Mirroring is a technique we cover in our IIBA endorsed Mastering Business Analysis with Waterfall and Agile Methods course. In the training course we’re talking about mirroring the words of the other person, but Sue Shellenbarger tells us in the below article that we should also mirror their gestures and even their posture – and that we’re probably already doing it without even realizing it.
What are your thoughts on this? Do you think taking the mirroring technique to this level in requirements session will help you get better quality requirements?
Use Mirroring to Connect With Others
Adopting the same gestures, posture or tone can enhance bonding and help with networking or negotiating—but be subtle about it
It is a common experience: You’re deep in conversation with someone and suddenly realize you’re both holding the same pose, leaning forward and propping an elbow on the table. Or you notice you’re suddenly starting to pick up the other person’s Southern accent or fast, loud speech.
Mirroring a conversation partner’s gestures, expressions, posture, vocal pitch or tone can reflect rapport or a desire to please, research shows. It is seen most often between romantic partners, but it happens at work, too, in networking sessions, meetings and conversations with colleagues.
Creepy, maybe. Most people do it unconsciously. But mirroring can help you create powerful connections with others. This behavior, often called “the chameleon effect,” often causes others to like and trust you more. Professional networkers, negotiators and salespeople say they use mirroring to help them engage more deeply in a conversation and understand the person they’re talking with.
People who are deeply engaged in conversation are often surprised to realize they’re mirroring each other. Diane Darling was on a video call recently with a friend in France when she noticed both were leaning back with their arms extended overhead “as if we were doing a morning stretch—but for her it was 2 o’clock in the afternoon,” says Ms. Darling, a Boston networking consultant. “Oh my gosh, we’re in the same position,” she told her friend.
Executive coach Nancy Capistran sometimes mirrors the posture or gestures of clients during problem-solving discussions, but client John Dudley says she does it so naturally he doesn’t notice.
This relaxed, open posture reflects trust, and their simultaneous gesture sprang from a moment of deep connection, says Ms. Darling, author of “The Networking Survival Guide.”
This kind of alignment fosters closeness and trust. “The extent to which people are able to create this brain-to-brain coupling makes them more powerful,” says Noah Zandan, chief executive and co-founder of Quantified Communications, an Austin, Texas, communications analytics company. “It’s useful in any environment where collaboration is going to be more helpful than hostility.”
Deliberately trying to mirror another person’s behavior without being truly engaged can backfire, however. Others are likely to notice and see it as an attempt at manipulation. “We tend to like people who imitate us—as long as we don’t notice that they’re doing it,” says Chris Frith, an emeritus professor of neuropsychology at University College London and co-author with Dr. Hasson of the 2016 study.
A job candidate might copy an interviewer’s posture and speaking style in an attempt to make a good impression, for example. Sometimes this is obvious to the interviewer, and sometimes it isn’t, depending on the job candidate’s skill and subtlety, research shows.
DOS AND DON’TS
Mirroring typically works best when it is unconscious. Doing it consciously requires some subtle skills:
Build a connection first. Make listening and understanding the other person your priority.
Start by nodding and tilting your head as you listen.
Try matching the other person’s vocal tone and pace.
If that works, move on to mirroring gestures and posture.Don’t try to fake it by pretending to be interested when you’re not. You’ll almost certainly be found out, damaging the relationship.
Try to fake it by pretending to be interested when you’re not. You’ll almost certainly be found out.
Mirror negative nonverbal signals, such as crossing arms in front of your body or stepping back.
Try to copy the person’s gestures, movements and expressions exactly.
Devote so much energy to mirroring that you feel stressed.
It is wiser to begin to feel a sense of connection with an interviewer before trying to mirror his behavior. You should already be showing genuine openness and interest via nonverbal cues, facing the interviewer squarely and making frequent eye contact. Also, stick to behaviors that come naturally.
“If you purposely try to copy everything someone does, it’s going to be awkward, says Ellen Keiley, a business-development coach in Arlington, Mass.