Sunday, August 18, 2013

To rapport or not to rapport, that is the question

There's a lot of nonsense written about developing rapport. Most of it suggests that rapport requires conscious effort and is inevitably worth that effort. Like much in the self-development field (and, indeed, in all changework fields) this is true, from a certain point of view.

The point of view is that of a self-aware person working one to one.  When you have superb state management and a clear purpose, then developing rapport can be a strategic move that gives you more information about the people you need to convince, play or beat to get what you want. Sociopaths can do rapport because it helps them to get what they want and they are never burdened by their impact on someone else.

As soon as you're working with a conscience, you have to question whether your commitment to your goal will override all other considerations and allow you to manipulate other people through rapport. What's likely to happen is that you are going to be drawn into a genuine connection. And that connection can tap into your own weakness or insecurity and shake your ability to manage your own state and to move the relationship.

Someone speaks up in a meeting. And they are edgy and unhappy. To be in rapport with them is to enter some part of that state. That makes them feel visible, but not happy. In fact, you are probably amplifying the state by entering some part of it yourself. Now you have rapport (which gives you the option to interrupt the pattern) but you've lost rapport with at least some of the rest of the group at the meeting and introduced dissonance. At that point, you have to make a decision about where you want to establish better rapport and where you want to let it go.

How good are your judgments when you are in rapport with a state of being edgy and unhappy?  Right. You feel tough and decisive and you may even channel that energy to create focus and movement in the group. What you give up to do it is the ability to manage the first relationship. There's a price for moving out of rapport: the price involves someone recognizing (unconsciously) that you have marked them out and then moved on. You haven't made a friend.

What are the other options? You could stay in rapport, but that would fracture the group and probably compromise your own outcomes in a way that is not acceptable. If you have the presence of mind and an opportunity, you could introduce a pattern interrupt. That creates an opening for movement as long as you can dispel the tension.  It's hard to do if you're edgy or anxious (or just in rapport with someone who is). Perhaps you can take the discussion off-line so that you can work within the relationship without affecting the group. Perhaps you can find a leverage point to change state without changing the focus of the meeting.

The hard part of rapport is not creating rapport. It's knowing when creating rapport is the right thing to do: right for you, right for the other person, and right for the context. Once you have rapport, everything you do has impact. Sometimes it is better to refuse to enter the rapport if you're not willing to do what it takes to maintain both the relationship and your outcome.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Setting the frame for a great NLP training

There are many reasons why training at NLP Canada Training is a special experience. Two that get lots of attention are the home-baked banana bread and the good chocolate. People are often surprised at how much they enjoy both, even if they do not eat the sweets. They notice, unconsciously, the frame that we set, test it against their experience, and settle in to do the work more comfortably and more effectively.

I am sure it's possible to set the tone for a great NLP training without greeting people with good coffee, assorted teas, and fresh baked banana bread.  But it works for us. The home baking is like taking out a billboard that says "this is a safe place." Almost before they have chosen a seat, our clients feel good about what will unfold. What kind of person has fresh, home-baked goods waiting for you when you arrive? A mom. A friend. Someone who is willing to welcome you into their home.  Nothing says "I care for you in a socially appropriate way" like home baked banana bread.

Does this sound manipulative?  It might be if this were not exactly the kind of atmosphere we build and maintain throughout the training. The promises made by the banana bread hold true. It's immensely important to us that people feel safe enough to focus on the work they came to do. We practice NLP because we can protect their privacy and still help them to overcome personal issues and progress towards both skills and goals.  Safety is crucial to the process. The banana bread signals it, but it's the methodology and the professionalism that follow through on the promise. By the end of the course, the banana bread is an anchor to the safety of the training room.

The good chocolate appears a little later, after the lunch break. It is also a frame and an anchor. As a frame, it says, "you can expect treats" and "there's something really delicious going on here." Sometimes we are nurtured by pleasure as much as we are nurtured by vitamins.  The pleasure is also an essential ingredient in doing the hard work of the training. People who are fully engaged in something they enjoy will work with intensity and handle any stress or fatigue with good humour. The days fly by when you are doing something you enjoy. The good chocolate after the lunch break tells people "we're going to have so much fun you'll be surprised at how good you feel as the day goes on."

We train nine-hour days. When people first hear that, they want to know when we are really going to finish.  I tell them that after nine hours, people will linger, and finally after another fifteen or twenty minutes I will push them out the door so I can prepare for the next day. It's hard to believe, but the good chocolate after lunch is a clue that it might be true. It's always true. Again, the important thing is not that the chocolate uses an anchor that already exists to set up expectations. The important thing is that we deliver on those expectations and the chocolate comes to anchor the surprising amount of enjoyment people feel while learning fast and addressing some serious issues.

There are lots of ways to set the frame so that people "learn" unconsciously that the work of NLP is nurturing, safe, and enjoyable. We just choose to do it with banana bread and good chocolate.