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Chapter 5

The Rule of Connectivity -- Contagious Cooperation


The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.


We have all had the experience of feeling an instant connection or bond with someone after just a few seconds of being in their presence. This is the Rule of Connectivity. We have probably all met someone whom we instantly did not like and did not want to be around. This is caused by a lack of connectivity and usually takes only a few seconds to manifest itself. The Rule of Connectivity states that the more we feel connected to, part of, liked by, or attracted to someone, the more persuasive they become. When you create an instant bond or connection, people feel comfortable around you. They will feel like they have known you for a long time and that they can easily relate to you. When we feel connected with someone, we feel comfortable and understood; they can relate to us and a sense of trust ensues.

There are four main factors in connectivity: attraction, similarity, people skills, and rapport. Each of these points will be discussed in detail in the following pages. However, before proceeding, it is important to note that really connecting with others requires an attitude of sincerity, a lot of practice, and a true interest in the other person. Whatever you do, don't take your relationships with people for granted.

Attraction: The Halo Effect

Attraction operates by making one positive characteristic of a person affect other people's overall perception of him. Sociologists describe this as the halo effect. Because of this halo effect, people automatically associate traits of kindness, trust, and intelligence with people who are attractive. We naturally try to please people we like and find attractive. If your audience likes you, they will forgive you for your "wrongs" and remember your "rights." In fact, studies show that people who are physically attractive are better able to persuade others. They are also perceived as friendlier and more talented, and they usually have higher incomes.[1] "Attractive" means more than just looking beautiful or handsome. It also encompasses having the ability to attract and draw people to you.

The effect of attractiveness transcends all situations. For example, the judicial system, which is supposed to be based upon evidence, has documented cases where attractiveness made a dramatic difference. In one Pennsylvania study, researchers rated the attractiveness of seventy-four male defendants at the start of their criminal trials. Later, the researchers reviewed the court records for the decisions in these cases and found that the handsome men had received significantly lighter sentences. In fact, those researchers found that the attractive defendants were twice as likely to avoid jail time as unattractive defendants. In the same study, a defendant who was better looking than his victim was assessed an average fine of $5,623; but when the victim was the more attractive of the two, the average compensation was twice that much.[2] What's more, both female and male jurors showed the same bias.

The halo effect also affects political elections. In 1974, a Canadian Federal election board found attractive candidates received more than two and a half times as many votes as unattractive candidates. When voters were surveyed about their bias, 73 percent denied, in the strongest possible terms, that they were influenced by attractiveness. Another 14 percent would only allow for the possibility.[3]

Consider these everyday examples of one's appearance influencing their circumstances: Have you ever noticed that height often seems to have some relationship to one's position? It often seems that the taller people get better jobs and have higher salaries.

Did you ever notice that there are some children who seem to be able to get away with anything? There has been some research showing that attractive children who misbehave are considered "less naughty" by adults than less attractive children. In elementary school, teachers often presume the more attractive children are even more intelligent than the less attractive children.[4]

When we come in contact with someone of the opposite sex, the attractiveness concept is magnified. Attractive females can persuade men more easily than unattractive ones, and attractive males can persuade females more easily than unattractive males can. We see obvious examples of this all around us. At conventions and trade shows, large corporations fill their space with sexy and attractive females. In one study, men who saw a new car ad that included a seductive female model rated the car as faster, more appealing, more expensive looking, and better designed than did men who viewed the same ad without the model.[5] Additionally, female students who are perceived to be more attractive by their professors often receive substantially higher grades than unattractive females. It is not uncommon for a store manager to assign an attractive female sales associate to the young man who walks in the door. Most store managers (although they won't admit it) hire attractive salespeople to attract more customers.

