Maps, Territory and Rapport

Not long ago, I had a birthday.  On October 23rd, to be precise.  My forty-fourth birthday, to be even more precise!

On that day, I received a very special gift from a boy named Sam.  Do you remember “Turn On the Bubble Machine?” That was Sam.

Sam was working with a tutor in the library on my birthday.  I happened to have a few moments, so I gladly helped him with his math problems.  When we were done, his tutor said, “now let’s print a copy of your work, Sam, and make sure to make a copy for Mr. Adams.”  He did.  As he handed it to me, I looked at him and said, “you know what I’d really like?  Draw a picture of the two of us together, and make it happy, since we are!”

Sam and Mr. Adams

Sam and Mr. Adams

(I’m the one with the flattop, by the way)

What do you notice about that picture?  If you’ve ever observed childrens’ artwork, and representations of themselves and others, you know that relative size of the people in the picture is important.

Who’s slightly bigger in this picture?  It’s not me…in fact, I am quite a bit smaller, if you were to shave my head!

My friend Al pointed out today that this is a strong indicator of rapport. Now, I don’t know how you might feel if you were in my shoes right now, but it makes me feel very good to know that in Sam’s mind, I am just another kid!  In fact, perhaps another kid who is not quite as big or strong as he is.  I’ve been telling some of you, by the way, that I am convinced that I regress to the age of five every day as I work with the children!  I guess that would account for my excellent rapport!

When Erickson would take a client into hypnotic trance, he would often show all the signs of trance himself.  When asked if he went into trance with the client, his answer was, “invariably.”  When asked “who is hypnotizing who in that case,” his answer was always, “invariably” (from Robert Dilts).  In other words, rapport is not something that someone does to someone else, but a loop that is created by ongoing communication.

Where are some natural occurrences of rapport in your life?  Here are some of mine:

“teaching” a class

singing in a choir

“directing” a choir

having coffee with a friend


partner yoga

I’m sure that you can make your own list…

Have you ever thought about how it was when it went really well?  What was it that caused that to be?  Could it be that at the unconscious level, all the involved parties were “tuning in” to what was going on?

Have you ever noticed that after you are with someone (for a few minutes, hours, months, years…) you begin to adopt their “body language,” patterns of speech, habits…that’s right.  Rapport!

Just remember–no two people’s maps are the same.  As the NLP presupposition goes, “the map is not the territory.”  If you wish to engage in elegant communication with other people in your life, you should be willing to “learn the other person’s map.”

Sometimes I notice something really interesting about our walking meditation at Blue Heron Sangha.  Our feet do not move in exact time with each other, but they do form a delicate wave that ripples around the room.  That is wonderful rapport!  I wonder if we all are breathing together when we practice sitting meditation?

So much food for thought…

…and a little music about rapport…

Better Together–Jack Johnson

Be well, and at peace,


Explore posts in the same categories: Buddhism, Life, music, religion, spirituality

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One Comment on “Maps, Territory and Rapport”

  1. Deborah Ling Says:

    I love this blog!! One time my dearest and I heard R. Carlos Nakai play Amazing Grace on his flute. I could tell that every heart in that theatre was beating in sync, it was so amazing! Now that’s rapport.

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