Mirroring is when one person mimics another person’s behavior. Mirroring tends to create rapport or increased liking. It is typically focused on body language, like mimicking the person’s arm or leg positions, but it can also extend to ideas and interests. This page will link to various research on mirroring, but also provide you with ideas of how you can tactfully apply mirroring in your persuasive or conversational situations.
Examples Of Mirroring (Studies)
- Waitresses who mirrored customers received more tips.
- Students agreed to help write an essay for another student because the other student mirrored.
- Sales representatives sell more when they mirror. (Though they only used four clerks in the study.)
Ways To Mirror
- Mirror posture and body language. If the person crosses their arms, moves their legs, or sits in a certain way, try mimicking the overall posture they have. Is it laid back? Is it tense or focused?
- Copy the mood of the person. If someone if grumpy, sullen, or excited, copy their mood. One way to do this is to ask them why they feel that way. Once you figure this out, relate that experience to a time when you felt that way. Method actors and trial attorneys use this technique to help them get into a character. It is called substitution. Try copying their facial expressions.
- Display similar preferences to the person. Not everything you like and dislike will match the person you are speaking to. But you can focus on the preferences that align with them. For example, you both might like different sports, but you both enjoy collecting jerseys for your respective sport. Preferences can come in the form of sports, entertainment, books, foods, clothes, or hobbies.
- Similarly to matching preferences is matching the ideas a person has. Do they believe in a similar political system of ideology? Do they want similar things in their career? Mirror their ideas by demonstrating through actions, stories, comments, and questions that you hold similar beliefs.
- Try mirroring the person’s rate of speech.
- Strategic mirroring is a very effective tool for covering up your schemes. If you are trying to avoid giving up information about yourself, copying the other person will make it harder for them to learn anything useful about you. You can also follow the other person’s strategic moves and gather information about them as you follow.
- Mirroring can also be a weapon. Since people often project their issues onto others, you can tell what hurts a person by paying attention to how they insult other people. When they insult you, mirror their own insults back to them. Experiencing a similar attack helps people learn that they have been hurtful and that their behavior isn’t acceptable.
Mirroring if done correctly increases liking by making people think you are similar. But if mirroring is done poorly, it can make people nervous. There are many reasons for this but one is that mirroring is a technique used by narcissists. Narcissists use mirroring during the love bombing process to ‘addict’ you to them. They also use it to gather information about you for later use. In other words, mirroring can make people feel like they are experiencing a sort of pre-predatory behavior.
Avoid this by sparsely mirroring people. Switch between their ideas, posture, words, and tone. Find authentic ways where you are similar to a person. Mirroring will happen naturally if you focus on this.
Another way to avoid creepy mirroring is to practice listening. Everyone has different fears and desires. If you listen carefully, you can learn the fears and desires that the person has. Mirror those fears and build up their desires. One positive comment about a trait that they are trying to develop, or one admission about how you share a similar weakness can be worth hundreds of meaningless instances of posture mirroring. Ask yourself, what is the largest bang for buck I can get with my mirroring?
Further resources: The Chameleon Effect. Mirroring People The New Science of How We Connect With Others.