Use Mirroring to Connect with Others

Mirroring a conversation partner’s gestures, expressions, posture, vocal pitch or tone can reflect rapport or a desire to please, research shows.

Most people do it unconsciously, but mirroring can help you create powerful connections with others. This behaviour often causes others to like and trust you more. Professional networkers, negotiators and salespeople say they use mirroring to help them engage more deeply in a conversation and understand the person they’re talking with.

Deliberately trying to mirror another person’s behaviour without being truly engaged can backfire, however. Others are likely to notice and see it as an attempt at manipulation.

A job candidate might copy an interviewer’s posture and speaking style in an attempt to make a good impression, for example. Sometimes this is obvious to the interviewer, and sometimes it isn’t, depending on the job candidate’s skill and subtlety, research shows.

It is wiser to begin to feel a sense of connection with an interviewer before trying to mirror their behaviour. You should already be showing genuine openness and interest via nonverbal cues, facing the interviewer squarely and making frequent eye contact. Also, stick to behaviours that come naturally.

Skilled salespeople, negotiators and coaches say mirroring listeners’ behaviour can be a helpful tool for immersing oneself quickly and deeply in conversation. Executive coach Nancy Capistran often mirrors clients’ gestures and posture during coaching sessions as an expression of her involvement and interest, she says. “I meet them where they are. It’s automatic for me,” says Ms. Capistran. “It really helps build rapport.”

When a senior executive she was coaching recently began talking about a tough problem he was wrestling with, he leaned forward and put his elbow on the desk. She did the same thing without planning it, she says. Her nonverbal cues “let him know that I was in the trenches with him and we could figure it out together,” she says. The executive relaxed and began talking openly, Ms. Capistran says. “You can get to the core of issues so much more quickly” when you understand the power of body language, she says. He reads her nonverbal cues as a sign of engagement and interest.

 “It’s not something you do to someone. It’s something you do with someone,” says David Hoffeld, author of “The Science of Selling.” He adds, “The very process of mirroring will help you keep your focus where it should be—on the other person.”

Edited from Wall Street Journal -


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