Mirroring - the Unfair Advantage

Mirroring is a classic aspect of body language. When people in a small group are relaxed and in sympathy with each other, they frequently - and unconsciously - adopt a similar pose. Two friends talking to each other may, for example, both sit with their legs crossed or their chins cupped in their hands. When one changes the pose the other often unwittingly follows. This subconscious behaviour is called 'mirroring'.

You can see mirroring everywhere. Just look around you, wherever there are people interacting in a reasonably relaxed situation. Salespeople often deliberately make use of mirroring to create an empathy with a prospect. A potential customer will warm towards any salesman who strikes the same pose as her, without being aware of why. Pretty soon, the prospect is mirroring the salesman - and then he knows he's near to closing the deal.

You can use the same technique very effectively in one-to-one teaching, to create an empathetic atmosphere and to help your student relax and gain confidence. The technique can also work in group situations, but obviously becomes a little more complex.

Of course, you must do your mirroring discreetly. If a student catches you in the act, so to speak, you may well create an opposite effect. And be careful when teaching some executives and professionals - they may be using the technique on you, or at least be able to recognise it.