Research has shown that looks matter outside of advertising as well. In various studies, attractive men and women, when compared to those who were considered to be less attractive, were judged to be happier, smarter, friendlier, and more likable. They were also considered likely to have better jobs, be better marital partners, or to get more dates. The halo effect causes us to see such people only in a positive way, which gives them persuasive power. Because of the way we view them, we want to be like them and we hope for them to like us in return.[6]

The attractiveness of our clothes can also evoke the Rule of Connectivity. Researchers Freed, Chandler, Mouton, and Blake conducted a now-famous experiment on how easy it would be to encourage people to ignore a "Don't Walk" sign at a city intersection. When a well-dressed individual ignored the sign and walked into the street, 14 percent of the people who had been waiting for the light to change followed him across. When the same person repeated the experiment the next day, now dressed in sloppy clothes, only 4 percent of the people followed him across. A similar effect has been found in hiring situations. In one study, the good grooming of applicants in a simulated employment interview accounted for more favorable hiring decisions than did their job qualifications. This happened even though the interviewers claimed that appearance only played a minor role in their choices.[7]

I know that when I travel, how I am treated and how often I am upgraded is directly related to how I am dressed. I can persuade the airline attendant to give me better seats, a better flight, or the help I need much better and faster when I am in a suit than when I am wearing casual attire.

When I have on jeans and a T-shirt, I am viewed as less attractive and, as a result, get less cooperation.

Not only can we focus on our other abilities to make us appear more attractive, but we can also increase our physical attractiveness in many different ways. Attractiveness lies in the simple things that many people over-look, like being in shape and watching your weight, picking nice clothes to wear, paying attention to your accessories (i.e., jewelry, glasses, earrings, etc.), and having well-groomed hair. Keep track of hair and clothing styles. Styles can change dramatically, and if we ignore fashion, our persuasive ability may be put in jeopardy. When in doubt, look to national newscasters as conservative role models in style.

[1]A. H. Eagley, R. D. Ashmore, M. G. Makhijani, and L. C. Longo, "What Is Beautiful Is Good, But . . . : A Meta-Analytical Review of Research on the Physical Attractiveness Stereotype," Psychological Bulletin (1999): 109–128.

[2]R. A. Kulka and J. R. Kessler, "Is Justice Really Blind? The Effect of Litigant Physical Attractiveness on Judicial Judgment," Journal of Applied Social Psychology (1998): 336–381.

[3]M. G. Efran and E. W. J. Patterson, "The Politics of Appearance," unpublished manuscript, University of Toronto, 1986.

[4]J. Rich, "Effects of Children's Physical Attractiveness on Teachers' Evaluations," Journal of Educational Psychology (2002): 599–609.

[5]G. H. Smith and R. Engel, "Influence of a Female Model on Perceived Characteristics of an Automobile," Proceedings of the 76th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association (1988): 681–682.

[6]M. L. Knapp and J. A. Hall, Nonverbal Communication in Human Interaction, 3rd edition (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston).

[7]D. Mack and D. Rainey, "Female Applicants' Grooming and Personnel Selection," Journal of Social Behavior and Personality (1999): 399–407.

Similarity: Similar Is Familiar

Similarity theory states that familiar objects are more liked than less familiar ones. The same holds true with people: We like people who are similar to us. This theory seems to hold true whether the commonality is in the area of opinions, personality traits, background, or lifestyle. Consequently, those who want us to comply with their wishes can accomplish that purpose by appearing similar to us in a variety of ways.

Studies show that we tend to like and are more attracted to those who are like us and with whom we can relate. If you watch people a party, you will see them instantly gravitate towards people who seem to be similar to themselves. I can remember walking in a foreign country, taking in the unfamiliar sights and sounds, and then running into someone from my own country. We could have been from opposites sides of the nation, but there was an instantaneous bond between us, all because we had something in common in a mutually unfamiliar place.

Have you ever heard the saying, "People buy from people they like"? This is true even in the judicial system. If jurors feel that they share some common ground with you and, better yet, like you — even subconsciously — for that similarity, then you will have a markedly better chance of winning your case. Anytime we establish something about ourselves that others will identify with, we increase our persuasive powers. In one particular study, antiwar demonstrators were more inclined to sign petitions of those similarly dressed, and often didn't even bother to read the petition before signing![8]

Similarly, we gravitate toward people who dress like us. In the 1970s, when young people tended to dress in either "hippie" or "straight" fashion, researchers studied the effects of clothing styles. Experimenters donned hippie or straight attire and asked college students on campus for a dime to make a phone call. When the experimenter was dressed in the same way as the student, the request was granted in more than two thirds of all instances; when the student and requester were dissimilarly dressed, the dime was provided less than half the time.[9] Numerous studies conclude that your audience is most responsive to individuals who dress and act similarly to them.

