Mirror Participant Behavior

Researchers in the area of neurolinguistic programming (NLP) have examined human behavior for years in an effort to determine why some people seem to attract others (charisma) and build almost instant rapport, whereas others do not. They found that matching the pacing of someone's speech pattern and movements can build trust and acceptance. Some salespeople and therapists have used this technique successfully for years, becoming rich and famous as a result.

You can incorporate the NLP technique into your training. For example, through conscious effort to observe and listen to a participant's speech and gestures you might hear her say, "I cannot quite see your point." You clarify and mirror, you might respond, "So the example that I gave is hazy to you?" In effect, you are speaking similar language and giving back what she gave you. Once she responds, "Yes," you then try a different approach to explain your point. Similarly, if a learner is excited about something and is animated in voice and actions, you can respond in kind to indicate that you are on an equal emotional level. This might involve increased vocal inflection or movements on your part. Or, your expression of emotion might include high-energy words, such as exciting, stimulating, or wonderful.

Remember what you read about visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners in Chapter 1? By matching the language of participants exhibiting one of the three preferences, you are incorporating NLP concepts (as in the preceding example of the visual learner). The key to mirroring successfully is to do it intermittently based on what learners say. If you react to each behavior or speech pattern presented by a participant you may be perceived as mocking, insincere, phony, or making fun of the person. For more on NLP (see Books under Resources for Trainers in the appendices). Howard35 gives some good examples of ways to establish rapport though NLP.

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