A subtle tool to both reading physiology and rapport
As I’ve mentioned several times before, a classic sign of rapport, long noted by social psychologists, is that people who are paying attention to each other will match each other’s physiology. Thus, a quick way to speed up the process of gaining rapport is to match. The more you can match their overall physiology (without mimicking them, which can get annoying), the more rapidly a rapport link is built between you; however, there are subtler physiology components you can match than overall body posture, and mastering doing so will craft a much deeper link much less noticeably to the conscious mind.
Two of these subtler components are breathing and eye blinking. All very well and good, but how can you match someone’s breathing without staring at their chest? While some people might not mind, it can certainly create awkward moments with others. (If you don’t believe me, feel free to go out and try it for a while! Post a comment telling us what happened as a result!)
So how can you match someone’s breathing without being obvious? Well, this is a simple technique we teach folks we’re training, and I thought I’d share it with you. It’s well known, yet I’m still occasionally surprised by the people who’ve never heard of it. This will be easiest if you find someone to practice with initially, though, in all honesty, you can practice it without ever telling someone what you’re doing.
Pick a point about 3 feet behind a person and stare at that. Notice how the person in the foreground blurs slightly? You will also be able to see subtle movements much more effectively. You’ll see the eeeeeeever so slight rise and fall of their shoulders as they breathe, and it will stand out nicely. Once you’ve gotten comfortable having your eyes focused at that level, direct your gaze to your partner’s face (or the back of their head if they don’t know you’re practicing) while maintaining that same level of focus. Their features will be blurred a bit, but that’s ok. You can even look them in the eyes, with this soft focus, and you’ll still be able to track their breathing quite effectively.
The reason for this lies in the difference between your foveal vision and your peripheral. Your foveal vision is your central vision and is specialized for picking up detail while your peripheral vision sacrifices detail in order to better at picking up movement which was terribly useful back in the ice age when ground sloths could jump out at our ancestors from just about any angle, swinging their scythe-like claws (although possibly they did so VERY slowly, since they were sloths. They DID go extinct, you know!). Use the strength of tracking motion by adding in some fuzzy vision, some soft focus, and you’ll be able to establish a deep level of rapport MUCH more quickly. There are certain martial arts techniques out there that train their students to do this very thing, for the exact same reason–you’re much better able to track subtle motion.
My challenge to you is to spend a day practicing this and noticing how much easier it is to track breathing using it. After you’ve had some time to practice it, I’ll post with another use for this skill, some time down the road. Have fun!
If you’d like coaching on other ways to build rapport or capture people’s attention, please feel free to contact us at Bright Mind!