An especially apt illustration can be found in a study done by psychologists at Columbia University. Researchers placed wallets on the ground containing $2.00 in cash, a check for $26.30, the "owner's" ID, and a letter giving evidence that the wallet had already been lost before. The letter was written to the owner from the original finder, expressing his intentions to return the wallet as soon as possible. The letter was sometimes written in perfect English, while other times it was written in poor English, as though created by a foreigner. Researchers wanted to see whether the wallet would be returned more frequently when finders felt some commonality with the writer of the letter. The study found that only 33 percent of the respondents returned the wallet when the person who wrote the letter was seen as dissimilar, while 70 percent returned the wallet when they thought they were similar to the letter writer.[10]

Do you remember all the "cliques" in junior high, high school, or even college? People associate and interact with those they view as similar to themselves. Cliques are often based on such commonalities as gender, age, educational background, professional interests, hobbies, and ethnic background. In one study, researchers examined the social networks of prison inmates.[11] Their "cliques" were typically centered on commonalities of race, geographical origin, and the types of crime committed. One group of three men stood out to the researchers because they shared a tight companionship yet seemed to have no common backgrounds. Just as the study was coming to a close, the three men escaped together, demonstrating that we also build alliances based on common goals.

Researchers McCroskey, Richmond, and Daly say there are four critical steps to similarity: attitude, morality, background, and appearance.[12] When receiving a persuasive message, we ask the following questions subconsciously:

  1. Does the speaker think like me?

  2. Does the speaker share my morals?

  3. Does the speaker share my background?

  4. Does the speaker look like me?

Of the four similarity factors, attitudes and morals are the most important.[13] Effective Persuaders are always looking for similarities or common beliefs to form the basis of common foundations with their prospects. We want to be persuaded by those who are like us and with whom we can relate. We see real-world examples of this in advertisements. We want to see people we can identify with, and the advertising execs accommodate us. When we see a particular commercial, we think, "Hey, he is just like me! He doesn't have time to pick up his socks, either. That couple has a messy, cluttered house, too." We see ads showing the average Joe or Jill because they create that similarity.

Your audience will connect with you when they perceive the similarity. O'Keefe found two important points regarding similarity and persuasion. First, the similarity must be relevant to the subject or issue being persuaded. Second, to persuade someone, the similarities must involve positive rather than negative qualities.[14]

[8]P. Suedfeld, S. Bocher, and C. Matas, "Petitioner's Attire and Petition Signing by Peace Demonstrators: A Field Experiment," Journal of Applied Social Psychology (1991): 278–283.

[9]T. Emswiller, K. Deaux, and J. E. Willits, "Similarity, Sex and Requests for Small Favors," Journal of Applied Psychology (1998): 284–291.

[10]H. A. Hornstein, E. Fisch, and M. Holmes, "Influence of a Model's Feeling About His Behavior and His Relevance as a Comparison Other on Observers' Helping Behavior," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (1988): 222–226.

[11]H. Russell Bernard and Peter Killworth, "The Search for Social Physics," Connections 20, 1: 16–34.

[12]J. C. McCroskey, V. P. Richmond, and J. A. Daly, "The Development of a Measure of Perceived Homophily in Interpersonal Communication," Human Communication Research (1985): 323–332.

[13]Bernard Asbell, with Karen Wynn, What They Know About You (New York: Random House), pp. 28–33.

[14]D. J. O'Keefe, Persuasion: Theory and Research (Newbury Park, Calif.: Sage).

People Skills: Winning Instant Acceptance from Others

The ability to work well with people tops the list for common skills and habits of highly successful people. Studies show that as much as 85 percent of your success in life depends on your people skills and the ability to get others to like you. In fact, the Carnegie Institute of Technology found that only 15 percent of employment and management success is due to technical training or intelligence, while the other 85 percent is due to personality factors, or the ability to deal with people successfully. A Harvard University study also found that for every person who lost his job for failure to do work, two people lost their jobs for failure to deal successfully with people.

In this era where technology is taking over our lives, it is tempting to think that personality and the ability to deal with people are not important qualities. On the contrary, we crave personal interaction now more than ever. People still want to get to know you and like you before the doors of persuasion and influence are unlocked. We most often prefer to say yes to the requests of people we know and like.

