Mirroring and Matching to Change Emotions.
In every situation we encounter, rapport is a vital component to endear a person to you, or to push a person away. In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, matching and mirroring are important body language tactics for a therapist to use in order to encourage a client to open up to them.
Mirroring is probably the most useful technique to use to garner trust, and calm someone down. Mirroring requires you to align your body language to mirror the person you are talking to. Meaning, if that person crosses their right leg over the left, you will cross your left leg over the right. It uses similar (not exactly the same) body language to encourage comfort levels. Mirroring a person helps to build a certain degree of trust.
The therapist may start off with mirroring the client. However, if the client begins to trust the therapist, it is common for the client to begin mirroring the therapist, resulting in more honest and open dialogue.
Mirroring is more about respecting the other person and the situation you are in, rather than just agreeing with everything occurring, like the in case of ‘matching’ a person’s body language. It may be necessary in some situations to stop mirroring and lead if you sense the person is getting more aggressive.
Mirroring to Reduce Aggression.
A perfect example of mirroring to calm a situation down may be when you are having a conversation with someone you are familiar with about politics or religion. The person you are speaking with is becoming increasingly agitated.
Firstly, you begin to mirror that person by taking on a similar stance, tone of voice and other body language. However, mirroring these actions with one level of tension below what you detect the other person is showing. Appearing that you are on the same emotion state, without the same amount of tension displayed.
From there, you can begin to lead the situation to attempt to reduce the level of tension. It is important to do this slowly and subtly to avoid appearing as if you are mocking their stance. A gradual approach means that on a sub-conscious level that person is more willing to follow without appearing they are giving in on their stance.
This can be achieved by lowering your voice slightly, and slowing your words. Perhaps after a moment you uncross your arms, slowly opening them wider in a subtle gesture of ‘it’s ok’, without appearing condescending. A perfect example of this is seen in Madonna and Jesus statues, with the arms open, palms up, a gesture of welcome and respect.
If you have built a certain amount of rapport with a person, the more you calm down, the more likely they will begin to calm down too. Your words also play a role. Listening to what they are saying, being respectful of their perspective, and calmly explaining your own. Instead of it being a competition on who is right or wrong, look at it as it is just another opinion that you can both learn from.
Using rapport in stressful situations is another useful tactic. If someone appears nervous, embarrassed, sad or experiencing another emotion, you can use rapport body language to draw him or her closer to you, increasing comfort levels, and reducing a highly emotional state.
Mirroring also displays that you are listening to what the other person is saying.
You can use your entire body to achieve this goal.
Another aspect to this technique is in the core – Leaning.
What does leaning have to do with anything?
People tend to lean towards things they like, and away from things they do not like.
Leaning is actually an important component in body language, displaying if a person is listening, engaging, interested or wanting to pull him or herself away.
The way the body leans can be indicative of how a person is feeling.
Imagine a dating scenario again. The couple is leaning towards each other, most likely feeling comfortable with one another. Suddenly, one pulls away, leaning their entire body back. This most likely indicates that something has happened that has caused that person to be uncomfortable, and/or wanting to pull away.
There are two main planes of ‘leaning’ that can indicate a person’s frame of mind. Although people can lean laterally, they tend to either lean slightly laterally back, or slightly laterally forward.
In cases of body language, ventral and dorsal facing is a rather silent command to the other person ‘this is where I stand’. Putting our front side towards a person, or ventral facing is usually a sign of comfort. This display of body language indicates that we are interested in what they are saying, we want to learn more…
Whereas, dorsal facing means a person is turning their back toward another person, facing away from them. Just like with most other signals that appear closed off, a dorsal facing person is most likely uncomfortable, whether it is from general dislike, or from what was said.
It is important to note that it may be a very subtle move when someone turns his or her back. It may not be a complete full back, rather just a slight shifting so we are not completely facing that person.
The slight adjusting away is fairly revealing that subconsciously we are inching towards an escape.
Conversely, if we are excited to see someone, we completely face him or her with our full body, and body language is open.
If a person begins a conversation ventral facing, then shifts to dorsal facing, it is most likely something has been said that is displeasing.
It is rather fascinating how such subtle changes can make a dramatic difference to the reception a person receives. Picking up on these signals can result in calming a situation down, building trust, showing affection and respect, and even disassociating from the situation by simply turning away from it without any words spoken.
If you like this article, you might like to check out my other body language articles in the series by tapping on the ‘body language’ tag.
I would love to hear from you if you have tried this technique, and if it has worked. Or what you have done to influence a situation by using body language techniques.