I am by no means an expert in NLP and am not promoting it here. There are parts of NLP that do seem a bit odd and “out there” for me but other parts of it may serve to be useful in change management type situations.
NLP is not new. It has been around since the 1970’s but from my experience few have heard of it. I only stumbled upon it after a colleague referred me to a book. Rather than offering a thorough explanation of NLP I want to address a few key aspects this evening; specifically, building rapport, mirroring, pacing, and leading.
A key to leading change is the ability to “connect” with the people you are working with. Good leaders of change or even good sales people, for example, are those able to quickly build rapport with their clients.
NLP teaches that rapport happens when we get the attention of another person’s unconscious mind and meet them at what they refer to as the others person’s “map of their world.” Yeah, I know it sounds a bit like some psycho babble… but stay with me.
A key point to remember is that you cannot “cause” rapport but you can influence it as we will soon discuss.
A technique we can use to help influence rapport building is mirroring. It’s safe to say that it’s easier to build rapport with people we like and subsequently like us. Why is this? There are many reasons of course… but one key reason is that we are similar in some way and/or have things in common with each other. The next time you see an older couple eating in a restaurant take note of their similarities. Chances are their actions will mirror one another. Everything from their posture, body language, and even the way they speak likely resembles one another. Why is this? They have grown so close to one another over the years that their actions and demeanor mirror one another.
So if you want to give mirroring a shot here are some tips. Does the person you are dealing with use their hands a lot when they talk? If so, mirror this.
Is the person high energy? If so, you need to turn up the juice a bit thus matching their behavior.
What about the words this person uses when they speak? Are they more visual in the way they speak? For example, they may say “I see what you mean.” Or perhaps they are more kinesthetic and say things like, “I just feel like you’re not listening to me.” My wife is very kinesthetic so when she is “feeling” I need to do my best to meet her on this level. I could do this by responding, “I didn’t know you felt this way. Let me try to do a better job.” The basic idea here is to mirror the way this person talks which may help you connect with them thus building rapport.
Pacing & Leading
The old phrase, “If you lead they will follow” perfectly sums up the concepts of pacing and leading. When you successfully meet someone at their “map of world” you are pacing. Then as you bring this person along with you on your change initiative you are leading.
Here is how you can test this. Try to mirror one aspect of someone you know. Once you think you may have built rapport and are pacing and leading scratch your nose or make some other type of noticeable gesture. If within the next few moments this person does the same thing you may have lead their behavior.
Some have likened NLP to brain washing. I even heard an NLP proponent once say that it is indeed brain washing. But his next remark was that we are attempting to brain wash people everyday via training, meetings, etc.
As with anything NLP should never be used in a negative or devious manner. This would be the dead opposite of respect for people. So if you are not trying to influence a situation in a positive manner please forget everything I just discussed. Really, forget it. Please.
For more reading on NLP click here.