One of the key benefits or drawing points of Neuro-Linguistic Programming, or NLP, is improving communication skills. Many sales professionals, managers, and other people who make a living with the way they communicate have relied on NLP to help them improve those skills. As you can gather from the name, there is a very strong linguistic component to NLP. A key premise of NLP is that the way we interpret the world relies very much on the words we use to describe it to others and ourselves.
Neuro-Linguistic Programming is a psychotherapy and personal development approach that focuses on modeling and studying successful individuals. The idea is that anything that can be done by one person can be broken down and taught to anybody else. Many of the NLP methods and models have been modeled after extremely successful salesmen and other communicators.
What you say and how you say it can change the way you relate to others and how they relate to you. The most important part of communication, according to NLP, is to take responsibility for your own communication. This means that what you mean is very much tied to how other people interpret your meaning. Double checking that the person you are communicating with is understanding you in the same way that you think they are understanding you is a large component of NLP.
Building rapport is vital to communicating successfully with someone. To build rapport you must find common ground with someone and build upon it. Common interests, likes, or dislikes are all possible ways to begin building rapport. Once you have established rapport you will be able to see the other person’s standpoint much more clearly. When you have rapport with somebody they will feel like you understand them and that you have a strong common bond.
One way you can begin building rapport with somebody is by subtly matching non-verbal communication. Research has shown that a large percentage of communication is not done with words or speaking, but with our bodies. By matching voice and eye contact patterns, you can make a person feel more at ease. When somebody is at ease they feel like they can open up to you and more effective communication can take place.
The second NLP technique for building rapport is simply by developing a genuine interest in the other person and in their model of the world. Showing interest and asking questions about topics that another person cares deeply about will show them that you are a safe person to communicate with. Within several minutes of talking to somebody it is usually fairly easy to tell which way they would like to steer the conversation. Let them take that lead and ask questions that allow them to lead the conversation where they want. By asking genuine questions and showing interest in another person’s interests you will very quickly build rapport.
One word of caution is that establishing rapport is a subtle science. If you are too obvious about matching your non-verbal cues or are not genuine in the questions you ask then rapport will be shattered. As a general rule of thumb, you want to do as little as possible to build rapport with someone. Don’t start matching all of their non-verbal movements immediately or act over interested in what they have to say. Extending your ability to create rapport requires a lot of practice and patience as you develop your skills. The best idea is to just practice one kind of matching at a time until you can do it very easily and without having to consciously think about it. Later, you can add another element.