Have you ever watched a mime performance? It’s art expressed through emotions, gestures and facial expressions. Mime artists can act out an entire story without uttering a word! Miming is a great example of visual communication.
According to Albert Mehrabian, professor of psychology, visual communication accounts for 55% of how people perceive you. The way you act is mirrored in how people react to your body language. We learn to alter our own body language based on the other person.
Humans are adaptive by nature. Studies suggest that newborns learn to adapt by imitation. When you smile at a child, they’ll more often than not smile back at you. They’re essentially mirroring your facial expressions.
Mirroring is the act of observing and responding to someone’s visual or nonverbal cues. Nonverbal cues include body language, hand gestures and facial expressions. Mirroring is often unintentional unless you develop the self-awareness to mirror someone consciously. In a professional setting, mirroring is a powerful tool that can impact how others perceive you.
Mirroring is the ability to read a person or a room full of people and emulate their reactions. There are some people who command the room as soon as they enter. Think about the presence of world leaders and lead executives of companies. Successful women like Oprah Winfrey and Indra Nooyi command attention because of their influence. Many of us try to mimic how they present themselves to us. This is the power of building your presence.
Building Presence by Harappa Education is a high-impact online course that’ll teach you how to be responsive, pay attention to your body language and persuade others. Learn to conduct yourself with confidence, become an effective communicator and develop your presence quotient. Let’s explore the importance and meaning of mirroring in communication and how mirroring in body language can help you build empathy and mindfulness.
What Is Mirroring?
The meaning of mirroring is imitating—consciously or unconsciously—someone’s actions and attitude. It’s an adaptive technique that you can cultivate with practice and self-awareness.
In most cases, mirroring is unintentional. Think about your daily commute to work at 8 a.m. in the morning. If you see someone yawning across from you, you’re bound to mirror their action. What ensues is a series of yawns echoing the sluggishness of the morning.
But when used intentionally, mirroring can help you advance in your career by building a rapport with colleagues and bonding with your teammates. For instance, say that you have a job interview. If your interviewer smiles at you and you respond with a deadpan expression and darting eyes, you won’t make a good impression. Instead, if you smile back and nod, it’ll communicate your interest and presence of mind.
Before we jump into mirroring psychology, let’s look at the three things you can do to get a head-start:
1. Build a connection
It’s important to convey that you’re 100% present in the conversation. Facing the other person and giving them your full attention helps to build a connection.
2. Moderate eye-contact
Maintain moderate eye contact; just enough that the other person knows you’re listening.
Nodding is a great way to show that you’re paying attention. When someone’s talking to you, smiling and nodding at them is courteous and respectful.
Once you’ve set the tone for the conversation, you can phase into body mirroring. Observe the volume and pitch of their voice, how they move their hands and their body language. You can greatly improve your verbal and nonverbal communication with refined mirroring skills. Let’s look at some of the different ways in which you can exercise mirroring in communication.
Types Of Mirroring
According to mirroring psychology, human beings unconsciously identify with their close friends and family by emulating their body language and personality. It’s been observed that couples who stay together for a long time begin to act and talk like each other. This is a result of unintentional mirroring.
But it’s not to say that you can’t consciously adopt this technique. You can make an effort to read nonverbal cues and communicate effectively. According to neurologist Marco Iacoboni, ‘mirror neurons’ lead to body mirroring and personality mirroring. This can be extremely useful in the workplace where you deal with different personalities on a daily basis. Here are three common types of mirroring that you can develop over time:
1. Mirroring Body Language
Body mirroring is about how you move your hands, your facial expressions and your gestures. It can be both negative and positive. Your goal should be to mirror the positive attributes of someone’s body language when you’re talking to them. These include smiling, standing straight and leaning forward. Be careful not to adopt negative cues like eye-rolling or shrugging. You may end up appearing rude, bored or nervous.
2. Personality Mirroring
Personality mirroring is most apparent when you meet a close friend or family member. This can also help you connect with people. For instance, if your friend seems closed, your cheerful demeanor might draw them out of their shell.
In the workplace, this can help strengthen your bond with your peers or manager. Say your teammate appears standoffish at first. But if you approach them in a friendly and open manner, you’ll make them feel comfortable by appealing to their emotions.
3. Posture Mirroring
Reflecting someone’s posture is another way you can use mirroring to your advantage. If your interviewer, for instance, is sitting up straight with arms on the side, it conveys that they’re focused on you and the interview. You can mirror their posture to leave a lasting impression. Posture mirroring makes you appear confident, calm and composed.
How Power Poses Can Help You Build A Presence
Mirroring isn’t only about emulating people you meet in your daily life. You can borrow from powerful and famous personalities and mimic their body language to appear more confident and poised.
Harappa’s Building Presence course highlights the importance of ‘power poses’ based on research by social psychologist Amy Cuddy.
Have you ever heard someone tell you to hold your head up high? Why? It’s because it makes you look strong and calm under pressure. Power poses are a great way to calm your nerves before a meeting, interview or presentation. It can also boost your morale and drive you to perform.
Many famous personalities are known for their power poses. Freddie Mercury, the lead singer of Queen, is widely recognized for his ‘fist in the air’ pose. Sports especially has some of the most iconic power poses ever observed. Athletes like Muhammad Ali and Usain Bolt are credited with memorable and charismatic moves that impact us even today. Power posing is an expression of your emotions and feelings. Think about it as a technique to pump yourself up.
Say that you’re feeling nervous before an important client presentation. Pumping your fists in the air and holding your head high can make you feel like ‘you’ve got this’. Remember, self-confidence is half the battle won.
Mirroring Helps You Be Mindful
Research suggests that mirroring is linked to emotions and a superior sense of awareness. Many of us are simply going through the motions without taking a moment to think about who we are. It’s the self-awareness of your presence that helps ground you in reality. Being attuned to your emotions, and those of others, adds to the overall development of your personality.
Mirroring can also help you build empathy and be mindful of yourself and other people. When you’re aware of how you’re making someone feel, you can check yourself and alter your attitude or body language. The way we connect with others is by identifying similarities. This is how mirroring helps you understand others. If you’re able to relate to someone, you’re more likely to empathize with their emotions and feelings.
Next time you see a colleague in distress, try to mirror their body language in a sensitive and compassionate way. If they’re leaning towards you for support, lean forward to communicate that you’re there for them. Mirroring can help you become more sociable and relatable in the workplace.
We’ve now discussed some of the advantages of body mirroring in our professional lives. But the most important advantage is that it helps build stronger connections with your seniors, peers and juniors. Once you’ve improved your skills to listen and respond well, you’ll be better equipped to tackle workplace conflicts and difficult conversations.
In a competitive world, it’s important to develop skills that distinguish you from the crowd. Our Building Presence course is all about developing your personal brand. Some of the core course concepts will teach you how to accept yourself for who you are, work on your presence quotient and refine your nonverbal communication skills. Building Presence is a high-impact personality development course that’ll set you apart from the rest.
Explore our Harappa Diaries section to know more about topics & skills related to the Communicate habit such as Interpersonal Skills, Personality Development, Process of Communication, Business Communication, Body Language in Communication and Self Introduction.