Mirroring Behaviours for Success
Mirroring behaviours is known as limbic synchrony. Mirroring is hardwired into the brain to build rapport and connections between social animals.
Mirroring another person’s behaviour is something we do instinctively to gain trust and build rapport. Even babies in the womb use mirroring; their heartbeat and bodily functions take on a rhythm that matches their mother’s.
Neuroscientists of the 1980s found that there are neurons in our brains that specifically work on mirroring. Researchers at the University of Parma in Italy studied the brains of macaque monkeys. They observed what happens in the brain when a monkey watches another monkey perform a certain task. The scientists found that the monkey’s neurons fired in exactly the same pattern as the individual actually performing the task. They concluded that the monkey’s brain couldn’t tell the difference between doing the task or observing another doing the task. The scientists named these brain cells ‘mirror neurons‘.
Further studies on human beings found that mirror neurons not only simulate physical actions; they also mirror intentions and emotions. These neurons actually play a huge part in our ability to empathise with others and form social groups. By reading body language signals and in particular, facial expressions, we interpret the emotion behind them. This gives us an insight into that person and their intentions.
We subconsciously mirror other people’s behaviours all the time. But, it’s also possible to consciously mirror another person’s body language and facial expressions. This enables us to build rapport and establish trust. This ability is useful in a business setting where convincing others and influencing decisions is key to our success.
Mirroring Behaviours – Situations in Business
As a team leader, establishing trust with your team is vital. Next time you are interacting with team members, notice their facial expressions and postures. Try to subtly mirror some of these behaviours. This encourages team members to trust your directions. Your team will feel that you are supportive and positive about their roles and input.
Business can be tricky and conflict with other people is usually unavoidable. Next time you’re in a heated situation, try to mirror some behaviours of the person who is in opposition to you. This helps them to trust your opinions. It also reduces tension, as you are signalling that you are not a threat to them. Watch how they hold their body. Observe their arm, hand and leg movements. Copy their movements – but be careful it’s not too obvious or it could backfire!
Mirroring during a pitch is great for reducing anxiety, building trust and mitigating resistance. When you are trying to influence someone’s opinion, try mirroring some of their behaviours. If they cross their arms, cross yours. If they place an elbow on the table, do the same. Once you’ve mirrored their movements for a while, see if they mirror your own in return. Subtly change position. If the other person mirrors you, they are receptive to your pitch. If they don’t, there is still some resistance, so keep mirroring their behaviours before checking their own mirroring response again.
The Benefits of Mirroring Behaviours
Communication is only partly verbal. Much of the communication that occurs between ourselves and those around us is not conveyed by the spoken word. Researchers believe that body language plays a large part in telling the world what our intentions are.
Learning to mirror the behaviours of others in the business setting equips you with a ninja tool in communication. Many situations in business are dependent on trust between individuals. We are influenced by those around us, as we also influence them. Much in business is about the ability to form groups and support each other. Rapport between individuals is vitally important. Before you’ve said a word, mirroring behaviours gives you a head start in any discussion. Use mirroring to subtly influence those you interact with and ensure whatever you have to say is received positively.
Illumine runs a range of communication skills courses, including our Effective Communication with NLP course, which covers mirroring as a practical skill.
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