The Mirror of Body Language

Isopraxism is the fancy word for mirroring of another person.

With most people, we see some degree of mimicking. Whether it is by style of dress, actions, manner of dress, or speech we all do it to some degree. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Most people adapt and change to fit in. Everyone wants to assimilate with others.

Professor Tanya Chartrand of Duke University and Professor John Bargh at New York University, call this the “chameleon effect.” Their research led to the groundbreaking study on the natural tendencies of people to imitate speech and physical expressions. After one experiment, they concluded that students whose behavior was imitated rated their experimenters as more likable. The participants also reported having had smoother interactions with the copycats.

Less can sometimes be more. Remember how annoying children can get when they parrot your conversation. It starts amusing, but quickly wears thin. It is the same in real life. Although you are attempting to establish rapport, if the person you are emulating becomes aware of your mirroring, it will become obvious, self-defeating, and annoying just like the parroting kid.

Students who rated high on empathy were more likely to imitate others. Narcissists would have difficulty in this department. People like to be around empathetic people. You know, “I feel your pain.”

As you are talking with people, you can mirror some of the words used within their discussion. Just season the stew a little. If someone is talking about repetitive sales volume is an important facet of their business, you could use the term repetitive sales volume in the discussion. That perks up their ears like an alert puppy dog and lets them to know you are listening.

You can mimic their body language as well. If they cross their leg, follow suit and cross yours. If they lean in towards you, then edge towards them. Do not do it action for action. Pause a few moments before mirroring or risk being exposed. Hold your hands like them and mirror their posture. Space your legs at the same distance and the same angle. If their arms are crossed over their chest, you follow suit. If they smile, flash one back. Always position your torso and feet towards the subject of your conversation.

Mimicry is a top-secret technique to bonding and developing rapport.

For more tips on increasing your powers of observations and developing rapport through body language, take a look at FACE 2 FACE :

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