding their glasses in their right hand at the same plane. One gentleman is holding his glass higher near the rim, while the other two are holding theirs closer to the stem of the glass. It’s fun when you start looking a bit more closely, isn’t it?!
I do what I love: help professionals break out of a suffocating job existence and into a career that renews their brilliance.
I am triple certified as a Professional Resume Writer, Social Brand Analyst and Career Coach. My clients learn to identify, strengthen and effectively communicate their brand and most importantly – their value – by learning and leveraging personal branding as applied to LinkedIn, resumes, networking, communication, relationship management, presence and influence.
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