The Psychology of mirroring
Mirroring is the unconscious act of mimicking another person’s behaviour, copying gestures and body language. This can help improve and encourage rapport between two people and suggests that both people are like minded and similar. We tend to trust people who we think are similar to ourselves.
In general, the more empathy a person possesses, the more they will mirror the person they are with. Those that are socially in tune will find mirroring an almost automatic response to others. An example of lack of mirroring would be someone with Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome ( a milder form of autism). Autism leads to an inability to pick up on social cues and hinders communication and relationships. When you consider that we communicate mostly in non-verbal ways (up to 80%) it emphasises just how important mirroring an be.
Dr. Albert Mehrabian, the author of Silent Messages, conducted studies on non-verbal communication and found that 7% of any message is conveyed through words, 38% through certain vocal elements such as pitch, tone and speed, and 55% through non-verbal elements (facial expressions, gestures, posture, etc).
Mirroring isn’t always appropriate, for example when you are dealing with your Boss or a situation where there are obvious differences – such as race, religion or culture. Mirroring can still assist but one has to be careful of coming across as condescending.
Mirroring, along with genuine interest, good listening skills and positive non-verbal comunication such as smiling and making eye contact are all great tools in smoothing alonf social interactions with others.