Network marketing companies rely on the effects of people skills. Marketing techniques are arranged in such a way so as to capitalize on the fact that people are drawn to buy products from people they know and with whom they are friends. In this way, the attraction, warmth, security, and obligation of friendship are brought to bear on the sales setting. For example, at Tupperware home parties, the strength of the social bond is twice as likely to dictate whether or not someone will buy a product as is the preference for the product itself.

People skills are crucial because they have a huge impact on our success. First impressions are made within only four minutes of initial interaction with a stranger,[15] so we don't have time to not have good people skills. Whole books have been written on people skills, but let's address some of the most important and basic communication and interaction techniques.


Goodwill in persuasive practice comes courtesy of Dale Carnegie, one of the "greats" in terms of understanding human nature. He told us that by becoming interested in other people, you will get them to like you faster than if you spent all day trying to get them interested in you.[16] Having goodwill entails appearing friendly or concerned with the other person's best interest. Aristotle said, "We consider as friends those who wish good things for us and who are pained when bad things happen to us."

This caring and kindness means being sensitive and thoughtful. It means acting with consideration, politeness, civility, and genuine concern for those around us. It is the foundation for all interactions and creates a mood of reciprocity. You will win hearts and loyalty through compassion.

You invoke goodwill by focusing on positives. Don't be harsh or forceful when dealing in areas where the other person is sensitive or vulnerable. Additionally, make statements and perform actions that show that you have the audience's best interest in mind.

Bonding: Name Calling Works

One of the quickest ways to form an immediate bond with people is by using and remembering their names. How can you effectively remember a name? When someone tells you her name, clarify the pronunciation, clarify the spelling, relate the name to something, and use it again quickly — before you forget. Research shows that if you use a person's first name at the beginning and end of a sentence, your chance of persuasion increases. It's a simple technique that is easy to implement and which creates an instant bond. Don't use the age-old excuse, "I can't remember names."

Remembering someone's name is a function of listening, not a function of memory.


Humor can be a powerful tool of persuasion. Humor makes the persuader seem more friendly and accepting. Humor can gain you attention, help you create rapport, and make your message more memorable. It can relieve tension, enhance relationships, and motivate people. The actor John Cleese once said, "If I can get you to laugh with me, you like me better, which makes you more open to my ideas. And if I can persuade you to laugh at the particular point I make, by laughing at it you acknowledge its truth." Professional persuaders, such as advertisers, know that humor can be a powerful tool; humor is used in 36 percent of all television ads in the United Kingdom and 24 percent of television ads in the United States.[17]

Humor can also distract your audience from negative arguments or grab their attention if they are not listening. Herbert Gardner said, "Once you've got people laughing, they're listening and you can tell them almost anything." Humor may divert attention away from the negative context of a message, thereby interfering with the ability of listeners to carefully scrutinize it or engage in counterarguments. If listeners are laughing at the jokes, they may pay less attention to the content of a message. Humor can "soften up" or disarm listeners.

Humor must be used cautiously, however. If used inappropriately, it can be offensive and may cause your audience to turn against you. Humor should only be used as a pleasant but moderate distraction. As a rule of thumb, if you are generally not good at telling jokes, don't attempt it when you are in a persuasion situation. Be sure that you have good material. Non-funny humor is not only ineffective but irritating. Modify your humor so that it is appropriate for your audience.


The safest way to increase people skills is to give away smiles. A smile is free, generates a great first impression, and shows happiness, acceptance, and confidence. Your smile shows that you are pleased to be where you are, meeting this person. As a result, he in turn becomes more interested in meeting you. Smiling also conveys a feeling of acceptance, which makes your listener more trusting of you. It has been shown that sales representatives who smiled during the sales process increased their success rate by 20 percent. However, as with traditional humor, use a smile appropriately.


In order for your audience to take your message seriously, they have to have some level of respect for you. The more they respect you, the more successful you will be. Building respect often takes time, but there are things you can do to facilitate it. You need to show gratitude — be thankful for what others do for you. Never criticize others or talk about your problems. People want to talk about two things: themselves and their problems. If you listen when people tell you their problems, they will think you are wise and understanding. Remember, how others feel about you is often influenced by how you make them feel about themselves. Being a person who makes other people feel good will go a long way toward increasing your likeability in their eyes.

