NLP Technique: Mirroring

Meta ModelMirroring is one of the (if not the) most useful NLP techniques there are. If someone is very good at mirroring, it is very difficult to dislike them. Mirroring, while considered part of the NLP syllabus, has been used innately by people throughout history. Even chimps (which I believe are our genetic ancestors) use mirroring within their groups. This begs the question, why do I need to write about mirroring, if it's so natural? Because just like any other skill you can name, there are vastly different levels of ability, and you can get much better by practicing.

Mirroring is simply the process of mimicking subtle behaviours within whoever we are communicating. Before you go and start mimicking someone's every word, be aware that mirroring must be subtle as to appear to be unconscious! This is the difference between a good conversation and a punch or slap.

Mirroring can be achieved by copying any of these things:

  • Speech patterns
  • Body language
  • Vocabulary style or specific choices of words
  • Pace, tempo, pitch, tone, volume

Some say that accents can be mirrored, but I don't think this is true. If you mimick somebody's accent, it is immediately raised to conscious levels and becomes inconducive to good communication and rapport.

Why are so many people afraid of spiders?

Just while we're on the subject, spiders are often the subject of phobia. The most sound theory of reasoning states that this is because spiders are so unusual compared to ourselves. Snakes, octopodes and other creatures that are so different from ourselves are often subject to fear. Yes, an octopus is a scary thing, I do declare! If you turned around and there was a big purple octopus between you and the door, would you pick it up and move it out of the way, or would you prefer someone else did that for you? I digress, sorry.

The point is, the more different something/someone is from ourselves, the more we fear it. This goes for anything - cultures, races, religions, species, it doesn't matter. This is why mirroring is so effective, it is the art of making yourself more similar to your chosen person. On an unconscious level, this builds trust and rapport.

NLP is great at curing phobia, simply because phobia originate from your mind and NLP allows you to master your mind. Click here to read how to cure phobia using easy NLP techniques.

Meta ModelPositive Reinforcement vs Mirroring

A favourite author of mine, Professor Richard Wiseman, carried out a study which involved waiters using mirroring and matched it against waiters using positive reinforcement. The results were quite stunning.

The waiters were told to take orders from their tables, with one group of waiters using positive reinforcement "sure, no problem, great" etc in response to each order. The other group of waiters were told to mirror their customers simply by repeating their orders back to them. The waiters who used the mirroring got a staggering 70% larger average tip than those who used positive reinforcement.

NLP and Mirroring

The classic NLP take on mirroring is to determine (by listening to someone's language patterns) whether they are talking in a state that is visual, audial, or kinaesthetic.

State Primary sense Language patterns
Visual Sight I see; it looks good
Audial Hearing Sounds good; that rings a bell
Kinaesthetic Feeling That doesn't feel right; I can't put my finger on it

These are not set-in-stone guidelines however - sometimes we use words of a certain state just because we're used to hearing them ourselves. If you can modify your own language to be the same as the person you are talking to, this can go a long way towards building rapport and trust. For example, if you can determine that someone is a visual person, you would be better off describing how something looks rather than how something sounded.