Mirroring can seem like a funny activity until it reminds you of that annoying kid growing up who repeated your every word and action; it then moved from funny to just plain annoying.
- Why mirror anyone, other than to be the next youtube sensation?
- Why do sales professionals, psychologists, business leaders, and pick up artists tout the power of mirroring?
Because it works.
When it’s done right, research consistently verifies the power that is mirroring. Those that employ this technique make more money, get more promotions, and are held in a higher esteem by anyone their communicating with.
Here are just two examples
- Waiters and Waitresses received higher tips (Van Baaren, Mimicry for money; behavioral consequences of imitation. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 2003)
- Sales professionals achieve greater sales and are more liked than their competition. (Jacob, 2011)
What is mirroring? It’s the subtle and almost imperceivable art of adopting the other person’s verbal and physical behaviors, and general attitudes. When done correctly, it builds rapport, trust, and goodwill. It’s something that occurs naturally between close friends; they adopt the sayings, traits, and quirks of each other.
Here’s how to mirror correctly.
Initially, don’t do any physical mirroring, but do vocal mirroring.
Be engaged, attentive, and demonstrate a thorough knowledge and understanding of whatever the topic. You’re building trust and rapport. To do this:
- Square your shoulders to theirs; in other words, face them directly.
- Maintain good eye contact.
- Match their speaking in pace; if they talk very rapidly, talk faster. If they speak very slowly, slow down your speaking.
- Match their use of words; if they use very simple words, so should you. If they use four-syllable words, you should also.
- When appropriate, when they ask you a question, repeat the question. It shows that you’re listening and understand.
- You should nod when discussing essential points. You don’t want to be a human bobble-head, but you do want to show enthusiasm and comprehension.
Now, on to the more subtle nuances of mirroring. We’ll remain on the topic of voice. If they speak very loudly, speak louder than you are. Never match them. It could be that they’re hard of hearing and will appreciate your added volume. However, if they are merely excitable by nature, and you match their volume, this could be viewed as a sign of aggression. Always go just a few steps below their level.
Be careful when using physical mirroring. Never mirror negative physical gestures.
- If they cross their arms, don’t cross yours.
- If they look away, often breaking eye contact, don’t do the same.
- If they turn their body away from yours, stay squared with them.
Remember, mirroring must be imperceivable; don’t follow their physical mannerisms immediately. Wait, and do it several minutes later.
If you’re sitting with a desk between the two of you, and they lean in onto the desk, you should also. If you’re sitting chair to chair, facing one another, and they cross their legs, you should too.
The use of hand gestures is a bit more complicated. If you’re speaking with someone who uses almost none, don’t use them. Conversely, if you’re speaking with a person who uses them emphatically with every point, use more hand gestures, but again, don’t match them as this may also seem a sign of aggression. I worked with a client who used a lot of hand gestures for emphasis, and women, in particular, found this to be threatening. Use more hand gestures, but go a few levels below the person with whom you’re speaking.
Remember, the point is genuine connection.
Mirroring is highly effective when done correctly. Try it out. When you meet a new person, start with the vocal. Next, move onto the subtle physical. You’ll be amazed at how well this works, and it’s fantastically fun too!