Early in my selling career, I was in a short training class. We were being taught how to “mirror” our customers. The concept of mirroring is it was a means of better connecting with the customer. We learned that if a customer leaned forward in their chair, perhaps indicating interest, we should lean forward. Likewise, if they leaned back we leaned back; if they swore, we swore; if they farted……. OK, I’m getting carried away with this explanation.
I always felt uncomfortable doing it. It was a conscious manipulative behavior to establish rapport and gain the interest of the person whose behavior we were mimicking.
But mirroring is a subconscious behavior everyone does. The science calls it limbic synchrony. You can watch groups of people in conversations. As they get more engaged with each other, unconsciously they start mirroring each others’ behaviors. As a few people become relaxed, gradually the rest of the group assumes more relaxed postures. The more curious we might be, asking questions, the others you are engaging tend to be more curious, listening better, asking more questions.
Likewise, sitting with a person crossing their arms, leaning back, becoming resistant or closed minded, we tend to respond in similar ways, not connecting at all, in fact probably disagreeing more than when we started the conversations.
I was reflecting on our difficulties in connecting with prospects and customers in meaningful ways, then realized that it’s possible that subconsciously we are creating the problem. Our prospects may be mirroring what they see as our behavior. As we go through the motions of asking them questions, or pitching our products, those
victims, I mean prospects recognize our disinterest in them and mirror the same disinterest. As we push our self interest, the prospect is focused more firmly on their self interest. When we demonstrate our absence of caring, they reciprocate, mirroring our behaviors toward them.
Our outreach demonstrates our overt disinterest in them. While we may “personalize” our outreach, we demonstrate no understanding of them or their issues. We demonstrate no interest in what they have to say, focusing only on what we want to say. And the customers get that and mirror our behaviors in their lack of response. They mirror our disinterest and lack of caring with their own.
And every once in a while, we do something right. We are truly interested, we are curious, we care. We demonstrate that in our behaviors–our postures, our energy level, the visible signs of listening or understanding. All of a sudden, we see the other person open up, they are more curious, more engaged, more interested.
As we reflect on our struggles with prospects, customers, or even others in our own organization, we tend to blame them. “They don’t get it, they don’t care, they don’t understand, they aren’t paying attention….” But in reality, what’s happening is they are mirroring the behaviors we are demonstrating.
Perhaps, we might get different results, if we started paying attention to how we are expressing ourselves—not just what we are saying, but how we are saying it and the behaviors we demonstrate in what we are doing.
Afterword: Mirroring is a double edged sword. In human interaction, the more we are genuinely engaged, the more we see mirroring behaviors. But conscious and manipulative mirroring is also easily recognized and should we do this, it is, almost always detected, and the same behaviors are returned.