Why Matching & Mirroring Really Works

Written by Sean McPheat | Linkedin thumb

salesman with mirrorHave you heard of matching and mirroring?

It’s the concept psychologists talk about when they refer to us building unconscious rapport with another person. They talk about matching their unconscious body language and gestures so that they feel at ease in our company.

They also refer to matching or mirroring the words they use to describe their experiences. By using similar words, we are able to match the feelings they may be experiencing and are able to appeal to their deeper level of communication, commonly referred to as the unconscious level.

Are you aware of why this actually works? A recent finding will explain all.

Scientists have found a network of neurons in our brain that refer to as ‘mirror neurons’. These demonstrate how we are all interconnected with each other and the world in general.

In one experiment in Italy, they wired up a single neuron in a monkey’s brain to observe what was happening with it. One day, a researcher lifted his hand to eat to a nut.

He noticed that the monkey’s brain cell or motor neuron had activated. These motor neurons are the largest in our brains and deal with movements and action.

The monkey didn’t actually move…only the motor neuron fired. Further experiments showed that when an arm movement was made by the researchers, the monkey’s arm movement neurons moved too. After much excitement, the published paper (Rizzolatti, Fadiga, Gallese & Fogassi – Premotor cortex and the recognition of motor actions. Brain Research, 3(2) pp131-141, 1996)) showed the following implications:

* We are connected to other people around us via these mirror neurons

* We move into synchronicity when we are with other people, firing similar brain patterns

* Being on the same wavelength isn’t imaginary…it’s biologically real

What this means is that when someone makes a specific movement, we are programmed through mirror neurons to copy the movement, if only in our minds. And as our minds can’t tell the difference between something real and something imagined, the feeling we get inside is as if we had actually carried out the movement.

So, we can mirror our client’s intentions, looking forward to something that may happen in the future. If you talk about something that would happen if the client used your services, you get them to imagine a future with your company. Their mirror neurons fire off to see the picture as you see it.

We pick up how people are feeling and our minds start to mirror it. Remember that this is at a subconscious level, so you may not actually make the person match your movements, but it will be certainly easier for them if they do.

Mirror neurons have been strongly associated with how people learn. We ‘model’ other people’s ideas and so pick up ways of doing things ourselves. Have you ever felt embarrassed for someone when they make a mistake? That’s because your mirror neurons have seen the situation and imagined yourself in the same place…they determine how you would have felt if you had been in their shoes.

This explains how matching and mirroring really works. You and the other person are firing off these neurons every moment without realising it. If you can bring it to the conscious level, you can create rapport consciously with whoever you are with. You can encourage people to be on your wavelength and help them match your thought patterns.

We’ve known that embedded commands can work at a deep unconscious level for some time now. These findings of how mirror neurons work explain the reasons why.

Happy Selling!


Sean McPheat

Sean McPheat
Managing Director

MTD Sales Training | Image courtesy of cooldesign at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

450 sales questions free report

Originally published: 9 May, 2013

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