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The Art of Non-Verbal Communication: The Technique of Mirroring

One of the key pillars of effective leadership is effective communication. However, it can often be seen as the hardest skill to improve as it’s innate to us. Understanding the skill of non-verbal communication helps us understand those we’re interacting with and build quick and strong rapport.  Our leadership coach Cillin Hearnes explains Mirroring, its main elements and effective strategies. 

Understanding the Dominance of Non-Verbal Communication

Face-to-face communication comprises verbal, tone, and body language components. These aren’t equally split though and surprisingly, body language accounts for 55%, tone for 38%, and verbal communication for only 7% during emotional conversations. In our daily lives non-verbal cues are the foundation of all our communication. 

This is displayed throughout history as well - Whilst human language is estimated to have developed around 70,000 years ago, non-verbal communication is rooted in our ancestors, who, for about two million years, relied on non-verbal cues for survival. This primal ability to read and convey emotions through body language persists today.

The Art of Mirroring for Rapid Rapport

One method to connect with others is mirroring. Mirroring involves unconsciously imitating another person's gestures, speech patterns, or body positions. This natural phenomenon activates mirror neurons in the brain, fostering a deeper connection and understanding.

The Elements of Mirroring: Body Language Awareness

When mirroring, focus on specific aspects of body language:

  • Posture: Observe how the person holds themselves – hunched, straight, or at an angle.
  • Gestures: Be mindful of the person's use of gestures and mirror them appropriately.
  • Facial Expressions: Reflect the emotions conveyed through facial expressions.
  • Eye Contact: Adjust your eye contact based on cultural norms and individual preferences.
  • Proximity: Respect personal space, considering cultural variations in preferences.
  • Touch: Match the tactile preferences of the person, if they are inclined towards physical contact.

Effective Mirroring Strategies

  • Natural Transitions: Initiate mirroring during natural transitions in conversation.
  • Subtle Adjustments: Gradually align your body position during engagement.
  • Question or Statement: Use questions or statements as opportunities to subtly mirror the other person.

When to Exercise Caution with Mirroring

Not every situation is suitable for mirroring. Be mindful of cultural differences, gender-specific gestures, and individual preferences. Additionally, be aware that genuine rapport requires alignment in values and attitudes, beyond mirroring.

While mirroring is a potent tool for swift rapport, it is vital to recognize the limitations. Fundamental differences in values may undermine even the strongest rapport. Therefore, invest in your emotional bank account by understanding and respecting the preferences and values of others.

In a nutshell, mastering the art of mirroring in non-verbal communication can be a game-changer for creating rapid and genuine connections. Remember, while mirroring is a powerful tool, it's crucial to understand its limitations. True rapport goes beyond just mimicking gestures – it requires an emotional investment and an understanding of others' values. To learn other techniques try Cillin Hearnes Leadership series on the Leaders Are Made platform. Based on scientific evidence all sessions are based on Micro-learning in digital bite-sized content.  Sign up for a free trial today.