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  • Writer's pictureKarey Pohn

Welcome to My World—Rapport and Pacing


We each create our own model of the world, which helps to guide us.  Because no two people have exactly the same experiences, everyone’s model of the world will be different, since our models of the world are based in part on our experiences. Although we share the same outer physical environment, our inner maps of this environment will be somewhat different, and we will thus come to live in a somewhat different reality.


Bandler and Grinder, who created Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), studied the work of Milton Erickson, Virginia Satir, and Fritz Perls.  In discussing Erickson’s work, they make the valuable distinction about people’s models of the world:


There is an irreducible difference between the world and our experience of it.  We, as human beings, do not operate directly upon the world, but, rather, we operate upon the world through our representations of it.  Each of us creates a representation of the world we live in—that is we create a map or model, which we use to generate our behavior.  The map or model which we create serves us as a representation of what is possible, what is available, what the structure of our world is.  Our representation of the world determines to a large degree what our experience of the world is, how we perceive the world, what choices we see available to us as we live in the world. (Bandler & Grinder, 1975, pp. 180-181)

This idea is similar to the idea of horizon in hermeneutics, or Cushman’s (1995) notion of the cultural clearing.  In Mary Poppins, we see that Mary, through her magical ways, enables George to broaden and change his world.  She helps George to change his map, but in order to do this, she must first accept where he is "coming from," his model of the world. ∆RC[mp15]


Erickson would first go into the client’s reality, acknowledge and accept it, this is known as pacing.  He would gain and keep rapport by “pacing” their model of the world, and then he would be able to lead the client into new territory. By pacing them, Erickson's clients unconsciously perceived that Erickson respected their state, “where they were.”  They would then be more apt and willing to follow him, if where he wanted to lead them is where they wanted to go. Erickson could appreciate what his clients had to say without necessarily agreeing with it, and thus Erickson would use their desires, expectations, and language, matching their syntax and words, and their nonverbal behavior, too.


By being “in sync” with the client, instead of forcing a client to do something, or to deny something that the client believed, the client would be less apt to be resistant, because there was nothing to resist against.  However, at times Erickson would even use a client’s resistance, all in the service of transformation, and trance-formation, too!  Through creating rapport in this way, Erickson would build a bridge, a point of understanding and contact, and then he was able to alter the client's frame or perspective, in order to help the client to change more easily.


In creating rapport or pacing, Erickson would use truisms as a basic form of hypnotic suggestion, saying things that he knew would be inevitable behavior, such as breathing, or things that Erickson knew were true for the person, and these direct suggestions would then be linked together, in what he called a “yes set.”  For example, he would say “as you are sitting there, breathing in and breathing out, noticing the noises in the environment around you,” each of these different phrases can be agreed with, yes “you” are reading, and breathing in and out, and now that I mention it, you can notice the noises in the environment.  Erickson's art was in being vague enough, so that the other person could agree with what Erickson was saying.  By suggesting inevitable behavior, he could then lead into some suggestion, like “you can easily understand what you have read here and apply what you have learned in your life.”


Both Mary and Bert were masters at pacing and leading George Banks.  In the song, “A British Bank,” when George attempts to fire Mary, she uses pacing effectively to lead George to take the children on an outing to the bank.  Bert does the same with George in the song “A Man has Dreams.”   Both Mary and Bert enter George's model of the world and at times adopt his tune. Ironically, George's signature tune, "The Life I Lead" is the tune that they use to lead George, and also how they eventually get him to "change his tune" to something less Saturnian.


In “Stay Awake,” Mary uses a combination of pacing and leading, along with embedded commands, and her tone of voice to convey to the children what she really wants them to do.  We will get to these things in a while, but first let us explore the power of confusion and surprise. 

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