Mirroring in body language means that one person mimics the movements of the other person while they are in dialog.
Usually mirroring happens unconsciously, but if you are paying attention and looking for it, you can gain some important insights whether you are in discussions with an employee, negotiating a big deal, or even trying to get through to your kids.
In general, when a person mirrors the body language of another individual, it means there is a positive bond between the two people, at least on the topic currently being discussed. If you are chatting with another person and his hands are folded on the table, see if yours are folded as well.
According to George MacDonald in his blog for coaches, mirroring and matching are techniques widely used in Neuro-Linguistic Programming, or NLP, an interpersonal communication model created by Richard Bandler and John Grinder in the 1970s.
The idea is that people feel most comfortable around those people who are like them – they feel that their point of view is understood. The more someone believes you are like them, the easier it is to develop trust and rapport at the unconscious level.
If you spot mirroring behavior, one logical question is who started the chain and who is doing the mimicking. Actually, it does not matter who initiated the gesture, the mere fact you have both assumed a certain position means there is a good chemistry going on, and you have the opportunity to use that knowledge to enhance the conversation.
You can build greater rapport with another person by reflecting back some of the body language the person is showing. The huge precaution here is not to overdo the reflections so they become obvious. If you go too far, you will put the other person off with clumsy imitations. Simply lean in the direction of the gestures you are seeing, and you will deepen trust with the other person.
If the person sitting across from you just crossed her legs, don’t immediately cross yours like it is a mechanical thing. However, through the natural gaps in the conversation and inevitable changes in posture, if you end up with your legs crossed, that is usually a helpful sign for the conversation. Just do not try to force gestures, let them happen naturally, but do pay attention for similarities in body position when you see them.
When sending body language signals, it is essential to be authentic. Trying to put on a show at any point will usually label you as a phony and trust will be broken.
Mirroring creates synchronicity
When we assume the body position of another person, it becomes easier to get on the same wavelength and communicate in constructive ways. We listen better to people who appear similar to us. The listening leads to more understanding, which becomes the basis for trust to grow.
This is a part in a series of articles on “Body Language” by Bob Whipple “The Trust Ambassador.”
This summer, Nik Wallenda walked across Niagara Falls on a cable. Exactly why he did that is lost on me, but that doesn’t matter. He seems to have a pretty high tolerance for risk. For each of us, it is a risky world. We each know one thing for certain: “life is terminal.” Nobody gets out alive.
Thinking about the various types of risk has occupied my mind for several years. For example, since I make my living helping groups understand how to build more trust, the relationship between trust and risk is important to me. Whenever you trust another person, it implies some risk. That is actually one way to define trust: setting aside the fear of being let down by another person. I find it helpful to embrace the occasional betrayal of trust as a trigger point to build even higher trust in the future. That requires some work, but it is well worth it.
Another aspect of risk is the inherent risk of avoiding an action out of fear. The risk is that we are shutting the door on a potential learning experience. We learn at least as much from our failures as we do from our successes, so by tolerating the risk enough to try things that may be scary, we can grow. It is only a matter of degree that we will choose whether to risk something.
For example, I may be walking across a country road and accepting the risk that a car might come along and hit me. That risk is pretty small since there is almost no traffic, and I would hear a car coming long before being struck. By contrast, I may be on foot crossing seven lanes of traffic going 70 mph. That would simply be foolhardy.
The smart thing to do is what our parents taught us. Try to avoid the risks in life, but recognize there is risk in taking (or even in avoiding) any action. We need to learn to take intelligent risks and make sure if things go wrong that we document what was learned by the experience.
Mitigating risk is not all that complex. We just need to identify potential problems and create plans to avoid disaster in the event they occur. Most of us do those things instinctively.
Here are seven tips for dealing with risk in business.
1. Recognize the element of risk in all activities and in trusting others.
2. Think through each potential action from a risk standpoint. What can go wrong?
3. Keep in mind the risk of being too conservative with actions: the risk of doing nothing may be the most costly risk.
4. Prioritize risks by Identifying the most likely scenarios.
5. Identify potential work-around plans for serious consequences.
6. Anticipate when things are starting to go wrong and intervene early.
7. Admit any mistakes, learn from them quickly, then move on.
If we approach risk from the opportunity perspective, we can use it as a growing experience rather than debilitating force in our lives.