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Handling rapport breakers: do the same back onto them, lest you lose power

Rapport breaks are dominant moves to take control of the interaction and increase one's social power and authority.

Not everyone is out to dominate with rapport breaks, though.
There are many ways people break rapport when they don't necessarily want to dominate, but are simply clueless on how to build rapport and converse well.

The most common way people break rapport is saying "no".

A "no" denies what you previously said and, in a way, it's a micro-verbal assault on your authority and credibility and a small-scale social assault on your status as well (you don't want to break rapport with your boss!).

Some rapport breakers are worst than others though.

I call these "confrontational rapport breakers".

Confrontational rapport breaks

You are in the presence of a confrontational rapport breaker when the rapport break is not simply an answer to a neutral statement, but to something nice and welcoming you said or did.

Here are some examples:

You: yeah, I agree with you, it's because... (agreeing with them is a freindly overture)
Him: Actually, it's not like that at all... (replies by going the opposite direction, flatly denying your point of view)

Or:

You: I love that dress you're wearing
Her: No, it's hideous, I really hate it. This dress sucks.

And can also be nonverbal:

You: hey, I think you dropped this handkerchief (hands the item)
Him: (turns around, ignores)

These are examples of what I confrontational rapport breaks.

If you let these ones slip or, worse, if you continue being friendly and accomodating, you lose status and power.
If you are friendly and accomodating towards a rude person, you become an accomplice to bullying and abuse, however small that abuse might be.

What do you then?

Breaking Rapport Back

An easy way to handle is to break rapport back in a similar way they've done.

Here are some ideas.

You: I love that dress you're wearing
Her: No, it's hideous, I really hate it. This dress sucks.
You: If you wear it with that attitude, it certainly does indeed.

Or:

You: yeah, I agree with you, it's because... (agreeing with them is a freindly overture)
Him: Actually, it's not like that at all... (replies by going the opposite direction, flatly denying your point of view)
You: nono, it is exactly like I said (you turn it into a frame domination battle)

Or less confrontational:

You: Yeah, that's the same man, as I said... (paraphrase what they say in a way that 's a mix if what you and him said) 

Or, if it was just a slightly confrontational rapport break, you turn it into a (slightly) biting joke:

 

 

rachel, Matthew Whitewood and 2 other users have reacted to this post.
rachelMatthew WhitewoodDMselffriend
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

What if they decide to toy with you by breaking rapport and building rapport? Kind of like as if he or she was bi-polar, or as if they were breaking rapport as a joke?

If you go along with the roller-coaster, you're no longer leading, but reacting.

Yeah, that's a good point.

If you keep doing the same, not only you're a follower, but you also get dragged down into value-subtracting and lose-lose vicious circles.

Ideally, when you do the same back, you want your move to be the end move, not an invite for another shot back.
That's why I often add shaming first, which underlines it's not cool to play those games, and sometimes end with a collaborative frame to show a better way.

If they'd keep escalating, I'd make a mental note that they are huge game players and not the type of individuals with whom you want to connect at a deeper level. And I'd devalue them.

How I'd handle if I wanted to play would depend on the situation.
Going meta is definitely an option though: I'd tell them exactly what they are doing, and why it's making it impossible for us to have a pleasant conversation and/or getting to know each other.
Or I might point out at the absurdity of their continuous flip-flopping, or their confrontational attitude.

Off the top of my head I can only vaguely remember a pre-teen situation when a kid used to that, and more recently a former Airbnb customer of mine. So this guy used to say something, get an agreement from me, and then find an exception right away to what he had just said, which would break rapport and "show me wrong" for previously agreeing with him.

Super annoying.
To deal with it, then I'd disagree/poke holes in his new exception, or go off on a tangent on my own and add more information. The latter would avoid an escalation and not make me a follower of his game.
I'm pretty sure that guy has no real friends in life.

Definitely not a common scenario, though.
If you got a specific example in mind, I'd be very happy to analyze it.

 

JP has reacted to this post.
JP
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Definitely not a common scenario, though.
If you got a specific example in mind, I'd be very happy to analyze it.

The exact scenario I was thinking of was most of the movie, Training Day, where Alonzo pretty much has complete power over Jake. Jake could only laugh when Alonzo laughed, and when Alonzo was serious, Jake had to be serious.

Although I think your original post is talking more about verbal rapport breaks, most of the rapport breaks that I can think of are non-verbal (not laughing at your joke, looking at someone else while speaking to you, etc,...), so I'd like to include non-verbal rapport breaks if you don't mind.

To deal with it, then I'd disagree/poke holes in his new exception, or go off on a tangent on my own and add more information. The latter would avoid an escalation and not make me a follower of his game.

I'm not quite sure I get this, do you mean like this:

Lucio: *makes some joke*

Girl: "That's not funny, what's wrong with you?" (Breaking rapport)

L: "Well, you had no problems with my other jokes..." (poke holes in new exception)

L: "But today is a nice day, and I'm feeling good. I think I'm going to the beach." (Going off on a tangent)

Ideally, when you do the same back, you want your move to be the end move, not an invite for another shot back.
That's why I often add shaming first, which underlines it's not cool to play those games, and sometimes end with a collaborative frame to show a better way.

If they'd keep escalating, I'd make a mental note that they are huge game players and not the type of individuals with whom you want to connect at a deeper level. And I'd devalue them.

I see, just as an example though, would that mean something like saying: "Hey, I know what you're trying to do... Nice try though" (Shaming him). Then, from that point on, you would just hold your frame (framing him or her as trying to manipulate you) every time he tries to break or create rapport.

Breaking rapport--Guy keeps a straight face when you make a joke to purposely break rapport. We can respond with "No worries, not everyone gets the joke..." while smiling.

Creating rapport--Guy is acting like your friend, calling you brother/sister, or just suddenly being conversational with you. We can respond with, "I appreciate the conversation, but I'm not your brother." while also smiling

I think the key here is to indirectly call him out, while being a little polite and smiling (to show that you are unaffected).

Hello JP,

If it's nonverbal rapport break, then definitely I wouldn't go for poking holes -that's just for verbal rapport breaks-.

For example, with that Airbnb guest:

Guy: India has had a long history of civilization
Me: Yes, that's true, one of the 3 early major civilizations started in India
Guy: Well, that's not true, the first one was in Mesopotamia
Me: yeah, exactly, one of the first was in India, not the first. But then again, once you're talking about thousands of years, then 100 years first or later, it's still relatively close, right
Guy: hmmmm.. But Mesopotamia was a different type of civilization
Me: Maybe, it's been a while I haven't updated on early Civlizations. What brought you to Germany, anyway (going off a tangent to avoid an escalation on an inconsequential topic)

I'm poking some holes in his rapport break, using some gentle frame domination mixed with frame negotiation so that I can stick to my guns and avoid following again, but without breaking rapport on my own too much.
It's indirectly saying "yeah, don't be a dickhead, let's seek to have a conversation, not a domination".

In your nonverbal example I might just go with frame domination, piching her frame of "you're weird" with my frame of "not weird, it was funny":

Lucio: *makes some joke*

Girl: "That's not funny, what's wrong with you?" (Breaking rapport)

Lucio: "no, I think it's pretty funny actually

If I wanted to blunt the edge and negotiate the frame a bit more, then one might add "that's what humor is about: it's about breaking conventions".

 

Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?