[15]L. Zunin and N. Zunin, Contact: The First Four Minutes (New York: Ballantine Books).

[16]Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People (New York: Simon & Schuster), p.139.

[17]Malcom L. Kushner, The Light Touch (New York: Simon & Schuster) p. 18.

Rapport: The Instant Connection

Rapport is the secret ingredient that makes us feel a tangible and harmonious link with someone else. It is equivalent to being on the same wavelength with the other person. Rapport is the key that makes mutual trust materialize.

Have you ever met a perfect stranger and just hit it off? Finding plenty to talk about, you almost felt as if you had met before. It just felt right. So comfortable were you in talking about practically anything that you lost track of time. You developed such a strong bond with that person that you knew what he was going to say. Everything just clicked between the two of you and you felt very close to this person. It might have been a physical attraction, or it might have just entailed being on the same wavelength. You felt your ideas were in sync and you enjoyed your time with each other. This is rapport. When there is rapport, we can differ in our opinions with someone else but still feel a connection or bond with that person. Rapport can even exist between two people who share very few similarities.

In our discussion of rapport, we are going to elaborate on two concepts: body language and mirroring. Both of these ideas will help you to develop rapport faster.

Body Language: Attracts or Distracts

Whether we realize it or not, we are constantly reading and being read by others. Even without the utterance of words, the language of the body speaks volumes. Often, interpreting body language is a subconscious thing. We may not make a conscientious effort to think through all the details of why someone has just folded their arms across their chest and narrowed their eyes at us, yet somehow this body language registers subliminally and makes us feel uneasy. The subconscious instantaneously interprets these actions to indicate resistance, suspicion, or spite, even if we have not made a conscious study of the opposing person or their background.

Using body language to its fullest not only involves mastering your own use of outward gestures to create and maintain rapport, but also entails acquiring the ability to read the body language of another person. When you can effectively read body language, you can identify the emotions and discomfort of others. You can see tension and disagreement. You can feel rejection and suspicion. You have to understand that your body language adds to or detracts from your message. In other words, your subconscious gestures and expressions can either help or hurt your ability to persuade others. You can create rapport by understanding and adopting the right body postures and countenances for your prospect.

Everything about you, be it outward or subtle, communicates something to somebody else. The words you use, your facial expressions, what you do with your hands, your tone of voice, and your level of eye contact will determine whether people accept or reject you and your message. To be persuasive, you have to present not only openness, but also authority.

Albert Mehrabian says we are perceived in three ways:

  1. 55 percent Visually (body language)

  2. 38 percent Vocally (tone of voice)

  3. 7 percent Verbally (spoken words)[18]

Other research estimates that as much as 93 percent of your message's impact depends on nonverbal elements.[19] This includes facial expressions, body movement, vocal cues, and proxemics (the study of spatial separation between individuals).

Body language and gestures are an innate part of our psyche. There have been many interesting studies conducted on body language and the use of gestures. In one particular experiment, twelve children with perfect vision and twelve children who were blind since birth were observed to see whether either group gestured more than the other. The results showed that the blind children actually gestured just as much as their full-sighted counterparts, even when they knowingly spoke with other blind children. The researchers concluded that gesturing is an innate part of our expressive and communicative patterns, and that speech and body language are highly interconnected.[20]

Furthermore, the researchers asserted that speech and body language also bear strong ties to our thought processes. One article discusses how gesturing can serve as a memory aide. Subjects had a more difficult time remembering words when they had to keep their hands holding on to a bar than when their hands were free.[21]

There is a direct correlation between our ability to read body language and our relationships. In another study, college students were tested to see whether they could accurately identify the meanings behind certain facial expressions and tones of voice. Significantly, the research consistently showed that the students who made the most errors in interpreting the meanings were those who had troubled relationships and/or greater feelings of depression.


Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "The eyes of men converse as much as their tongues." The more common phrase we hear is "the eyes are the windows to the soul." Through our eyes, we can gauge the truthfulness, intelligence, attitude, and feelings of a speaker. Not making eye contact when we ought to can have devastating results. Note the following true example:

Pennzoil Oil took the Texaco Oil Company to court over Texaco's allegedly interfering with a contract Pennzoil already had with Getty Oil. Throughout the trial, Pennzoil's counsel was accused of trying to sway the jury by encouraging their witnesses to make eye contact and joke with the jurors. To show that they were serious and did not consider the circumstances a joking matter, Texaco's counsel told witnesses not to joke at all and to avoid eye contact with the jurors. Unfortunately, the advice proved to be unwise and cost Texaco dearly in the end. Pennzoil was granted more than $2.5 billion in damages — the largest damage award in U.S. history. Why? Afterwards, jurors expressed distrust toward the witnesses who had avoided eye contact, even going so far as to call them "arrogant" and "indifferent."

Our eyes' pupils are one of the most sensitive and complicated parts of our body. They react to light but they also respond to our emotions, betraying a variety of feelings. When a person is aroused, interested, and receptive, the pupils dilate. This is an attempt by the eye to allow the entry of more light and more information. Being able to see each other's pupils is so important to our communication that we often distrust a person wearing sunglasses. Consciously or subconsciously, we assume that use of the glasses is a direct attempt to hide the eyes in fear that they will reveal the truth.

Making eye contact can also convey love or passion. In a number of studies on eye contact and attraction, researchers found that simply looking into one another's eyes can create passionate feelings. In one particular case, two members of the opposite sex who were complete strangers were found to have amorous feelings toward each other after merely gazing into one another's eyes.[22] In another study, beggars were interviewed about their "tactics" for getting donations from passersby. Several of the beggars stated that one of the very first things they tried to do was establish eye contact. They claimed that making eye contact made it harder for people to pretend they hadn't seen them, to ignore them, or to just keep walking.[23] Other studies have shown that public speakers who make more eye contact, use pleasant facial expressions, and incorporate appropriate gestures into their speeches have more persuasive power than speakers who do not.[24]


The way we use our hands tells others a lot about what we are thinking or feeling. For example, if your hands are tucked away in your pockets or behind your back, you may be perceived as holding something back. Clenched fists may portray anger or tension. Holding your hands up around your face — over your mouth, by your ear, etc. — may portray dishonesty. Stroking your chin shows you are thinking about what has been said. If you place your hands flat on the table in front of you, you may be sending a signal that you agree. On the other hand, placing your hands on your hips may express defiance or dominance.

The way we shake hands also tells people a lot about us. It is customary in business situations to shake hands with someone when we first meet them or when we are sealing a deal. Even if we don't realize it, a firm handshake conveys cooperation and alliance. Weak or limp handshakes, on the other hand, portray just that: weakness, incompetence, or maybe even disinterest. Be sure your handshakes are always firm and appropriately energetic.


If you notice your prospect tilting her head toward you, it is very likely that she is interested in the deal. If her head is tilted away, however, she may not be totally sold, and, in fact, she may feel some distrust or dissatisfaction toward you or the offer. If she rests her head on her hand, she is bored or not really interested. If she keeps looking around, you can bet she is most likely thinking: "Get me out of here." Obviously, nodding her head would express agreement and interest.


If your prospect is pointing his feet in your direction, he is most likely facing you and is therefore likely to be very interested in your offer. If his legs or feet are pointed away from you, however, he may just be enduring your pitch and may be feeling ready to leave as soon as he has the opportunity. If his legs are crossed when he stands, he may still be feeling some awkwardness about the deal. On the other hand, if his legs are crossed when he is seated, he may be feeling some resistance to you or your offer. If he keeps tapping his foot, he's either wishing you would shut up and let him talk or he's feeling bored.

Other Types of Nonverbal Communication

As mentioned above, putting your hands or fingers to your nose or mouth can send a message that you are lying. As a general rule, keep your hands away from your face and head when engaging in the persuasion process. Here are a few more nonverbal indicators:

From what we have discussed, you can see that resistance can be easily detected in your prospect. Check to see if your prospect's body is leaning away from you. Observe whether she faces you at an angle. Look to see whether her arms, legs, or both are crossed. She may glance from the corner of the eye and make minimal eye contact. She may tap her finger or foot — or her feet may point away from you. Generally, if she is resisting your persuasive efforts, her posture is closed. When you persuade, avoid adopting this body language. By opening yourself up, you may prompt her to follow suit.


