How to build Rapport with People

Building rapport is important for all of our relationships. We build rapport with our family and friends, our co-workers or bosses, our clients or customers, sometimes even with the girl behind the checkout counter. It’s important to not only understand how to build rapport but also how to maintain it and know whether you are coming across to others the way that you want to come across.

There are times when you may say something with one meaning, but it’s heard by the other person in a completely different way. Learning about how other communication styles interpret meaning and may be the difference between making the sale or not. Or between getting that promotion or not.

Using curiosity and selective amnesia as tools in your communication toolbox can help you to diffuse potentially difficult situations and get back on track to building rapport and nurturing a healthy relationship.

To listen to the audio of this episode CLICK HERE

Lara:                 Hello and welcome Nikki. Thank you so much for joining me today. It’s great to have you back on the show.

Nikki:                Thank you. I am so excited to be back on the show with you.

Lara:                 It’s always great to talk to you. I wanted to have you back, because what you do is so varied. You’re very well known for your relationship selling model and using your vast experience, not only in sales, but with your NLP training and NLP stands for neuro linguistic programming.  We’re going to explain that a little bit, but you use those skills to build and strengthen rapport and to deepen the relationships that you create.  Can you tell us a little bit about how NLP plays into that?

Nikki:                Yes. So, NLP is essentially the study of communication and the way we process information, the way we show up, and the way we speak.  In the selling process, obviously it’s all about the relationship.  When you learn how to recognize your own patterns and you learn how to recognize someone else’s pattern, it really teaches you how to be flexible.  When you can be flexible to another person to put them at ease, it allows for the relationship to be so much smoother.  Your easier to be in communication with, you’re easier to talk to, your easier to relate to, so that’s really how an NLP relates to the relationship selling.

Lara:                 I think that’s one of the reasons I’m so attracted to NLP there. There’s actually one presupposition in NLP that I really struggle with.  It’s so true , and that presupposition is “the meaning of communication is the response you get”. And that is so true. I’m speaking from my own prism and from my own experiences and through my own glasses, as it were, but people are listening through their own glasses, through their own prism of things that they have in their past and what certain words mean, and it’s so involved.  That’s why I could nerd out on communication all day, because of the things that impact it, right?

Nikki:                Yeah, so the meaning of your communication is based on the response you get. It’s hard because it puts all the responsibility on you.  If you’ve ever found yourself in a situation where somebody misunderstood something you said or did and then you feel like you have to justify and say, “but, my intention was”, and they’re like, yeah, and what you said was this, and you’re like, “but my intention was”, then you’re really not living that presupposition. If the meaning of your communication is based on the response you get, the response you get is how the other person is taking your intention, and you’re unlikely to change their mind about what your intention was.  When you can show up and pay attention to the cues that people give on how they want to be communicated with, the language that they use, the key words that they pick, or just their body language, it’s like you’re really getting a roadmap into how to relate and communicate to the other person, and you just have to be paying attention.

Lara:                 There are sometimes people that you meet and you feel an immediate rapport. I mean, immediately you’re like, “oh, this is my people”, and I think that those are two people that are communicating in the same way. They have the same language of communication.  Understanding they have a meeting of the minds, and that’s really where rapport is born.

Nikki:                Yeah, well those people that you have that instant connection with, you kind of just get to be yourself, because they feel that instant connection to you, and it’s easier to be in communication with those people. Now if everybody acted that way life would be so smooth and everybody you come into contact with would be so fun to be around, because you all are that way.  Unfortunately that’s just not the world that we live in. There’s all these people that have different styles than you, and in order to be successful in your communication with them, and certainly in business, you have to learn how to adapt and work with people who have a different style then you in order for you to be successful and in order for them to be successful as well.

Lara:                 Yeah. You know I talk a lot about the conflict personality styles, and you know there are the four main ones which are the perfectionist, the pleaser, the avoider and the victim. You can kind of look at that as four ways we see the world.  You know, when you look at it that way, if I am a perfectionist, then I am going to judge myself or hold myself to a higher standard.  Someone who may be interacting with me or communicating with me may feel that they are also being held to a higher standard, when in reality that’s something that I’m putting on myself, and you’re just feeling the radiance of it, if you know what I mean.  That can really come into it. Recently one of my clients had come to me because one of the leaders in the team had sent out a memo, and he was brand new to his position.  The memo started off with “this is the way we’re going to be doing work from now on”.

