Join Brenda Bailey-Hughes for an in-depth discussion in this video Matching emotions and mirroring, part of Effective Listening.
- Active listening also demonstrates matching levels of enthusiasm, concern, happiness, or seriouslness in the listener's physical reaction. Beyond matching, great listeners mirror. Mirroring can refer to physical movements or vocalics. For example, if someone is concerned about what they're sharing and they sit at the edge of their seat, you, slouching in your chair for the entire conversation, does not physically say, "I hear you." If someone is seated at a conference table with both hands extended out, you want to at least have one hand in the same reached-out position, semi-mirroring their posture.
Slight mirroring of posture or gestures on the side of the listener builds rapport and cohesion for the speaker. Mirroring also comes in the form of speech pacing, vocabulary choices, volume, tone, and speech patterns. I'll give you a very simple example that comes from my long-time tenure in carpooling. My 13-year-old daughter is pretty mature for her age. As a firstborn, her vocabulary is rich, and her mannerisms well-developed.
While taking her to volleyball practice, we may carry on a serious conversation about a news topic discussed on the radio. Then we stop to pick up a teammate. She moves to the backseat, and her alter ego suddenly shows up. The teammate is talking fast, using middle school slang, asking a question with every statement, and adding "like" and "you know" fillers left and right. My poised, mature, well-spoken child is gone.
She has left the vehicle. In her place is a mini-me of the teammate we just picked up. The matching and mirroring of gestures, stance, and vocalics is astounding. Now that is relationship building in the making, and a perfect example of listening in action. Let me add one caveat on matching and mirroring. One of the first rules of dealing with a difficult customer is to show understanding and empathy. More of that is done with actions rather than words.
You may notice retail associates walk alongside an angry customer or stand beside them, versus facing them heart-to-heart. In a challenging verbal interaction, you want to diffuse tension with congenial body language or open body posture and head leaned to the side. This is one situation where mirroring or matching the speaker's emotion is not advised.
- Recalling details
- Avoiding distractions and the feeling of being overwhelmed
- Clarifying your role
- Using attentive nonverbal cues
- Paraphrasing what was said
- Matching emotions and mirroring