Ask Dr. Tracy

The Amazing Power of "Mirroring"

There's nothing worse than being with someone and knowing you're just not "connecting." The technique of "Mirroring" can solve that problem. It's so easy, though, and sounds so simplistic, that you'll never believe how effective it is until you understand the principle behind it.

The Principle Behind Mirroring

The principle is a fact of human nature: people tend to trust other people who are like them and mistrust people who seem different. That is why there is so much prejudice in the world. Ancient echoes, perhaps, of when our own tribe meant safety and a strange face meant danger.

Most of us try hard to rise above this tendency, but if you've just met someone you really like, should you force them to work hard at trusting you or should you make it easy for them? Trust is the most important basis for a good relationship. If you use mirroring, the person you're attracted to will feel instinctively that you can be trusted.

Actually, we employ mirroring in business almost without thinking about it: only a Kamikazi salesperson would walk into IBM wearing a brown suit; you just know you'll do better at "Big Blue" if you wear a blue suit. What you're doing is a simple form of mirroring. When you mirror the blue-suiters at IBM, their first instinct is to trust you.

The ancient instincts that cause us to trust or not trust start to relax if the stranger is dressed like the rest of the tribe, but these instincts aren't fully satisfied until they get a sense of the stranger's purpose (a friendly visit or a murderous raid).

In modern society, these instincts are still pretty good at sensing whether or not someone's "in sync" with you. If not, alarms go off and barriers go up at some deep subconcious level. If the person appears to be in sync, you sense a vague but important state of agreement with them, barriers fall, and you "connect."

How Mirroring Works

How do you make someone feel you're "in sync" with them? By mirroring not just what they're wearing, but also their body posture and rhythms. For example, say you're having coffee with someone and they're sitting forward, talking intensely about something. You can gain instant rapport if you mirror them by also sitting forward and listening intensely.

On the other hand, if you keep leaning back with one arm over the back of your chair, your "body language" signals that you disagree that this is an intense subject. Or that you're not really listening or you don't care. And their instinct, like some primal computer that can't be turned off, starts to beep, "Do not trust. Not a friend. Possible enemy." All because you feel relaxed, (or perhaps because it's your "style" to always look cool and relaxed).

And the truth of the situation? Ok, perhaps you really were feeling mellow and relaxed at the beginning of the conver- sation. But if this person's a true friend, and you're really listening, how could you not share their intensity? How could you not be drawn out of your relaxed state and lean forward, look at your friend seriously and nod your agreement and support?

While the blue suit at IBM example sounds pretty superficial at first, this last example hints at the true depth and validity of mirroring.

Why Mirroring Works

Have you ever noticed that couples who've been together happily for a long time tend to dress alike and even adopt the same body posture? They mirror each other without even thinking about it because they're totally in "in sync" and deeply in love. What's amazing is that the reverse happens just as often -- mirroring helps create true love. Here's why it works so well:

  1. You can't mirror someone if you're self-absorbed. You must pay attention to the other person and observe them carefully (an element missing in many people's courtship styles).

  2. If you mirror someone effectively, they can't help feeling "in sync" with you, and they will instinctively trust you -- the first, giant step toward love.

  3. While mirroring and getting "in sync" with someone may start off as calculated and can even be intended as manipulation, being "in sync" can't be faked for long; it soon becomes true.

Ways Of Mirroring

Like wearing a blue suit to IBM, if you're attracted to someone who wears jeans and you want them to trust you right off, wear jeans. On the other hand, if you know she's a dressy lady and you want her, don't show up in jeans. Dress to kill and she'll be pleased that you both have the same good taste; she'll feel comfortable and "in sync" with you before you even say "hello."

Now that you understand how and why mirroring works, you can apply it to all aspects of your interaction with someone. Mirroring's amazing power for creating rapport goes way beyond what you wear. Use body language to validate and agree with someone, by standing or sitting like they do.

Mirror them by talking in the same rhythm. If you detect that they have a particularly strong belief system and it's not philosophically objectionable to you, reflect some of those values in what you say to the person. You will create a subliminal but compelling state of agreement with them. Without really understanding why, they will get this strong feeling that you are someone who is attentive, really on their wavelength, and delightful to be with.

Of course, once you've "connected" with someone, mirroring doesn't mean you have to continue following them. Once you're both "in sync," you'll find yourself leading as often as you're following.

Related Keywords: Love Strategies, Making Love Grow, Keeping Love Alive

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