What is personal chemistry?
My dictionary defines personal chemistry as the emotional and psychological way two people relate to each other, especially when experienced as a powerful mutual attraction. Example: “Their intense sexual chemistry almost tempted them into an affair.” When you’re not attracted to someone, that’s “no chemistry,” and when you dislike them on sight, that’s “bad chemistry.”
Take a moment now to vividly recall 3 experiences:
- A time you met someone with whom you had great chemistry.
- An interaction where you expected good chemistry, perhaps because the other person was smart or physically attractive, but instead you felt no chemistry.
- A time when you had bad chemistry with someone. You immediately felt uncomfortable or disliked them — perhaps before either of you spoke!
Now compare: How easy was it to get and stay in rapport with each person?
Personal chemistry = rapport
In “good chemistry,” people have good rapport. Because their communication styles match or complement each other, and they make similar assumptions, it’s easy to create rapport, and they rarely bump each other out of rapport.
In “no chemistry,” people have a much harder time establishing rapport. Because of differing communication styles, habits, and assumptions, these people tend to disrupt what rapport they have.
In “bad chemistry,” people may be drastically out of rapport. Or they might be deep in negative rapport, where each person’s behavior triggers conflicting responses in the other.
Types of relationship chemistry
If you have taken NLP training, you know that there are many ways to get in rapport with people. Personally, I like to think of chemistry in terms of:
- Sexual chemistry — physical attraction and rapport, which can occur with or without emotional rapport. Sexual chemistry alone can produce attraction to someone you don’t even like. (I disliked the first boy I had a crush on. What a weird, creepy feeling!)
- Romantic chemistry — a special type of emotional rapport that generates feelings of romantic love. When romantic and sexual chemistry occur together, people often refer to it as couple chemistry, dating chemistry, or marriage chemistry. Romantic love can also occur in platonic friendships without sexual chemistry or physical desire.
- Emotional chemistry — the kind of emotional rapport you have with people you immediately like and want to be friends with.
- Activity chemistry — you want to do particular activities with this person, even if you don’t have much else in common. This is your favorite hiking partner or gaming buddy.
- Team performance chemistry — great sports teams and music groups have physical rapport that helps the players play synergistically. In business, great teams have functional rapport that helps them perform at their best.
- Creative chemistry — you work well creating together. Every great jazz ensemble has this. So do synergistic inventors, engineers, programmers, artists, and improv theater groups.
- Intellectual chemistry — something I share with my NLP development buddies. When I work with equally talented people with whom I don’t have good intellectual rapport, we don’t accomplish nearly as much.
- Empowerment chemistry — you could also call this spiritual chemistry, though I dislike the term because it implies a belief in spirits that not everyone shares. When you interact with someone on this level, the two of you empower each other and help each other develop as human beings.
What kinds of chemistry work for you?
As you think back to your best, worst, and ho-hum relationships, notice what patterns of chemistry (or lack of it) work best for you:
- What kinds of chemistry work well in your romantic relationships? Friendships? Work relationships?
- Where is it important to not have certain kinds of chemistry? Since my father did intellectual work, he enjoyed not having deep intellectual rapport with my mother. It gave him a chance to rest his mind and reconnect emotionally.
Even sexual chemistry is largely a learned skill. If you’d like more chemistry in your life and relationships (or you’d like to disrupt some chemistry that causes you problems), cultivate and apply your NLP rapport skills.
And if you have clients complaining of “lack of chemistry” in their relationships, it might be that all they need is to learn better rapport skills.