How to Instantly Make Friends, Create Relationships, and Get What You Want
Have you ever met someone and taken an instant liking to him for no apparent reason?
Maybe that person knew the timeless and proven secret to getting anyone to like you in an instant. It’s called mirroring, and it’s one of the world’s most powerful techniques for creating what you want in as little as 30 seconds.
What is does it mean to mirror people?
The basic concept of mirroring is simple. When we’re interacting with another person, we copy, or “mirror,” some of that person’s movements, facial expressions, or words. We adopt the other person’s characteristics.
We become a mirror.
To mirror people creates a powerful sense of familiarity, comfort, and trust because when someone looks or sounds like us, we instinctively sense that they must be like us. Almost immediately, we feel more comfortable and accepting. When someone mirrors us, we actually see ourselves — and this happens in a matter of seconds.
Couples are a great example of how people mirror each other naturally — without even realizing it. You’ve probably seen this yourself in couples you know. Over the years they start to sound alike, use the same words, make the same gestures. They even finish each others sentences. They’re in an uncanny perfect sync.
That’s how people mirror others and the basic concept of mirroring. And although most couples don’t even know they’re doing it, the truth is … you can use mirroring intentionally to improve your life in astonishing ways.
How does Mirroring People Work?
Virginia Satir, one of the most influential therapists of the twentieth century, first identified the concept of mirroring in the late 1960s and early ‘70s. She recognized it as a way to build connections among people and encourage empathy.
Satir’s ground-breaking work influenced the prominent social scientist Richard Bandler, who developed Neuro-linguistic Programming, or NLP. Bandler and his colleagues demonstrated how mirroring could be used consciously to improve communication and collaboration, and even to influence others in social settings and the workplace. Their work became fundamental to business — especially sales training and marketing.
Because mirroring people creates a sense of trust, sales naturally follow.
We’re Wired to Mirror
Until 1995, mirroring was understood as a way to foster connections between people, but no one really understood its true depth — or power. Then, by accident, someone walked into an impromptu experiment with an ice cream cone.
Giaccomo Rizzolatti, a brain researcher in Italy, was conducting neuron stimulus studies on primates at the University of Parma. His team’s work helped to identify which neurons controlled specific physical actions, like lifting a hand.
But during one experiment, while everyone was taking a break, a grad student holding an ice cream cone stepped in front of a research monkey. As the student raised the cone to his mouth, the monkey watched intently, and a flurry of neurons sprang into action. Through brain monitoring equipment, researchers were able to observe that even though the monkey didn’t move at all, his brain was mimicking the movements of the grad student.
The monkey was mirroring the act of eating an ice cream cone — in his mind!
Rizzolatti went on to call these unique brain cells “mirror neurons.” This watershed moment in brain research spawned more than 300 published papers over the next decade. As Rizzolatti told the New York Times in 2006, “Mirror neurons allow us to grasp the minds of others not through conceptual reasoning, but through direct simulation. By feeling, not by thinking.”
Marco Iaconboni is another mirroring researcher. He’s a professor of psychiatry and biobehavorial Sciences and director of transcranial magnetic stimulation at UCLA. In his book, Mirroring People (2008), Iaconboni explains:
“Why do we give ourselves over to emotion during the carefully crafted, heartrending scenes in certain movies? Because mirror neurons in our brains re-create for us the distress we see on the screen. We have empathy for the fictional characters — we know how they’re feeling — because we literally experience the same feelings ourselves. And when we watch the movie stars kiss on-screen? Some of the cells firing in our brain are the same ones that fire when we kiss our lovers. ‘Vicarious’ is not a strong enough word to describe the effect of these mirror neurons. When we see someone else suffering or in pain, mirror neurons help us to read her or his facial expression and actually make us feel the suffering or the pain of the other person.”
How to Build Connections in Just Thirty Seconds
Harnessing the power of mirroring is not only one of the world’s best-kept secrets — it’s also one of the easiest to master.
We already mirror naturally, often unconsciously. But when we put mirroring to work intentionally, it can be an astonishing relationship-building tool. Just imagine the countless situations where you can apply mirroring to make your bonds stronger:
• Collaborating with colleagues
• Speaking with your boss
• Presenting to leadership
With friends and family:
• Making a group decision
• Listening and offering advice
• Handling a difficult situation
And, of course, when you meet someone special:
• Everyone knows that first impression can be “make or break.” Mirroring sends a simple signal that you have something in common — and an instant bond results.
David J. Lieberman, Ph.D. author of the book Get Anyone to Do Anything, refers to that instant bond as the “law of association.”
Lieberman says, “The ‘law of association’ involves pairing yourself with ‘pleasurable stimuli’ so that other people associate you with good things/times/feelings.” With just a few gestures, you create that association, building an almost instantaneous bridge of comfort and trust.
Simple Mirroring Strategies
First, pay attention and observe the other person. Look for both verbal and non-verbal qualities. Is the person’s voice loud or soft? Is it fast and frenetic, or slow and calm? Notice the hand gestures and small tilts of the head. Once you have a grasp of key mannerisms, you can start to mirror.
Here are some key characteristics to mirror people:
A speaker may use certain “signature” descriptive words or action verbs. Let those or similar words become part of your own vocabulary.
• Vocal tone
If someone’s speaking softly or deliberately, follow suit. The right tone can be a significant connection. The wrong tone can be a major turn off.
Listen carefully for the speaker’s speed and cadence. Rhythms are subtle, but amazingly powerful.
• Body language
Non-verbal mirroring is just as important as language. If the speaker leans forward, you’ll show interest by leaning forward too. Posture sends a message, so go with their flow. Some experts consider eyebrow movements as particularly connecting.
• Hand gestures
We say a lot with our hands. They can add subtle emphasis or a flourish of punctuation. Follow closely.
• Looking the part
Any employment coach knows that clothes can be an important mirroring tool — but this goes beyond business. If you’re trying to impress someone who dresses well, wearing jeans probably won’t cut it.
Good Mirroring isn’t Mimicking
It’s critical to remember that mirroring is not mere mimicry. Mirroring is about using actions that resemble the speaker’s, but are not exact copies.
Robert Bacal is a highly regarded author and expert on management and personal development. He notes, “When going for increased comfort and rapport mirror loosely, because seeming too close infringes on people’s comfort.”
Scientists at UC San Diego (publishing this fall in the journal Psychological Science) have tested the line between mirroring and mimicry. Their research shows that when mirroring is too obvious, it can backfire.
Piotr Winkielman, UC San Diego professor of psychology and a lead investigator in the study, said:
“Mimicry is a crucial part of social intelligence. But it is not enough to simply know how to mimic. It’s also important to know when and when not to. The success of mirroring depends on mirroring the right people at the right time for the right reasons. Sometimes the socially intelligent thing to do is not to imitate. It’s good to have the capacity to mimic,” he said, “but an important part of social intelligence is knowing how to deploy this capacity in a selective, intelligent, context-dependent manner, and understanding, even implicitly, when mirroring can reflect badly on you.”
However, used in the right way, at the right time, and for the right reasons, mirroring is an incredible tool for relationship building — with virtually anyone. It’s easy to learn, and can impact a situation in seconds.
With some basic mastery of mirroring, you’ll make more friends, enhance the relationships you already have, and get more out of life. With advanced mirroring practice, there is no telling how profoundly you might change your life.