Touch is another powerful part of body language — important enough to devote a whole section to it alone. Touch can be a very effective psychological technique. Subconsciously, we like to be touched; it makes us feel appreciated and liked. It is true, though, that we do need to be aware and careful of a small percentage of the population who dislikes being touched in any way. In most instances, however, touch can help put people at ease and make them more receptive to you and your ideas.

Touch can create a positive perception in the person being touched. Touch carries with it favorable interpretations of immediacy, affection, similarity, relaxation, and informality.[25] In one research study, librarians did one of two things when handing back library cards to university students checking out books: either they did not touch the person at all during the exchange or they made light, physical contact by placing a hand over the student's palm. Invariably, those students who were touched during the transaction rated the library service more favorably than those who were not touched at all.[26] Waiters/waitresses who touched customers on the arm when asking if everything was okay received larger tips and were evaluated more favorably than those waiters who didn't touch their customers. Attractive waitresses who touched their customers received the highest tips of all. Touch also induces customers to spend more time shopping in a particular store. In one study, physical contact on the part of salespeople induced customers to buy more and to evaluate the store more favorably.[27]

In another example, touch was found to increase the number of people who volunteered to score papers, sign petitions, and return money that had been left in a telephone booth. Syracuse professor Jacob Hornik discovered that touching bookstore customers on the arm caused them to shop longer (to be exact, 22.11 minutes versus 13.56 minutes), to purchase more ($15.03 versus $12.23), and to evaluate the store more positively than customers who had not been touched. Hornik also found that supermarket customers who had been touched were more likely to taste and purchase food samples than non-touched customers.[28]

We know that certain areas of the body can be freely touched while other areas are off limits. Women don't mind being touched by other women and they are fairly tolerant of being touched (appropriately) by men. Men usually don't mind being touched by an unfamiliar female — but things get harder to predict in cases where men are touching other men. In general, men don't like being touched by unfamiliar men. Safe areas of contact include the shoulders, forearms and hands, and sometimes the upper back. This all depends on the situation and relationship between the two parties prior to the touch.

Mirroring and Matching

John Grinder and Richard Bandler, founders of neuro linguistic programming (NLP), developed the concept of "mirror and matching." The idea is to align your movements and body image with your prospect's demeanor. The goal is to mirror or reflect their actions, not to imitate them. If people think you are imitating them, they may feel like you're mocking them and they may become offended. They will see you as phony and no longer trust you. Instead of directly imitating, just mirror or match the overall tone and demeanor of your prospect. You can safely mirror their language, posture, gestures, and mood.

When you mirror your prospects, you build rapport with them. Because of your similar demeanors, your prospects will feel a connection with you. Remember, people are inclined to follow and obey those they perceive as similar to themselves. If they shift in their posture, you should eventually do so, too. If they cross their legs, you should cross your legs as well. If they smile, you smile too. When you do this, your prospects will subconsciously feel that you have much more in common with them than is actually the case.

We often unconsciously mirror others, without even realizing it. It is just a natural thing that we do. Have you ever noticed at social gatherings how people tend to match each other in their body language and their attitudes? For example, when two people greet each other, they typically tend to use the same posture and behave with the same demeanor. As a Persuader, you will make skillful and conscientious use of mirroring. Mirroring Language

You will be amazed at the effectiveness of using vocabulary or "lingo" similar to that of your prospect. Pick up on and use some of the words or phrases that your prospect uses. You may also find it helpful to mirror his rate of speech. If he speaks in a slower and more relaxed tone, you can do the same. Nevertheless, be sure to keep the enthusiasm high. If he speaks quickly, feel free to do the same.

Matching Breathing

See if you can adopt the same breathing pattern as your prospect. In doing so, it is helpful to observe the rise and fall of your prospect's chest or shoulders for cues. Of course, use your peripheral vision to do this so you are always maintaining eye contact. Synchronized breathing between you and your prospect is such a subtle thing, yet it creates connectivity.

