Pacing is something that we often do naturally in which we reflect back characteristics of a person’s behavior or internal map in order to build rapport. With pacing you are reinforcing where the person is already and thus creating a connection.
One of the most basic ways to pace is to mirror someone’s body language.
Another way to pace is to use words in the same representational system that the person is speaking from. You can remember rep systems by the acronym VAKOG – Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic, Olfactory, and Gustatory.
These are the five senses, and they are called representational systems because they are representations of reality that go on inside of your head. Usually we only talk about the first three (VAK) because the O/G distinctions kind of fit under kinesthetic.
So if someone is using primarily visual words like “I see what you mean” or “Let me paint a clear picture for you” or “That guy is really bright,” you want to talk to them in those words. Likewise, someone could be using auditory or kinesthetic words.
Here is an example of something you don’t want to do – lets pretend that Fred is trying to sell Jill something:
Jill: Alarm bells are ringing in my head, Fred. I hear my upper managers and they’re telling me that we don’t have any money. And I don’t think we have it either but when I listen to you somehow I think it’s different. I want us to have a harmonious business relationship.
Fred: Jill, when you see the results you won’t believe it. Just visualize in your head and focus on all the positive outcomes. Once you’ve committed to our training, you’ll look over at your managers and they will be smiling at you and you’ll know really clearly that you’ve done a good job.
OK, now what happened? Jill is totally auditory, using words like [alarm bells, ringing, I hear, they’re telling me, listen, harmonious] and Fred completely mismatches her by using all visual, words like [see, visualize, focus, look, smiling, clearly].
My bet is that Jill doesn’t see the smiling faces, instead she’s got the nagging voice of her supervisor and “alarm bells” telling her that she’d better save the company’s money.
You get the idea. To do this you have to listen to what they are saying and what types of words they use. Then echo back to them using the same representational system (modality) that they used, and they will hear you much clearly, they’ll see that you know what you’re doing, and they’ll feel that you truly understand them.
Keep this in mind, and the next time you’re talking to someone, you have something to practice.