Attachment Theory Made Simple

Attachment Theory Made Simple


Much has been written about attachment theory, yet for some it can be a challenging subject to grasp. This 5 minute video provides a general explanation of what it is and why it’s important in understanding adult intimate relationships. The value of the video is in its simplicity. I hope you find it helpful for yourself, a client, a family member or a friend.

Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. I help people get along and I help people feel better about themselves. Please feel free to call for counseling services either in person or by SKYPE.

Leaders: Learn the Art and Science of Rapport

Leaders: Learn the Art and Science of Rapport


What’s Rapport and Why Does It Matter?

Ask someone what rapport is and you’re likely to hear “a close connection” or “I can’t explain it, but I know it when I feel it.” Beyond social ease, rapport describes a sense of harmonious connection with someone. Both are tuned into the other person’s feelings. Each person feels truly in synch, fully seen and heard.

Most people recognize rapport, and they also know when they lack it. You’ve probably been there: The team meeting with people talking over each other or staring distractedly out the window. The choppy conversation peppered with silences that go a bit too long.

Rapport feels nice, but why does it matter? People experiencing rapport can be more creative together and more efficient in making decisions. For management teams mapping a business strategy or a marketing group planning a new product launch, rapport can mean the difference between an okay result and a great one. In their article, “Rapport-Building Behaviors Used by Retail Employees,” Dwayne D. Gremler and Kevin P. Gwinner recognize that rapport relates significantly to customer satisfaction, loyalty, and word-of-mouth communication.

Three Ingredients of Rapport

What makes the difference between rapport and interactions lacking that connection? Robert Rosenthal was my statistical methods professor when I was a psychology graduate student at Harvard. Years after that, Bob (as everyone called him) and his colleague Linda Tickle-Degnan published a landmark article describing the three essential ingredients for rapport.

The three elements Bob and his colleagues found are:

  • mutual attention,
  • shared positive feeling, and
  • synchrony or coordination.

Rapport doesn’t exist when only some of these elements are present. A physical fight includes close physical coordination, but no positivity. Walking past a stranger on a crowded sidewalk may include mutual attention and coordination, but no sense of caring for the other.

How Does It Work?


The first essential ingredient is shared attention. Two people attending to what the other says and does generate mutual interest and a joint focus. Such two-way attention spurs shared feelings.

Mutual empathy is an indicator of rapport, where both partners are aware of being experienced. That’s a difference between social ease and rapport. Social ease is comfortable, but we don’t feel that the other person is tuned in to our feelings. Fully attending to someone, seeing eye to eye, opens the possibility of empathy.

Positive Feelings

You need more than attention for rapport, you also need positive feelings toward each other. Such feelings are often shown nonverbally, through tone of voice and facial expression. Skillful managers can give their staff critical feedback while showing warm feelings nonverbally.

For video on

Daniel Goleman and Bill George: How to Give Feedback, visit

When that happens, someone is likely to feel more positively about the conversation than they would without the connection. That’s an example I used in my book Social Intelligence: The Revolutionary New Science of Human Relationships, based on a 2002 study by Michael J. Newcombe and Neal M. Ashkanasy. Current research by Ashkanasy continues to explore the connection between positive feelings and their impact in exchanges between leaders and staff in organizations.


Coordination or synchrony is the third element. When we are in rapport, subtle nonverbal cues coordinate the pace and timing of conversations and body movement. We become animated, our eyes meet often, the flow of our conversation looks almost like a choreographed dance. Synchronies happen throughout the natural world when one process oscillates in rhythm with another. When ocean waves or sound waves are in synch, they amplify. When they are out of synch, they cancel out each other.

How does synchrony work between two people? In Social Intelligence, I explained,

“Whenever we find ourselves in harmony with someone else, we can thank what neuroscientists call ‘oscillators,’ neural systems that act like clocks, resetting over and over their rate of firing to coordinate with the periodicity of an incoming signal. That signal may be as simple as the rate at which a friend hands you the dishes she’s washed so you can dry them, or as complex as the movements in a well-choreographed pas de deux…. Any conversation demands that the brain make extraordinarily complex calculations, with oscillators guiding the continuous cascade of adjustments that keep us in synch. From this microsynchrony flows an affinity, as we participate in a slice of our conversational partner’s very experience.”

How to Build Rapport

What can we do to intentionally build rapport with another person or within a team?


That’s the first step, to listen well and give someone our full attention. Put down the phone, look away from the computer monitor, and tune into what the person is saying. Ask questions to understand the background situation. For that time, focus on the other’s feelings and needs, not your own preoccupations.

