Building Quick Rapport: Verbal Mirroring

Posted on: October 15, 2013 | 0 comments

When you have only a short amount of time, how can you establish a quick rapport with people in the workplace—whether for interviews, cold calls, meetings or negotiations? The first step to building relationships and trust is developing a rapport. It’s often said that people do business with people they like or who are like them.

Whatever your professional expertise: the administrative arena, human resources, healthcare, property management, or call centers and customer service — learning how to develop rapport with others can benefit you.

Verbal Mirroring: Verbal mirroring is a simple, but powerful technique used to quickly establish a connection with someone. Often used in sales and marketing, verbal mirroring is based on the work of psychologist and author Carl Rogers (1902–1987), and relies heavily on listening closely then using the speaker’s vocabulary when responding.

Why would we verbally mirror someone? Well, as humans, we tend to look for commonality. We are more at ease with a person who reflects something familiar and safe to us—even hearing the same words. A common vocabulary can convey we are on the same page, in sync, or share a common perspective.

For example, former FBI agent, Joe Navarro, in his book, Louder Than Words: Take Your Career from Average to Exceptional with the Hidden Power of Nonverbal Intelligence, uses the example, if they say “home”, don’t alter it to “house”. If they say they have a “problem”, avoid switching it to an “issue”.  Use their words. “If your client says, ‘I’m angry,’ don’t say, ‘I understand you’re upset’,” states Navarro. “Use people’s own words to describe their situation.”

Listening: Rather than focus on what you are going to say next or your need to simply complete your spiel, be a good listener. Allow yourself to be present and attentive.

Also, listen for opportunities to use verbal mirroring. Take note of patterns and phrases. Occasionally feed back phases the person says. It not only shows interest, but also offers opportunities for clarification.

Navarro also suggests listening for speech errors and hesitations like, “uh,” “um,” and “ah,” throat clearing, long exhalations through pursed lips, and noises made with the lips or tongue. These are pacifying behaviors that reveal discomfort. You may want to revisit the topic being discussed at the time they occurred.

Speaking: Whether in-person or on the phone, a person’s voice conveys a great deal about his or her mindset—or can give away your own. Stress can alter the voice’s tone, pitch, speed and volume.

When nervous, voices tend to go higher. According to the American Association of University Women (AAUW), ending sentences at a higher register can make statements seem like questions. This “uptalk” or “upspeak” can come across as hesitant or lacking in confidence.

To garner people’s attention or ease rising tension, lower your tone, moderate your volume, and speak slower and more deliberately. Calmly. According to Navarro, this lends emphasis and resolve to your speech. Pauses can also be used to convey confident and careful consideration.

For further insight into how to read social cues, please visit our blog post Reading Body Language In Interviews and Meetings.

Keepers Staffing is a D.C. employment agency that strives to pass onto our clients and associates the best of our experience, knowledge and effective tools. We make a point to meet all our candidates in person. We focus on people, not faceless lists and profiles. If you succeed, we succeed.

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