July 7th, 2003
Martin was a successful sales manager and Mark, his boss, was very proud of his achievements, especially because Martin used to be one of his students during Mark’s earlier teaching career. But as happy as he was with Martin’s performance, Mark found himself more and more disconnected from his protege.
When Mark and I met, he was very confused: “I don’t understand what’s happening. I like the guy, I hired him, trained him, and he is very successful. Why do I have so much trouble listening to him when he comes to my office to talk about what’s going on?”
I asked Mark what specific behavior was disturbing him-what he was saying or the way he was behaving? “I am very happy he feels free to come to see me when he needs to and what he says is always relevant and pertinent. What is bothering me is the way he communicates; he speaks with his hands, paces back and forth in the office to illustrate a conversation with a client. He is constantly moving, and I cannot concentrate on what he his saying.”
“Can you remember a time when you were relating well to Martin?,” I asked Mark. “Actually, I feel most comfortable when he is on the road and keeps me informed via telephone. This is when I feel the most connected with him as I can really listen to what he says without being distracted by his body language.”
Although Mark and Martin had known each other for many years, working together brought to the surface the differences in the way they communicate. Mark relates to the world and people through sounds, he pays attention to the way people speak, what they say and obvious body movement will distract him from listening to them.
Meanwhile, Martin relates to the world visually and expresses himself by using his hands and body to show what he wants to say. Curiously, the more Martin demonstrated his enthusiasm about his work, the less open and receptive Mark became. Not because he didn’t care but because Martin’s communication style was clashing with his own. They were out of sync.
To synchronize oneself with another person or to be on the same wavelength can be either genuine or developed. We are naturally in rapport with people who are like us and think like us.
The challenge lies when we like someone but find the way they express themselves disturbing. Some people need to see things in order to understand what has to be done when someone else needs to hear what has to be done or needs to feel the information on a kinesthetic level.
This ability to get in sync with another person, and thereby create a climate of trust and understanding, takes some skill. To be on the same wavelength, it takes an ability to see the other person’s point of view (without necessarily agreeing with it).
Most business decisions are made on the basis of synchronicity rather than technical merit or information. We are more likely to buy from, agree with, and support someone we can relate to than someone we feel out of touch with. In a situation where people come from different cultures and backgrounds, creating synchronicity can sometimes be tricky. If you cannot find similarities to focus on, the other easy way to develop synchronicity is to start “matching” the other person; meaning adopting parts of the other person’s behavior, such as gestures, facial expressions, forms of speech, tone of voice, etc. When done subtly, a feeling of rapport between people can be created.
After Mark listened carefully to my explanation, he was still a bit confused. Since he was more the listening type, he was wondering how he could use his communication style to create this feeling of synchronicity.
My answer was that while words account for only 7 percent of our communication, they are nonetheless the content of our communication. By paying attention to the words people are using when speaking with us and answering them using the same words, we are able to create a feeling of rapport.
Rapport is a form of influence. The quality of rapport we have when relating to others will influence our communication. How good are you at synchronizing your communication?