Lara:                 “Early is on time, on time is late and late is unacceptable. I expect everybody here to be 10 minutes before their shift. We will no longer be using nicknames”. I mean, he had a whole list of things that he had outlined, and it immediately just ruined the rapport with the entire team right away. Everybody felt defensive, and you know, when my client asked him what was your intention behind this.  He was like, I want to create motivation and want people to be ready in here early, and extra training, and I want everybody to be, you know, we’re all on the same team. That was what he was trying to accomplish with the “no more nicknames”, because I guess some people might have felt the nicknames were demeaning in some way. I don’t know if he was projecting that. I’m not sure where he got that, but his intention with not only completely missed, it created the opposite of what I think that he was trying to go for.  I remember you talking, I think it was actually in one of your newsletters where, oh no, it was in your book, the buying signals. It was one of the buying signals and the client had come up and said something to one of the women that you worked with, which was along the lines of, “well, what do you charge for that anyway?”, and your client I think was…do you remember the story?

Nikki:                I do.  I still tell it a lot, because it was so great. It was a great example of how we project what we think people need right onto them, and how they come across. Then we make all these assumptions, and sometimes in sales… that can be well in life, but definitely not in sales…when you project onto the other person what they mean and how they came across, you oftentimes can misunderstand and or miss the buying signal.  You mentioned this is in my “Buying Signals” book, and yes.  It was a woman who came up to her and she said it in a way that my client…  she asked the question how much she charged, but the way that she said it kind of sounded Sassy and it sounded…   My client felt very judged, and she thought that the woman was being confrontational.  I said to her, “oh, that sounds like a buying signal to me.”

Nikki:                She thought I’d lost my mind. She’s like, “are you crazy?” Did I show you the facial expression she made? Did you hear the tone of voice? You know, she even had her hand on her hip when she asked me, and so it was getting her to be willing to set aside the way that it came across and check it out and see if it was a buying signal.  It turned out it actually was a buying signal.  The woman, because I advised my client, invited her to work with her. And she did. And the woman said yes. And became a client.

Lara:                 Yeah.

Nikki:                Most of us would have just been like, you know, go pound sand lady and walked away. Right.

Lara:                 Especially when we feel defensive, and when it comes to this is, we are going to be. I don’t like boxes and labels and generalities, but sometimes … stereotypes, well they stick around because they’re a little sticky and sometimes they’re true.  Women in general, women business owners that I know, have a hard time with price and validating what they’re worth, so right away those are two separate sets of glasses that they’re both looking through. You then can completely see something different or not what was intended, which is what happened to these people. The one gentleman who had written up a whole new list of the way that things were going to be, and then there is all the team who had been together for a very long time. Who were very close knit, getting completely defensive as you know. What they heard was, what you do and how you are and the way your team runs is not good enough. We’re gonna do it my way now, and here’s how it’s done. You know, we all feel judged at some level.

Nikki:                Yeah. Sometimes I think we forget to look at it.  Especially when you’re sending a communication out like that, right? Like your client who’s going to send out something to a team.  He’s new to the team, and he’s thinking about it and he’s writing it from his perspective with his intention attached.  Unfortunately, what he should be doing is writing it from how it’s going to be received.  How might the other person take it, because that may have changed the way he communicated it. Instead, he might’ve been better off calling them into a meeting and discussing these things and letting there be some open dialogue, versus like I’m gonna dictate the new rules.

Lara:                 Yeah.  One thing that happens is, he had clearly been thinking about this for a long time, so he processed a lot of it and thought of the best ways to do it. Well, the audience, this is the very first time they’re hearing it. They haven’t had the time to process what your thought process was, you know, which can add into the miscommunication.

Nikki:                Yes. That’s such a brilliant point. Yeah. The first time they’re hearing it for sure.

Lara:                 Something that kind of fascinated me and one of the main reasons I wanted to have you back on the show…well, actually, any excuse to have you back on the show… was at your masterclass this past quarter, and also I think in one of our VIP sessions too, we started to talk about this notion of creating safety, and I think that is also a NLP skill that you used to create safety?

Nikki:                Yes, yes.

