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The Pitfalls of Nonverbal Rapport – Pt. 2

Mirroring, by mimicking physical posture and movements, is one of many ways to create nonverbal rapport. It is an effective and powerful tool but there are a few pitfalls waiting for the untrained user. Here is an example of a pitfall you can make while mirroring another person and how to avoid it.

When you mirror another person, you may be sucked in to their mood or mindset.

There are several ways to achieve deep nonverbal rapport – like synchronized movements and breathing. But once you have established nonverbal rapport, the trick is to stay in control of your own mood. If you happen to be deeply mirroring someone who is in a funk, the mirroring might make it difficult for you to maintain a good mood and neutrality. In other words, people in crisis can drag you into crisis, too!

This is usually not a big deal when you are with balanced, happy people. It becomes an issue when emotions are especially high or low, like when the other person is in crisis or euphoria. Who hasn’t gotten caught up in a moment of revelry or succumbed to the bad mood of another?

Over the last year, two of my dear friends have experienced life-changing events. On one occasion, I spent an almost an hour listening to a friend vent. He was clearly going through a tough time. For some reason, perhaps because he was a good friend, it did not occur to me to exercise the same degree of mental preparation that I use when working with a client. I was unprepared for the emotional impact it would have on me.

The change was immediate. I began to feel powerless and frustrated. Then I began to feel a little mad. Within two hours I was completely off my game and feeling devastated – like his crisis was happening to me. It was almost like I was experiencing sympathetic symptoms. We had fantastic rapport but it definitely resulted in radically changing my mood. And because I went into his mood instead of bringing him up into mine, it was not a very beneficial conversation for either of us.

Science shows us that posture alone can have an impact on mood and emotion.

According to research, my mood change was easily predictable.  If you adopt a certain posture, it will eventually affect your mood and decision-making.

Also, our mirror neurons help us to develop empathy for other people by activating the parts of our brain that would be working if we were personally having an experience. This is an ancient learning tool that allows us to learn from the experiences of other people.

When you watch someone do something, your brain automatically goes through the motions. You do it in your own mind. So just by engaging and listening, you allow your mind to mentally practice someone else’s experience.

If you happen to be working or negotiating with someone who is in emotional crisis, you want to help them make decisions that they will be happy with later. You will have to establish both verbal and nonverbal rapport with them and then lead them into a better decision-making state or mood. In order to do that, you must be able to control your own emotions.

The Here and Now Anchor is a great tool for maintaining control of your emotions.

One of the tools of Neuro-Linguistic Programming is called the “Here and Now” anchor – a physical bookmark or reminder of one’s state prior to hypnosis. It is a safeguard that will bring someone safely out of a hypnotic state in the event they experience mental distress. I have seen what can happen without this anchor.

When I was 14 years old I attended my mother’s NLP practitioner class, one of the exercises involved a hypnotic regression to childhood experience. Participants worked in groups of two.

In one group, the person guiding the hypnosis forgot to establish a Here and Now anchor on his partner. Unfortunately, his partner revisited a really bad childhood experience. She had identified so deeply with the vivid stories of her mother’s Nazi concentration camp experience that she relived them as her own childhood memories.

She was in serious emotional turmoil. The instructor had to dismiss class so that he could gently bring her back to the present moment. If the anchor had been established, activating it would have brought her out of reliving her memory, easily and quickly.

Use the Here and Now anchor before any important meeting or negotiation. It allows you to reset your mood and reactivate an earlier, better mental state when needed. You can prevent your mood from being changed or thrown off balance while you were with a client who was in emotional distress, working with opposing counsel who bullies, or dealing with difficult people.

This is how to build a Here and Now anchor:

Be aware and present in your body, conscious of your surroundings, feelings, etc…Pay attention to you. In that moment of awareness, say to yourself, “I am here (in my car in the parking lot, Houston, TX). I am now (November 15, 2011 – 2:54pm, about to go into this meeting). I will return to this state when I recall this moment and when I pinch my earlobe twice, like this: (pinch your earlobe). I will remember to do this if my emotional state or physiology begin to be uncomfortable or too different from this state that I am in now.”

After you have established your safety net and ticket back to sanity, it will be easier and safer for you to establish rapport with people who are experiencing negative emotions. You will be able to guide the other person into a better state because you will be able to get back out. It is also a great idea to create a Here and Now anchor that is also a Peak Performance State – but that is for another post.

Stay tuned! In the next installment we will discuss how to break rapport with people who have become too attached.

Happy Negotiating!


{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Doug McDowell May 28, 2014, 10:55 am

    Great article! I endured my own bout of unintentional mirroring last week with a co-worker. The sympathetic symptoms I experienced were very similar to those you describe, and I am still feeling some of the after effects. I will DEFINITELY follow your instructions for building a Here and Now anchor to mitigate this in the future.

  • admin May 28, 2014, 12:03 pm

    Hi Doug!
    Glad to provide some insight for you! Those after effects can certainly linger. You might want to try out EFT. It can really help bring you back to a better state of mind. Here is a link to one of the EFT blogs on NN – it’s a bit of a how to:
    I look forward to your feedback with the Here and Now Anchor!

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