Let us give you an example of just how potent effective mirroring can be. Mr.K was in New York recently, and he wanted to relax, so he went to Central Park. K walked over and sat on a bench to watch what was going on. Pretty soon, K noticed this guy sitting across from me. And he just began to mirror him. (Once you get in the habit, it’s tough to stop). K mirrored him exactly. K was sitting the way he is, breathing the way he is, doing the same thing with his feet. He starts throwing bread crumbs to the birds. K also started throwing bread crumbs to the birds. He’s swaying his head a little. K started swaying his head a little. Then he glances up, and K glanced up. He looks at K, and K looks at him.
Before too long he gets up and walks over to me. No surprise. K was totally attractive to him because he thinks K was just like him. K and the other person say J started talking, and K mirroring his tone of voice and his phraseology exactly. After a few moments he says to K, “It’s obvious you’re a very intelligent man”. Why does he believe that? Because he feels K is just like him. Before too long he’s telling K he feels he knows me better than people he’s known for twenty five years. And not long after that, he offers me a job.
Some people talk about mirroring get all uptight and say that’s unnatural, it’s manipulative. But the idea that it’s unnatural is absurd. Anytime you are in rapport with someone, it’s natural for you to begin mirroring him in physiology, tonality, and so on. In seminars usually someone present is upset about mirroring. But experts opine that if he will look over at the person next to him, he will notice that they are sitting just the same way. They both have their legs crossed and their heads are tilted at the same angle, and so forth. Invariably they are mirroring each other because they have developed rapport over the course of several days. Now asking one how he feels about the other, and he will say, Great or Close. Then the other person changes his physiology and sit in completely different posture. When the first person is asked how he feels about the other person now, the answer is “Not as close or Distant” or “I’m not sure anymore”.
So mirroring is a natural process of rapport. You already do it unconsciously. We are learning what we do – the recipes for rapport – so that we can create that result anytime we wish, with anyone, even a stranger. As for mirroring being manipulative, tell me which requires more conscious effort, just to speak at your normal pace and tone or truly to find out how another person communicates best and to enter his world? And remember that while you’re mirroring another person, you truly experience how he feels. If your intent were to manipulate someone else, once you begin to mirror, you in fact begin to feel more like him so the question becomes, Are you willing to manipulate yourself?
You’re not giving up your identity when you mirror another person. You are not exclusively a visual, auditory, or kinesthetic person. We should all strive to be flexible. Mirroring simply creates a commonality of physiology that underscores our shared humanity. When I’m mirroring I can get the benefits of another person’s feelings and experiences and thoughts. That’s a powerful, beautiful and empowering lesson to experience about how to share the world with other human beings.