Lara:                 It made sense to me, but at the same time I’m like, well, can I define that? What does that mean to create safety ,and ,really, you need to create safety for your clients, as well as your staff.  Then I got to thinking, well, how do you create safety for yourself? Then of course as anyone would do, I went down a rabbit hole of Google’s on ‘creating psychological safety paperwork’. They had this study commissioned, and I started reading that whole thing. It’s like, alright, this is a thesis. I just need to narrow it back down and think about creating safety for clients and for staff.  Can you talk a little bit about that?

Nikki:                Yeah.  I love to teach around and I do teach a lot around how it’s so important to create safety.  That you should create safety at the beginning of your meetings with people. You should create safety during the meetings with people and towards the end. There’s a lot of ways to do it, the reason to do it, the why behind it and also for yourself. I love that you brought up this idea around it for yourself.  We always come at things from our perspective, right? We’ve been talking about the different examples that we’ve given and how we misinterpret things, because we think somebody means something and then we mean something and it gets misinterpreted.  All this stuff that happens and a lot of times it’s because we’re uneasy. We’re more worried about what is everybody thinking about me, and most everybody else is thinking, what are you thinking about me?

Nikki:                They’re actually not thinking about you.   A lot of times I think, especially in the sales process is that people, they’ve missed this step of creating safety because they think, well, I know what we’re doing, and I know where we’re going, and I know what questions I’m going to ask, and I know what to do, and I just want to be the best version because I want this person to like me. I want this person to buy from me, but the person who’s showing up to that meeting also was thinking like, I don’t know what we’re going to do. I don’t know what I’m going to be asked. I don’t know if I like this person. I don’t know if I’m safe with this person, and so you have to create safety in order for them to start to be more revealing with you.  Until you feel safe, you don’t let your guard down.

Nikki:                You don’t. You’re not open to giving people, you know, candid information, especially if you’re asking or if the person’s asking for information that feels even a little revealing or vulnerable or the stuff that you tend to protect.  Whether it’s your financial situation or whether it’s your family history or whatever that could be, it’s super important to create safety for your client so that you can have a real conversation and not so you can get one over on them or anything like that. It’s just so that they can breathe easy and they can relax into the meeting and enjoy the experience and make a good decision for them. Now, same for your staff, right? If your staff is worried about doing it right or I’m following the exact procedure, or if they don’t have a procedure and they’re not sure what to do, they feel unsafe and then that comes across to the client as what could be confusion. It could be lacking in credibility or lacking in knowledge. It’s just a real breakdown in the relationship. So safety is such a key, crucial step, and I feel like a lot of people miss it.

Lara:                 It Could also be construed as a step or an escalation of hostility, meaning an adversarial relationship. I think about among teams, maybe not so much in the sales process. However, I have recently been getting a lot of linkedin messages, which were like, “how would you like to make $10,000 more a month?” And it’s like, well, right there, I’m defensive. No, because that’s not the way to sell to me. This is right. It just seems so archaic, you know. When I say I’m not interested, well great. “Well what’s the number one thing you’re working on right now.  It’s like, who are you, what is your name? Share that with? You know.  {Sarcastically} Well, let me tell you that one of my most vulnerable things that I’m trying to create right now is how to sell to some person I don’t even know. Yeah. Thank you. But no,

Nikki:                Yeah, they’re missing the safety stuff.

Lara:                 Yeah. Something funny happened, and I don’t know if I’ll leave this in the episode or not, but I kind of don’t know what to do about it.  I think I’m just going to reach out to her and call her.  Recently, the amazing Amanda Berlin had reached out to me on facebook just to check in, say, Hey, what you up to, you know?  It was an instant message, you know, and I must have done something. I think it was at the gym and I usually will put my phone in my shirt, which is not best thing to do. A couple days later I get another instant message and she said, “Hey, just checking, you gave me a thumbs down on that and then you waved at me. I don’t know if that was on purpose or you know”. I was like What? I have no idea how this happened.

Lara:                 She sent me a very genuine message, and somehow it got thumbs down and then a little while later a wave.  I have no idea how this happened, but I loved her response instead of going into…okay, well that’s weird. I’m just gonna let that go. That kind of made me feel like, no, I thought we had good rapport. I don’t know why she gave me the thumbs down…she reached back out to me and said, “What? Did you mean to do that? What was with the thumbs down in the wave?” I was able to say, “you know, of course I have no idea, hey, how’s it going? What are you up to?” But sometimes just bringing up uncomfortable stuff with other people like, hey, I don’t really know how I feel about that, or hey, how do you create safety for yourself in a situation like that?  I think Amanda did a great job.