In Social Intelligence, I said, “Full listening maximizes physiological synchrony, so that emotions align. Such synchrony was discovered during psychotherapy at moments when clients felt most understood by their therapists. Intentionally paying more attention to someone may be the best way to encourage the emergence of rapport. Listening carefully, with undivided attention, orients our neural circuits for connectivity, putting us on the same wavelength. That maximizes the likelihood that the other essential ingredients for rapport—synchrony and positive feelings—might bloom.”

How can you improve your listening skills? While there are many strategies for developing better listening habits, a key step is to become aware that you aren’t listening well. Poor listening is often an unconscious habit and as such is governed by the part of brains that handles automatic tasks. Before we can change a habit, we need to become aware of it. That type of awareness can be developed through mindfulness, the secret ingredient in habit change. Once we’re aware in the moment, we can choose to step away from distractions and focus attention on another person.

Brainpower: Mindsight and Emotional Intelligence in Leadership, provides leaders, executive coaches, management consultants, and HR professionals with a science basis for their leadership development work. Register for the live four-part webcast series throughout February here.

To view video: How to Translate Brain Science into Leadership Skills visit

Featured InLeadership & Management


A Need for Passionate Leaders, embracing change

Today's business environment is dominated by constantly changing conditions and impacted by external factors beyond most organisations control. This demands a new type of leadership style. One that can be comfortable implementing and trying new approaches to confront crises management - not just a change agent but a rebel change agent.

An individual that finds the challenge of leading an organisation into unknown territory an irresistible opportunity. This is true for most C level positions, however I would suggest no C level executive is more exposed then the Chief information officer (CIO), chief digital information officer (CDIO) or information technology (IT) director, is a job title commonly given to the most senior executive in an enterprise responsible for the information technology and computer systems that support enterprise goals.

It is quite likely that the CIO position is the most complicated and demanding job in organizations today. Having to deal with rapid change in technology, business, customers, and greater security concerns. And all of this is done in a world filled with uncertainty and risk, growing regulation, legal ambiguity, and competitors from around the globe. Add the growing sophistication and aggressiveness of these cyber criminals.

In the face of these challenges, it is undoubtedly a tough time to be a CIO. But it is also a great time to be in the field, if you're up for the excitement and challenges.

The pace of change is increasing in the technology, economic, and geopolitical environments; and complexity is the new norm. The use of "the cloud" continues to grow rapidly, and yet 80% of IT is still delivered in-house. Cybersecurity spending is rising even more, yet "being secure" is more difficult these days. There is more demand for IT services from users of analytics, big data and marketing through an increasing number of technology conduits (e.g. internet, social, mobile, locational, or something else). And now, there is the Internet of Things, with sensors, robotics, and artificial intelligence causing additional business disruption. It is also clear that not all organizations and CIOs and their C-suite brethren will make it successfully through this transition period.

Thus the need to have the CIO be a change agent or their most trusted right hand manager. This approach will spark a new era of radical transformation, knowing full well that the status quo will lead to business failure. By influencing one person at a time one can overturn outdated traditional organizational values and create a new culture that embraces change. A culture that sparks early adopters to join in and help build the advocacy needed to transform the whole company.

A passion to lead is likely what sets the rebel change agent apart from other good leadership qualities. In addition to passion, commitment to the vision and the tenacity to stay the course are normal qualities we find with a passionate leader.

In most cases people who are successful and achieve great things have passion. They find the areas they are passionate about then stay focused on them. Passionate leaders genuinely believe in what they espouse. People are touched and engaged by the genuineness of their passion. They walk their talk, their behaviors support their beliefs.

I have learned over the years that it doesn't matter what your passion is, but it does matter how far you are willing to go with it, and most importantly who you are going to share it with. A passionate leader builds great teams because they convey the power of their belief without dismissing or belittling others’ points of view. They are open to others views and ideas and dole out credit freely. Their commitment is steadfast and their tenacity ensures they never fold when difficulties arise.

Real passion provides inspiration that’s much deeper than a rah rah speech or a temporary emotional high. Passionate leaders make people feel included in the leader’s commitment, part of making important things happen. That is most satisfying on a very deep level, and is everlasting for all that buy in to the passion.

So what are some of the key attributes of a rebel change agent:

• An inner passion depicted by persistence, tenacity, grit, outspokenness, and the willingness to confront others when necessary
• An ardent ability to see new business models, articulate the actions needed and ignite actions in others
• The ability to plant the seeds of change and encourage others to take ownership, while building out a cohesive team, without the need to take credit

The biggest obstacle will be executive business leaders, who can be threatened by the informal power and advocacy of a rebel change agent. I suggest the business leaders that openly embrace this approach and empower the rebel change agent will be the business leaders we look up to in the future.