Building Relationship Rapport – And Why Your Parents Look Alike
The First Step To Positive Connection
Think back to the 90’s.
Coming home from school and turning on the TV.
There was always an afternoon-special program going on. A round of Pokemon, YuGiOh, maybe some Rugrats, a dash of Spongebob, and a sprinkle of Kim Possible with Even Steven’s.
Did you ever notice how similar married characters looked?
Regardless of cartoon or live action, the parents tend to look suspiciously similar. Glasses? Brown hair? Even the way they smile or interact with people. Yes, you could attribute it to the writers for preferring these characteristics, but is there a reason for this? I believe the people behind our beloved childhood shows were basing these matches on actual couples.
In our daily lives, if we take a look around, it isn't difficult to find couples who we'd describe as similar in image. Comparing a married couple against two other random people, the married couple will look more similar. Anthropologists give us 2 reasons for this:
Statistically, individuals tend to be attracted to those of similar facial and bone structure (called assortative mating). And,
Our facial features and expressions grow increasingly similar to those we spend most of our time.
Why does this happen, and what does this mean?
First, it means relationships generally start off with similar looks (e.g. - round/oval faces, nose and mouth structure, or eye and eyebrow distance), and then continue to grow even more similar as we pick up each other’s emotional expressions.
An example progression of this happening:
a) our oval face meets an attractively similar oval face
b) we start hanging out more and officially get into a relationship
c) we pick up how the other smiles, laughs, scrunches their nose, winks, frowns; how they show sadness, anger, and varying degrees of happiness; and how they look when they say certain words and ideas
d) our mirror neurons not only notice these micro expressions, but also imprint these actions into our own micro expressions
e) the more we make these facial expressions, the more our facial muscles and skin start to leave marks of this happening (e.g - wrinkles around our smiling eyes, prominent cheek muscles from our laughing demeanour)
Now what does this mean for our negotiation style?
When we interact with people, not just in our personal dating lives but also in our business negotiation/influencing lives, we look for that initial "similar oval face". We look for similarities in look and behaviour. We feel at one with them.
And if we feel at ease, we feel more inclined to work with them.
The more we can mimic/look/act like our colleagues, partners, bosses, and contemporaries, the easier it becomes for them to be comfortable with us. In marriage, couples who grow more alike over time report to be happier.
Here are a few steps in building rapport:
1. Clothing - note their general attire. If you can forecast the type of clothing they'd wear when you meet, you should be of similar formality. Comfortable clothing? Business formal? Streetwear?
2. Energy - note their expressions. Be mindful of how dynamic their words and bodily movements are. Being on the same level of energy will subconsciously put you on the "he's like me, I'm comfortable, let's connect deeper" list. Wide range of verbal intonation? Lots of hand gesturing?
3. Body Positioning - note how their body moves. Subtly mimic the placement of their limbs and, torso, and head. Lean in the mirrored direction, stand straight or laxed, tilt your head in a similar fashion. When we see people who literally move like us, our subconscious says "hey, we're from the same tribe - I'm comfortable around them. Let’s start a partnership / Let’s date / Let’s hire him as our wedding filmmaker."
In the same way we’re attracted to those with a similar body structure through assortative mating, we feel at-home with someone who has similar clothing/linguistics/mannerisms.
The more similar we can become to people we want to get close to, the easier it becomes for all parties to be comfortable and negotiable.
The next time you see someone attractive on the street, stop and notice how they may be similar to you in looks. Notice the expressions of your closest friends and family -- are they similar to your expressions? And the next time you're on a date or at a meeting with someone new, mimic their behaviour to promote comfort and continued connection.
Just like our parents and their similar actions in life, we must learn to find our tribe of similar vision.
- Aaron Daniel