At this point, some of you are accelerating forward and some of you are instantly skeptical.
Imagine I told you the tool was a mirror.
Some would be offended inferring an insult to their appearance. Others might be annoyed, believing this is another “stand in front of your mirror and repeat this mantra to unlock your destiny” bit.
This is neither of those.
Unlike the examples above, the focus is not you, it is "the other." Imagine you are the mirror, standing in front of your client, business partner, spouse, friend or child. You reflect, or mirror, their emotion, physicality, and speech. This may seem strange at first. The “magic” lies in successfully shifting 100% of your focus to “the other”.
- According to a 2011 study of 129 customers by French researchers, retail sales people who were told to mimic the nonverbal and verbal behavior of customers sold more products and left customers with a more positive opinion of the store.
- In another study, published in 2008 in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 62 students were assigned to negotiate with other students. Those who mirrored others’ posture and speech reached a settlement 67% of the time, while those who didn’t reached a settlement 12.5% of the time.
Italian researchers first discovered these mirror neurons in the 1990s in Parma. It was when the research assistant was eating gelato! They first found that brain synapses fire both when an animal acts and when the animal observes the same action performed by another. Listen to this NPR podcast for more details.
As a science, the study of mirror neurons is relatively new and still evolving. For now, this kind of mirroring alignment fosters closeness and trust, and can be beneficial in any environment in which collaboration is preferred to opposition.
The land mine to avoid, however, is manipulation. Deliberate use of mirroring without being truly engaged with "the other" will backfire. As human beings, we despise being manipulated, but we highly value being empathized with and understood. Sales trainer David Hoffeld says mirroring another person’s body language helps him focus on the person’s needs and understand his viewpoint. “It’s not something you do to someone. It’s something you do with someone,” says Mr. Hoffeld, author of “The Science of Selling.” He adds, “The very process of mirroring will help you keep your focus where it should be, on the other person.”
If you could negotiate your human interactions 50% more successfully by applying this mirroring technique, would you take the chance?
Give it shot! And please let us know what you learn along the way.
Onward and Upward,