In the previous post, we looked at Dr. Genie LaBorde’s research, which says that three of the most powerful things you can do to help people feel comfortable with you immediately are:
- Talk exactly as loudly as they talk—no louder or softer.
- Talk at the same speed they speak—no faster or slower.
- Have a similar physical body posture—that is, a similar degree of alertness or relaxation in your body position.
Voice volume, speaking speed, and body posture might change during the course of the conversation. Let’s assume that you show up to meet with someone who’s leaning back in his chair. Be sure to lean back in yours.
But what if, at some point in the conversation, he moves to put his elbows on the table? You’ll move too. But not right away. Wait until the next time you speak. Start your remark, then sit up and put at least one of your elbows on the table.
And what if, later on, he leans back again? Have you lost him?
Not necessarily. Many people sit back because they’re becoming more comfortable with you. Or because they want to disengage from interacting to think about what’s being discussed and how it might be used in their places of business. That’s good! Let them think. And, the next time you’re speaking, get your own back against the back of your chair.
Are you thinking that all this matching might not be comfortable? You’re right. You’re most comfortable with the volume and speed of speech that you usually use. But your prospect is most comfortable with his normal volume and speed, so you make the adjustment. After all, you’re doing the selling.
When I first read Dr. LaBorde’s suggestions for building rapport, I thought it might be manipulative to match another person in the way just described. Over time, though, I’ve come to see it as hospitality; it’s simply a way to help another person to feel comfortable. Making adjustments to help another person feel more comfortable—regardless of how you feel—is kindness.
Matching loudness and speed of speech, and emulating body posture, are kindnesses, too—concessions you make to another’s comfort level. Try it!