To Mirror or Not to Mirror?

Forget conventional mirroring techniques. Tessa Stowe proposes an alternative to mirroring that is more authentic and effective.

Reflections in a mirror

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.

About the Author

(c) Tessa Stowe, Sales Conversation. Tessa Stowe teaches coaches, service professionals and recovering salespeople 10 simple steps to turn conversations into clients without being sales-y or pushy.

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