Building rapport is something you don’t hear much about when studying a foreign language. In reality it’s much more important than being able to build grammatically correct sentences or having a huge vocabulary.
Imagine you have a choice between two language partners. One seems to speak both her native language and your language almost flawlessly, but you feel no connection with her. You have to fight to keep every language exchange session from grinding to a halt.
Now picture another person. This partner makes many mistakes in both languages, but is a delight to talk to. You can’t explain why, but you feel energized by just being around her. Ideas bounce back and forth between you like an easy game of ping pong.
Which partner would you prefer?
With which person will you learn a language better?
What is rapport?
Rapport can be described as “a close and harmonious relationship in which two or more people understand each other’s feelings and ideas, and can communicate well.”
We’ve all been around people that we naturally hit it off with. The purpose of this article is to help to you build that kind of rapport with all kinds of people – even when it doesn’t seem that you have much in common.
The Trick to Matching and Mirroring
One technique to build rapport is called matching and mirroring. As the name implies, you basically imitate the other person’s behavior.
It works because we like people who are like us. If someone adopts your gestures, tone of voice and phrases, you naturally tend to like that person. You feel that he understands you at a deeper level since he is like you.
But matching and mirroring can backfire.
If done too obviously, it fails. Instead of feeling that the other person is naturally adopting our behavior out of a desire to be like us, we may feel like we’re being ridiculed.
There’s a trick to using matching and mirroring effectively.
In a study with robots it was confirmed that people respond positively to being mimicked – as long as the person being imitated isn’t consciously aware of it. If he is aware, the effect was greatly reduced.
How can you imitate another person’s behavior without being noticed?
One good way to do it is to clear your mind completely of negative thoughts about that person. See her as someone you admire in every way. Project a sense that no matter what she says or does, she won’t be criticized or attacked in any way.
If you understand that you communicate with people in a lot of subtle ways that are outside of your normal awareness, you’ll be on your way to good report with the person you’re speaking with. If you keep in mind that you can send out the most positive signals by allowing yourself to feel genuinely positive about the other person, the unconscious signals will be positive and most people will respond positively.
Have you noticed this in your daily interactions while studying a foreign language? Leave a comment below.