It has often been said that when we try to imitate or replicate someone’s body language or way of communication, we are actually expressing our appreciation for their mannerism. People often imitate the fashion of their favourite celebrities. It is common in families to see younger generation style after the parents or other family elders who appear to be impressive. At a professional level, you could be mirroring your superiors or even colleagues in a group scenario.
Mirroring comes naturally to humans, and there is scientific evidence to prove that we start imitating even before we are born because a baby’s heartbeats follow the same rhythm as their mothers.
People mirror those whom they appreciate, or find interesting. We copy the body language of people whose demeanour we find impressive or whose social behaviour is highly appreciated. Mirroring someone’s physical appearance and body language is also an expression of affinity and empathy. The commonest mimicking example would be laughter. When you are in a group and someone cracks a joke, it is usual that most people would laugh. That’s a natural way of expressing that you liked the joke and that is an act of appreciation. Another nearly reflective example of mirroring the body language is yawning. When someone next to you yawns, chances are that you will also yawn either immediately or soon thereafter. Similarly, crossing legs or striking a pose at a touristy place that you just saw someone else do. Mirroring can often be a powerful act that we perform even without realising it.
Mirroring is not only about appreciation though. Quite often, it also reflects the trust you have in the other person. For instance, you go with your partner or friends to a restaurant. While it is natural that each one would ask the other to choose, many a times we try to mirror the meals that the other person is ordering. For instance, your partner might say, “I will have pizza, what about you?” When you reply, “Pizza sounds good. I will also have pizza”, you are mirroring him/her. Couples even tend to match steps while walking, and such a behaviour accompanied by the right body language could imply trust, comfort or natural synchronisation between them.
The underlying principle of mirroring is that it is an act that helps build better understanding and bonding between individuals. When you mirror someone’s body language or facial expressions, it is a non-verbal form of listening. An interesting thing about mirroring is that it usually happens more often and a lot more people indulge in it than we would normally assume.
Why would I copy someone?
You might find the idea weird, but chances are that you mirror your siblings, parents, spouse, colleagues or friends in one way or the other, each day of your life without even realising it. The same holds true for them.
As stated earlier, modelling your body language or facial expressions after someone you admire or relate to, is a common phenomenon, but there is a structure to everything. Before you start emulating someone’s behaviour, you need to do some rapport building first. Start with giving the person your undivided attention. When you imitate someone, you must do so by boldly and directly facing the person you wish to mirror.
Mirroring is a powerful tool when done in the right manner. You must show your sincerity and spontaneity while copying someone’s behaviour. When the other person is made to feel that you are reflecting their behaviour because you really believe in it, the person would also feel positive towards you and this could be a start to stronger and more meaningful bond in relationships, work associations that enriches both!