Couple of weeks ago, I went to an aquarium. It wasn’t a very large aquarium, it was a “traveling aquarium” if you can believe that. It wasn’t really anything more than an oversized tropical fish store, and it seemed to be set up mostly for kids. I’m not sure if it was something that travels around the country, or if it just a local thing that might have been on loan from the local zoo.
One thing they did have that was surprising was four penguins. On the advertisement it had pictures of all kinds of exotic sea creatures, and it had a picture of a penguin in the middle. I was certain that the penguin was only for advertising, so I was surprised to see actual penguins at the exhibit.
The were in a relatively small room, maybe twenty or thirty square meters at most. In the center was a make shift pool, the surface was maybe four or five square meters. It was only half a meter deep or so. When I arrived, there were many people pushing up against the Plexiglas with their cell phone snapping away. When I got there the penguins were swimming around in a circle in their small pool.
Shortly after I made my way to the Plexiglas, they had climbed out of the pool and were walking around it. They were incredibly cute, I have to admit. Following each other, as if they were afraid to make a decision on their own. Every time one would pause and look at the water, the rest would copy him. When one started walking, they others started as well. When one veered off form their path from around the pool, the rest followed.
Pretty soon you could tell the crowd was hoping for them to dive back into the water, as watching them walking around in circles was getting a little bit boring. Every time they would pause, an almost jump in, but hold back, you feel the small crowd express its disappointment.
Finally, one of them slipped, and fell into the pool. Before he even had broken the surface of the water, his three friends immediatley followed suit, to the immediate pleasure of the crowd.
It reminded me of a sales seminar I went to a few years ago. The speaker was talking about how important it was to develop rapport before trying to persuade anybody of anything. Rapport is that unconscious feeling you get when you feel comfortable with somebody.
For example, if you were in a strange city, and you saw somebody in shopping mall wearing a t-shirt the bore symbol identifying them as part of a small group that you belonged to, like a high school, or a hometown charity group, you would immediately feel a connection to this person. If you went up and introduced yourself, and identified yourself a as member of the same group of them, you would immediately feel a connection.
Another example. Imagine you are taking a long flight home from somewhere. You finally get to your airport; get off the go down to the baggage claim. As you are waiting, you notice somebody the same gender and age as you. And pretty soon you realize that both of your bags have not come out of the shoot yet. You both finally go to the service desk, only to find that both of your bags have been accidentally transferred to Miami. They are safe, and they will be returned within one week. You share a unique experience with this person, and you suddenly feel a certain connection. You have developed rapport.
There are many ways to develop rapport. The easiest is to match body langue, match the rate of speech, the words that they use. Another way that people try is to find as many shared past experiences, or shared likes and dislikes. Like you both played baseball as a kid, or you both hate the Bee Gees, or anything else you can find.
What the guy at this seminar said, was interesting. He said it’s much easier to develop rapport than most people think. The reason behind this is that people, from a biological perspective, are pack animals. We move in herds, or large groups. It’s almost automatic for us to get into rapport with people. It’s as if we are always subconsciously on the lookout for people that are similar to us, to get clues on how to behave.
This guys said that the easiest way to get rapport with anybody, be it a potential boss during a job interview, a client or a potential lover, is to simply relax, and allow the inevitable similarities to come to the surface. We have in us wonderful mechanism given to us by God or Evolution (whichever you believe) which makes this natural if you just relax and allow it to happen. Of course, if you look for differences, you will find them. But when you relax and allow the similarities to surface naturally, you’ll be amazed how easy it is to develop bonds with people that you don’t even know.
How to maintain those bonds is a subject of another article.