Pacing and Leading with NLP


People tend to get on better with people who act like they do. As a result, they tend to work better together, communicate well and end up liking each other. We call the result rapport and the basic rapport building mechanism we call matching.

We refer to the ongoing process of matching as pacing – you move as the client moves, matching her sequence of movements and making her feel comfortable, at ease and on the same wavelength as you. This also applies to her

  • physiology – body posture and movement, for example, blinks, leg –crossing, facial expressions, head or shoulder positions
  • gestures
  • voice – including shifts in tonality, tempo, volume, timbre and intonation
  • language and representational system preference
  • beliefs and values
  • experience
  • breathing pattern.

In most cases when we meet with someone, especially for the first time, we are unlikely to be in rapport. Even if we are, we may not mutually be in the best state to achieve the objectives for our meeting. However, the best way to achieve rapport is pacing, to change your movements to match hers.

Once you are in rapport, you have the opportunity to lead your client to a better state, by gradually changing your own characteristics. When your client follows you instinctively, you know you are truly in rapport and can lead her.

When pacing and leading, you do not have to duplicate everything that they do, it may even cause offence if they realise that you are doing it. However, pacing and leading work just as well if you just change a few characteristics or work at the micro level, just focussing on fine detail changes.

You can also achieve effective results with indirect matching or cross-over mirroring, changing one characteristic to match another. For example, if the client is tapping her pen, you could tap your finger on your pad or you could adjust the tempo of your voice to her rate of breathing.

A good example of how to use pacing and leading is the “Yes Set” – using 5 blatantly true pacing statements followed by one or more speculative leading statements that you wish your listener to accept as true. Suppose you wanted an audience to help you grow your business, you could start your presentation by saying something like:

“We’re here at the Chamber of Commerce, it’s our regular Monday breakfast meeting, it’s a cold winter’s day and you may be wondering what I’m going to tell you about today, because we’ve all come here for a reason, to grow our businesses, so I know you’re going to be interested in helping me to grow mine…”

You can also use pacing and leading with groups of people, by focussing on common areas of belief, such as company culture, beliefs and values.

Categories : NLP
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