Body language in business: Part 3 - Mirroring
Everyone shares different messages through their body language. It is a great way to show how we feel and how we are experiencing an interaction. While being able to read body language and control your own is important, there is one more body language trick that can play an essential role in developing workplace relationships–mirroring. In this article, we will discuss mirroring and how you can use it to strengthen bonds with others.
Mirroring — as defined by the American Psychological Association — is the act of imitating someone else’s body language or verbal cues. Although it might sound a little strange, it is actually a very effective way to enhance communication between you and another person.
While you won’t want to mirror their every action, subtly mirroring someone else’s body language and communication methods can help you to establish a deeper bond with them every time you do it.
Why is mirroring body language important?
As a practice, mirroring is an act that allows us to show that we are relating to someone on a subconscious level. It means being relaxed when they are relaxed or being vibrant and engaged when they are. This action is actually deeply rooted in our communication as a species and helps us to get on the same level and establish rapport with others.
When used effectively, mirroring can help us to seem more empathetic, allow us to establish trust or just make someone feel more comfortable around us. Mirroring is one more powerful tool in any great communicator’s handbook.
How to mirror someone’s body language and build strong bonds
Before you can start mirroring someone’s body language effectively, it is essential to focus on a series of steps that will enable you to do it correctly. While you can certainly wing it with good results, to get the most out of mirroring, you will want to focus on turning it into a process. The more you do it, the better you will get at adapting to different people.
Pay attention to their actions: To mirror someone, you must start with one simple step–observation. Building your awareness is a great place to start see. Before you can start mirroring another person’s actions, you need to know what those actions are. While you communicate with someone, take note of everything they are doing. Look at the way they hold their body, how close they are, what facial expressions they are using and how their hands move.
You will not want to outright stare at the individual, but subtly pay attention while they talk. Look for signs that seem to convey emotions like joy, comfort, discomfort or even anger. It can even help to observe them while they talk to someone else if you can do it subtly. This will show you differences in how they react to others.
Take note of trends: As you observe the people you talk to, start to look for trends. Most people have body language that can be seen on repeat depending on the circumstances. Paying attention to these trends can help you to interpret their subconscious signals immediately regardless of the topic of conversation.
There are many different trends that you might see–tension as opposed to a relaxed state, smiling or a flat expression, and even varying levels of eye contact or hand gestures. These actions start to tell a story over time and can be applied to different circumstances, too, allowing you to really see how someone feels beneath the surface.
Subtly mirror their body language: Now that you know how they present themselves and what this information means, you can start to use it to establish that stronger communication connection. Focus on mirroring their body language back to them when it is appropriate to do so.
When doing this, you will likely want to start small. Smile when they smile, laugh along with them or frown when they are upset. These affirming signals can help them to feel like you are on the same page and like you understand them–because you do. And as you better understand them, start to incorporate some of the more specific mirroring styles to match their energy levels.
Focus on the effects: The best way to determine how effective your mirroring is always going to be to observe how well it works. Does mirroring the individual make them seem more engaged, or are they looking at you funny? When used correctly, mirroring should bring you closer.
Understanding how people feel about you is essential to mirror them effectively see. If you notice that the person is unresponsive or seems to be pulling away, consider dialing it back. Remember, subtlety is the key to effective mirroring. You don’t want to copy them–you just want to get on their level.
Adapt as needed: Adapting to the effects of mirroring that you have perceived can help you to become much better at it and use it more effectively. Keep an eye out for indications of what is working and what isn’t—and focus on actions that seem to create a deeper sense of comfort. When people feel like you relate to them, they are likely to be more open to working with you on projects, asking you for help and even recommending you for promotions.
How we communicate says a lot about us, and mirroring is a communication hack that helps create a deeper sense of trust and understanding. As you subtly meet the actions of the people around you, don’t be surprised to find yourself experiencing deeper and more meaningful bonds. Body language is a powerful communication tool—and businesses thrive when people connect.