To Mirror Or Not To Mirror?
By: Tessa Stowe
There are a number of courses available that teach you how
to mirror body language in others and how to understand and mirror
people's styles. They suggest that if the person you're talking with
crosses their arms, you should too. They also suggest you match the
other person's voice tone, pacing, and inflections and do as much as
you can to be like them. These techniques are all focused on
mirroring and reflecting in order to help you build instant rapport.
I propose, however, that instead of building rapport, these mirroring
techniques can destroy it. They can also destroy your credibility and
trust. Why is that?
If you are focusing on mirroring someone's body language or style,
then you are obviously not focusing on them. Instead, you're keeping
the focus on you, e.g. how you are sitting, how you are talking. It's
all about you and not them. The more you focus on you, the more the
person you're mirroring will feel it and subsequently, no rapport
will be established.
If you are focusing on mirroring, your listening skills will also be
impacted. Try mirroring someone's body language while actively
listening and you'll see it's impossible to do both at the same time.
In fact, you'll not be very effective at either.
People will intuitively pick up if you are mirroring them and will
know you're not being authentic. If you're using mirroring as a
"technique" to build rapport, chances are high that the person you're
talking with will intuitively know that you are using a "technique"
on them. They will also conclude you are not authentic, can't be
trusted and are probably trying to manipulate them. Obviously all
rapport is lost in this situation.
If you have decided a person projects a certain style then
effectively you have "judged" that person and put them in a box.
Hence, when you have a conversation with them, you will bring your
judgments along for the ride. All of your listening will be filtered
through your judgments, so you will not really hear what is being
said. People will intuitively pick up on the fact that you have
judged them and this will negatively impact the flow of the
conversation and will therefore negatively impact rapport.
Forget about consciously mirroring. Instead, come to a conversation
with no judgments and only with the intention of helping your
potential client. You will then find that very quickly, without you
consciously doing ANYTHING, you will naturally start to mirror their
body language and style. When you have reached the point of
subconsciously mirroring someone, you will know that you are in rapport.
I recommend that from time to time you briefly become the observer (I
say briefly so you do not lose the flow and connection) in a
conversation. Observe your own body language and that of the person
to whom you're talking. Also observe the way you are talking. You'll
probably observe that mirroring is happening without conscious
effort. When you are mirroring without trying, you are in authentic rapport.
© 2007, Tessa Stowe, Sales Conversation. Reprint permission
granted so long as by-line and article are included and all links are
Tessa Stowe teaches coaches, service professionals and recovering
salespeople 10 simple steps to turn conversations into clients
without being sales-y or pushy. Her FREE monthly Sales Conversation
newsletter is full of tips on how to sell your services by just being
yourself. Sign up now at http://www.salesconversation.com.