If you want to learn how to build rapport, the mirroring technique is perhaps the most effective way to do so. Mirroring gives you a fair glimpse of how our unconscious minds work below our level of awareness. It shows you how we make decisions and judgments about somebody without knowing why.
Mirroring, as the name suggests, simply means copying another person to build rapport with them. Common mirroring techniques include:
- Copying the other person’s body language gestures
- Copying their voice tone
- Copying their words and catchphrases
Mirroring has numerous benefits provided you do it properly. It’s the best way to build rapport with strangers or people you’ve just met. It’s indispensable when it comes to business meetings and negotiations.
Do you know why we feel hatred, fear, and disgust towards spiders or centipedes but feel okay around chimpanzees or other mammals?
One reason could be that other mammals look much more similar to us than insects.
We’re hard-wired to like and feel comfortable around other humans. This has an evolutionary advantage because the closer we live with other human beings, the higher are our chances of survival.
So the more an organism looks different from humans, the more we feel uncomfortable around it. Our unconscious mind lets us build rapport and feel comfortable only around those who resemble us or share some similarity with us.
This is why you like it when you meet a person belonging to your own cultural or ethnic background in a foreign country. It’s also why you always choose to sit with the people you know when you enter a room full of strangers.
This fundamental feature of human psychology is what the mirroring technique exploits.
Mirroring behaviour: How mirroring is done
In mirroring, we try to convince the subconscious mind of the other person that we’re similar to them. If it works, the person feels comfortable around us and may even start to trust and like us without knowing why.
Next time you’ve built rapport and are engaged in a comfortable conversation with someone, I want you to notice the body language of both of you.
You’ll notice you have taken up similar gestures or gestures that are mirror images of each other. Your hands may be resting at the same position or your legs might be crossed in exactly the same way.
All this happens unconsciously as we get comfortable around someone. But this phenomenon can also occur in reverse, as in mirroring.
In mirroring, we copy the gestures of the other person consciously with the goal of building rapport and making them feel comfortable around us, even if they didn’t feel that way initially.
While you’re trying to mirror someone during a conversation, you can’t just abruptly copy their gestures because they could become suspicious. You’re communicating with their unconscious mind so you have to carry it out slow enough to make it unnoticeable to their conscious mind.
Slowly, copy their gestures one by one until your gestures look 100% similar to theirs. If they change a gesture, you also follow along, but with some time delay so as to make it unnoticeable.
If you want to make sure that your mirroring was successful and the other person is feeling comfortable, you can always test it by assuming a new gesture. If the person unconsciously copies you, then your mirroring attempt has been successful.
In addition to copying gestures, you can also convince the subconscious mind of the person of your similarity by using the same tone of voice or by talking about common interests.
Even repeating the words the person says can lead to successful mirroring. For instance, if they say “yes” you say “yes”, they say “no” you say “no”, they say “the food is great” you say “the food is great”.
The key is to do it very moderately and occasionally, without making the other person suspicious.
Do you remember how you smiled and laughed when someone first showed you that “Talking Tom” app in which this cat repeats the exact words you say to it?
The app became very famous (it has over 23 million Facebook fans) and there are many versions of it available now- ‘Talking this’ and ‘Talking that’. All this is nothing but the magic of mirroring.
Imagine all the benefits you can gain by making someone feel comfortable around you. If you’re a salesperson, the chances of making a sale can increase dramatically if the potential customer feels comfortable around you.
In a business setting, the success of your negotiation can depend to a great extent on how comfortable you can make the other person feel. Same goes for relationships. If you can’t make the other person comfortable, you’ve lost them already.
You should use the mirroring technique carefully and only when needed.
Although mirroring in itself is a manipulation technique, I suggest you only use it in a win-win situation where you know what you’re doing is good for both of you. Or at least make sure the other person is not harmed in any way.
Hi, I’m Hanan Parvez (MBA, MA Psychology), founder and author of PsychMechanics. I’ve written 280+ articles and published one book about human behavior on this blog that has garnered over 3 million views. PsychMechanics has been featured in Forbes, Business Insider, Reader’s Digest, and Entrepreneur.