Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Stop Copying Me!

Do you remember when you were a kid, copying whatever the other person said?  

I do.

Inevitably, as you studiously repeated everything that your victim said, they would finally become exasperated and say something like "I am an idiot".  At which point, the game would end and you would reply "Yup.  I agree with that!" and then proceed to scamper toward safer harbors.

It is interesting to me that while verbally copying someone is perceived as a depraved form of torture, parroting their posture and body language has the effect of creating a sense of trust within that person, engendering a subconscious belief that the two of you have established a strong rapport.

The act of copying these actions is called "Mirroring", and the science behind it...will probably bore you.  

In a somewhat confusing nutshell, when the person in front of you is engaged in an action that you just engaged in, your brain finds them more likable, as they are subtly telling you that they are very like you.    The brain then reasons that "yourself" generally makes you feel safe and comfortable - after all, you are a safe person for yourself to be around!  Therefore if this other guy acts like you, he must be safe too!

These mirroring displays can be extremely helpful in turning uncomfortable situations (especially introductions with those in authority) into productive relationships.

Please don't get me wrong - if you intend to mirror a person's actions, it must be infrequent and subtle, with a delay between the action mirrored and its actual occurrence...otherwise, it turns into a bit of pantomime that can have unpleasant results.

In addition, you should try to ensure that your actions take place on the same side as your interlocutor. For instance, if you are facing someone and they take a drink from the cup in their left hand, you would pause a moment and then take a drink with the cup in your right hand.

It really is a simple way to send the message that you are safe, likable, and understand them better than they would have previously thought.

What is really fun is watching for it in others.  The next time you are out and about in society, pay attention to people.  You will probably note that those couples that seem to be getting along very well are engaged in mirroring to some extent.  What will challenge you is trying to determine if one of the people in the pair is mirroring on purpose.



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