Matching Voice

This is different from matching language. It refers to the actual tone or inflection of your prospect's voice. Be very careful, however, that you do not come across as mimicking. The "mirrored" voice you use should never be so different or foreign from your own that you arouse suspicion. Just minor and subtle adjustments in tone are all that are necessary to get the desired results.

Mirroring Moods

When you reflect your prospect's mood, you give validation to what he is saying and feeling. We often verbally mirror another's mood by restating what he or she just said: "So, what I hear you saying is . . ." or "I think I would feel that way too, if I also experienced. . . ." Be sure when you mirror your prospect's mood that your tone is very sincere. When you sincerely acknowledge your prospect's comments, concerns, and feelings, your persuasive power increases.

Matching Energy Level

Some people always seem to be relaxed and mellow. Others seem to be constantly active or vivacious. Seek to mirror your prospect's energy level. This will be another subtle way you are in sync with your prospect. This technique is also effective when giving a group presentation: Match the overall energy level present in the room, or adopt the level of energy emanating from the group.

Breaking the Mirror

Certainly, there are occasions when you may not want to mirror someone else. For example, a lawyer will often seek to create anxiety or uneasiness in a witness. To accomplish this, the lawyer needs to avoid mirroring. While the witness is slumped back in the seat looking at the ground, the lawyer may hover or stand rigidly and look intensely at the witness's face. Have you ever noticed or felt the uneasiness when someone stood in the middle of a conversation where everyone was seated? Have you ever experienced the awkwardness of glancing at your watch when you're in the middle of a conversation with someone and they notice? "Breaking the mirror" breaks the synchronization that makes everyone feel calm and comfortable. If you need to break the mirror, simply stop mirroring and sit, speak, or gesture differently from the person you're dealing with. You can create even further distance by altering your demeanor abruptly or suddenly.

As you study persuasion, you must realize that connecting with your audience is critical. Many persuaders don't know how to maintain that rapport throughout the entire persuasive situation. You see people in sales break the ice, find similarities, build rapport for the first five minutes, and then launch into their presentation. All of a sudden, they get serious and change their demeanor. What is the prospect going to think? The person he has been talking to for the past five minutes has now changed. Which one is the real person? The two were getting along, having fun, and all of a sudden, without warning, the salesperson becomes serious and dives into a sales pitch. This breaks rapport and seems incongruent to the prospect. You both know why you are there and what the ultimate goal will be, so continue to build on that rapport.

Connectivity takes time, research, and practice to master. You need to learn how to read your prospect and your customer. Learn how to determine whether your prospect is relaxed, nervous, confident, or indifferent.

[18]Albert Mehrabian, Silent Messages (Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth, 1971).

[19]T. G. Hegstrom, "Message Impact: What Percentage Is Nonverbal?" Western Journal of Speech Communication (1989): 134–142.

[20]Simon Ungar, Mark Blades, and Christopher Spencer, "Mental Rotation of a Tactile Layout by Young Visually Impaired Children," Perception 24: 898–900.

[21]John Carton, "Nonverbal Decoding Skills and Relationship Well-Being in Adults," Journal of Non-Verbal Behavior 23: 91–100.

[22]J. Kellerman, J. Lewis, and J.D. Laird, "Looking and Loving: The Effects of Mutual Gaze on Feelings of Romantic Love," Journal of Research and Personality (1999):

[23]J. D. Robinson, J. Seiter, and L. Acharya, "I Just Put My Head Down and Society Does the Rest: An Examination of Influence Strategies Among Beggar," paper presented to the Western Speech Communication Association, Boise, Idaho (1992).

[24]J. K. Burgoon, D. B. Buller, and W. G. Woodall, Nonverbal Communication: The Unspoken Dialogue (New York: Harper and Row).

[25]J. K. Burgoon, J. B. Walther, and E. J. Baesler, "Interpretations, Evaluations, and Consequences of Interpersonal Touch," Human Communication Research 19: 237–263.

[26]J. D. Fisher, M. Rytting, and R. Heslin, "Hands Touching Hands: Affective and Evaluative Effects of an Interpersonal Touch," Sociometry 39: 416– 421.

[27]J. Hornick, "Tactile Stimulation and Consumer Response," Journal of Consumer Research (1992): 449–458.


Westside Toastmasters on Meetup

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