Nikki:                Yeah.  I think what she did was brilliant in that you ask questions, you get curious. Instead of making an accusation, you ask the question like, “I’m not quite sure what you meant by this or did you mean to send this to me?”  I sometimes get messages from people that seem really out of left field, and then I’ll say, “oh, I’m just wondering, was this, was this message intended for me? I feel like maybe I missed a step here. Would you be willing to give me some more information?” I’m just asking questions now. Sometimes they’re like, hey, crazy lady, you asked for this, why are you not, you know, why don’t you know what it is? Then I’ve got to go back and rack my brain little bit and go I did? What’s going on? And figure it out.

Nikki:                And then maybe apologize if I missed a step. Then every once in a while, you know, people will say like, “Oh, I’m so sorry that message wasn’t meant for you. It was meant for somebody else”, or like in your case like that was an accident. I think to create safety for yourself, be willing to get curious and ask questions, because if the relationship is important for you, you’ve got to keep the rapport intact. You know, the other thing that I would say is, do something to manage your internal state. I love to talk about managing your internal state. I think it’s really important to do that.  You know, I teach some kind of strategy around it, but whatever it takes for you to feel really good about what you’re doing and what you’re saying, because even when you’re having a bad day, you’ve got to find a way to kind of get yourself back into the groove in order to keep going. Right? I think I even posted on social media this morning, don’t let a bad day convince you that you’re having a bad life. Right? We can get caught up in that, so get curious. I think when you get curious, the other person feels good about the way you approach them, and you stay open, and you’re kind of protecting yourself too, because you’re not having to get defensive. You’re waiting. You can wait to get defensive and make sure that there’s really a reason to be defensive.

Lara:                 I use curiosity with my clients all the time, because we are assuming judging and making expectations or having expectations in almost every interaction, because we don’t like the unknown. We like to be able to predict what’s going to happen, which gets right back to that. I love that. Creating safety by assuming a type of pre-frame that you can do going in.  You know, this is what we’re gonna do now.  We’re going to do it, and this is what we did.  Basically, pre-frame and then reframe at the end.

Nikki:                Pre-frame at the beginning, and then reframe at the end.  I even say in a pre-frame, tell people about how long it’s going to take, because that’s the other thing, right?  We’re all so packed with time and time constraints, and we all want more time and don’t have enough time. When you tell people at the beginning, here’s what we’re going to cover, this is about how long it’ll take. That creates safety, so they’re not wondering, ‘am I gonna get a lunch break, or are you going to just roll right into my next appointment?’ Now it’s going to be awkward if I have to interrupt you.  Just be really respectful in the pre-frame. Then definitely at the end, from a reframe, one of the questions I love to ask to bring a meeting to a close is, ‘was there anything that wasn’t covered that you were hoping that we would chat about?’ It’s really great to let the other person be able to say, ‘actually we never talked about this.’ Sometimes they feel uncomfortable bringing up whatever “this” is, and when you give them time and space, you’re creating safety again at the end.  Frankly it will move the relationship forward by asking that question.  Now they know, this person’s really paying attention to me, to having a relationship, and to whatever it is that we’re talking about, so that I get my questions answered. This isn’t just them getting what they want from me.

Lara:                 Yeah.  I think that if you are there, if you’re present and you’re really actively listening, people sense that.  People can tell if you’re checked out or not quite there. You know, if you’re checking your phone, or writing while they’re talking to you, or not making eye contact, that’s not helping in the safety department.  You’re kind of playing into that building of rapport.

Nikki:                Be willing to ask questions.

