ILLUSTRATION: ROBERT NEUBECKER | THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
The subconscious mind is more powerful than the unconscious mind. That’s clear from our body language and facial expressions – they are subconscious “tell alls” that can and often do belie our words and betray our true thoughts and feelings. On the flipside, body language can help subconsciously build rapport and strengthen feelings of goodwill between people.
What is Mirroring?
When two people are comfortable with each other, they tend to subconsciously match each other in volume, pace and tone of voice; they subconsciously parallel each other’s body movements; they express the same facial expressions. Psychologists call this phenomenon “mirroring” (more crudely, “mimicking”), and it gives new truth to the adage that Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Mirroring has its origins in animal instinct. “Such behavioral contagion probably evolved early for survival, some scientists argue. It is what scatters a flock well before most members see a lunging predator.” (New York Times, 2008). When two people, a group, an audience or even a crowd are all behaving similarly, it connotes a shared subconscious understanding of environment and context.
How Does it Work?
Today, mirroring is a conscious technique that job seekers can employ at networking events or in interviews to positively influence people’s impressions. Here are three common but inconspicuous ways to mirror and match.
1.) Speak at the same volume; adopt the same pace and tone
"'The way we speak is a window onto our inner self,' explains Nick Miller at Newcastle University. 'It marks social class, education level, whether you come from this place or that place...'" (BBC, 2015). By adopting the volume, pace and tone of the person with whom you are speaking, you establish a sense of common ground and equality.
2.) Strike the same pose and posture
"The technique involve[s] mirroring a person's posture and movements, with a one- to two-second delay. If he crosses his legs, then wait two seconds and do the same, with opposite legs. If she touches her face, wait a beat or two and do that. If he drums his fingers or taps a toe, wait again and do something similar. The idea is to be a mirror but a slow, imperfect one. Follow too closely, and most people catch it - and the game is over" (New York Times, 2008).
3.) Repeat aloud or praise questions before you answer them
Everyone appreciates an active listener. Repeating and/or praising questions demonstrates that you are engaged, paying attention and that you take their question seriously. Praise can be as simple as saying That's a good question or I'm glad you asked that. (Plus, it'll buy you a few seconds to gather your thoughts!)
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- Dylan T.H.