Lara:                 Yeah, so recently a couple of listeners have reached out to me, and it’s been a very similar theme. They are both dealing with “bosses”, one is a coworker who’s a leader, and then there’s one boss, that are very passive aggressive.  One of the first things that I had told them was to get curious and ask questions. You know, maybe they are having a bad day. Maybe you’re misreading the Qs, but that does get back to; we all have bad days, and that is going to color how we see things. If you have a “someone” who is being viewed as passive aggressive, how would you help the team members or someone on the salesforce, let’s say, to create safety when they are feeling like it is the other person.  What can they do outside of getting curious?  You know, another one I love is clarify and verify.  Just kind of restating what they said, and then verify it.  I think there was one of your modules where you talked about ignoring or pretending amnesia, selective amnesia. Can you talk a little bit about that and how that might play into…

Nikki:                Yeah. Selective Amnesia is an opportunity where, sometimes, in conversations and in relationships we need to have some uncomfortable conversation, which…{addressing Lara} you know, you’re the person who teaches people how to have these uncomfortable conversations and give them brilliant ways to kind of move through them… Now, when you’re done with the uncomfortable conversation, the next interaction that you have with that person you should act as if everything’s okay.  That’s where you get the selective amnesia. Sometimes you need to say something difficult, or you need to bring to somebody’s attention that what they just said is negative, not really supportive of the team, and it feels.. you know.  “I’m just wondering if there’s a way that you can revise that or how can you come with solutions and not just problems.”  We’ve all had that, and then when you see the person again, you should treat them as if you have the best relationship.  A lot of times it will show them that you’re not holding a grudge and that (your relationship) is okay.  I’m okay with you, so please be okay with me.

Nikki:                Most of the time people kind of just go along with it, and they’ll be like, “Oh well. We’re okay now”.  They’ll step up to the plate a little bit. They’ll be willing to give you more grace, because they feel like maybe you gave them grace too. Sometimes, even people who are being passive aggressive, maybe they realize it and maybe they don’t, when it’s pointed out to them, they might feel pinched in some way. They might feel embarrassed.  They might feel ashamed, so you want to send the message that, “hey, it’s totally fine”. We don’t need to dwell on it.  We can just move on from here.  That’s what selective amnesia is about.

Lara:                 I love that. I love that, because sometimes it gets more uncomfortable. It’s the elephant in the room, you know.  Once you kind of show them that you’re ready to move on or you’re ready to just leave it behind, you can have a different relationship going forward, because we all make mistakes. We all accidentally thumbs down and wave at someone every once in a while, and you have no idea why that happened.

Nikki:                Yeah. Oh, I love that you’re willing to share that story.

Lara:                 I tell Ya. I’m going to have to reach out to her and say, “okay, so not only did I process what happened on the podcast with Nikki, I just wanted to reach out. I certainly did not mean to do that”.  I like that kind of teaching people how to talk to you. It gets back to this other family story of ours.  We have Aunt Kathy, and Aunt Kathy couldn’t just ask for a cup of coffee. She would say, “Lara, you make the best coffee. I love your coffee. I was just telling Marty the other day that your coffee is the best”.  I would respond, “Kathy would you like a cup of coffee? You can just ask”.

Lara:                 You sometimes have to teach people how to talk to you.  It just took a couple of times of going, “Yeah. Thank you. Thank you. That’s wonderful”. Then not offering coffee, and then a little later saying, “Kathy, would you like me to get you a cup of coffee?”  Just kind of teaching her how to talk to me, because where she came from, that is the way that you get stuff done, and it’s sideways. Instead, it would be like, “here we go again with aunt Kathy and this cup of coffee”. Instead of teaching her and being clear around how you want that to go and just letting it go unaddressed, because you only see Aunt Kathy at holidays, so get a cup of coffee when she raves about your cup of coffee, you know.

Nikki:                I love that. It makes me think of the line from the Jerry Jerry Mcguire movie where he says, “help me help you, help me help you”.  Please help people help themselves, really. Right! Sometimes we have to help people help themselves, and teach people how to communicate, and teach people how to ask and do it in a really graceful, gracious way without shaming or embarrassing, and they will remember you for it and love you for it.

Lara:                 Yeah.  I also love “backsies”, because you can totally get it back. You can go back in and say, “You know what? I think I was rude yesterday.” Then not make any excuses for why you were rude. You could also say, “Hey, I could have asked this in a different way or I could have approached this in a different way”. Apologize for it, and say how you’re going to move on. A lot of times people will punish themselves for behaving in a way that was out of alignment with their character, and then kind of keep the shame around to re-shame themselves every once in a while and punish instead of just addressing it and moving on. People in general want to give you more of a break than they give themselves. Right!

Lara:                 I hope people aren’t afraid to do that. If you hear any of the tips that we give you today or in any of the episodes and you realize, “Oh man, I could’ve used that three weeks ago in this conversation with Bobby”. You know what? It’s not too late. Practice it. You can go back and use the skills that you’re learning today, and I love so many of these. I just kind of want to recap a couple of them. The pre-framing I love.  This is one that I tried to implement. I’m actually practicing it, because sometimes I know what I know and I’m going 10 or 12 steps down the road, and I have to slow down pre-frame and then re-frame afterwards. “Okay, this is what happened, this is where we’re going to”, and I love that other question.

Lara:                 “Was there anything that we didn’t cover that you’d like to go over, or was there anything that you felt was missed or a question that you’d like to ask?” I love this one, and of course curiosity.  Curiosity can be used in almost anything and in any way to kind of bond with people. I mean we’re all curious creatures, and we don’t like the unknown. The more curiosity, the more we can dive into it and maybe reveal the truth of what was really going on, because we might not have understood.  There might not have been a “thumbs down” intention it’s important to be flexible. I like the fact that NLP helps you be flexible in the way that you communicate by understanding who you’re talking to and how they want to be heard or how they want to communicate, because we all are very different. How do you accommodate all the different styles, if you’re in a group setting or a meeting?

Nikki:                So my kind of rule is I tend to adjust to the speaker at the time, so you try to adjust your style to the person who you’re, who’s actually speaking or if it’s more appropriate, you adjust to the person that you need to have the most rapport with in the room.

Lara:                 Interesting, yea.

Nikki:                Sometimes that could be in a sales situation. It might be the buyer and maybe not the speaker. In other situations it could be the person who has the most influence or it could just be the person who you want to have better rapport with. So if it’s just a casual conversation with friends or family, who do you want to be in deeper rapport with? Adjust to that person and see what happens.

Lara:                 I like it. I want to send the listeners off with some homework. They’re like, “what? No, I’m on the treadmill, leave me alone. I’m not doing it.” Haha. In your next conversation when you’re talking to anyone, pick up on some of the cues and the way that they communicate. I’ve used this example before, I’m a very visual person so I tend to speak in visual terms and I use descriptors and I love stories. What are some other ways that you know of, that people like to communicate and some of the tips on how they can kind of pick up on that?

Nikki:                Well, one of the things that you can pay attention to you when you’re having a face to face conversation with somebody is how may you use hand gestures. So if there’s somebody who talks with their hands and they have really big hand gestures, you might want to move your hands a little bit when you’re talking because otherwise they might see you as being really stiff and or serious or it’s like ‘knock, knock’. Are you alive? Are you in there right now? On the flip side of it, if you are a big hand talker and you’re talking to somebody who doesn’t have a lot of hand gestures, you need to tone yourself down because it can be super distracting for somebody who’s a high visual learner and who doesn’t use a lot of hand gestures for you to be gesturing your hands wildly. You can actually kind of mess up their picture so it’s very distracting to them, so pay attention to hand gestures. That’s one way to really look for ways to get into rapport with somebody and it’s something that you can easily pick up on and adjust to.

Lara:                 I love that. Nikki this has been so much fun. That was a quick interview. I always love talking to you and I really appreciate your brilliance on this matter. I know the listeners have gotten a lot from it and they can put it into action right now, so thank you so much for coming on back.

Nikki:                Thank you for having me.

Lara:                 And before you go, can you tell the listeners where they can find out more about you and you have a special gift that you’d like to give our listeners?

Nikki:                Yes. Thank you. So I always love to give a gift when I go on a podcast, so I have one specific for your audience. It’s an ebook on closing the sale so it goes a little bit deeper into some of the language, some of the pre framing, how to move people through the selling process, the closing of the sale and so to find that, and this is also how they can find more information about me,  go to my website, your sales and then hit slash d, h, p, that stands for difficult happens podcast. So your  salesmaven dot com slash DHP and you’ll be able to download that as my gift.

Lara:                 That’s wonderful. Listeners take advantage of this because this will probably lead you to her other two books, which I absolutely love. I have both of them buying signals and is it selling with grace?

Nikki:                influencing with grace, six word lessons on influencing with grace.

Lara:                 Yes, I love those books. Anyway, Nikki, I can’t wait to see you next time because I’m going to have you back again and this has been so much fun. Thank you.

Nikki:                Thank you.


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