Be A Human Mirror

I was reading Triggerfish Twist, a novel by Tim Dorsey, when I ran across this passage:

Pierre was a human mirror. Minutes after meeting a new superior, Pierre had picked up voice inflection, figures of speech, physical mannerisms. He didn't even know he was doing it. When the bosses went out and drank too much, he drank too much. When they laughed, he laughed. On the golf course, he cursed with the best of them. When a group of southerners took over the company, Pierre began eating fried okra with a paper napkin in his collar, putting on a tremendous amount of weight, developing a drawl and answering to "Buford." When an energetic group of New Yorkers supplanted the southerners, Pierre shed the weight, took taxis, talked fast and started spending weekends upstate. His superiors couldn't quite put their finger on it - they just knew they really liked this Pierre guy.

As silly as it sounds, this actually works.

Rapport, Rapport, Rapport

Establishing, maintaining and reestablishing rapport with anyone is simple:

  • Stand or sit like they are. Are they leaning forward or back, left or right? Mirror the tilt of their head, the tap of their foot.
  • Breathe like they are breathing. When they're talking they must be breathing out.
  • When you speak, match their rhythm and tone. Are they faster or slower than your normal rhythm? Melodic or monotone?
  • Use their words! What words or phrases do they use repeatedly? What metaphors do they use? Is business about war with soldiers, jeep drivers and taking no prisoners, or about sport with coaches, teams, star players and scoring?

The Eye Contract

What if you haven't met someone yet? Use the eye contract.

Ever seen someone walk by a mirror and turn to look at themselves not because of vanity but because they were surprised to see themselves reflected there?

My friend Mike describes this as a way to meet people easily. He calls it an eye contract.

If you see someone you want to meet across a crowded room, bar, or street corner, then turn your body into a perfect mirror of their stance, breathing, and movement. Keep looking at them. As they scan their surroundings, they'll see you and stop, in the same way they would if they saw themselves reflected in a mirror. They'll usually feel compelled to meet you.

I did this unintentionally when I worked in the phone company. I was supposed to give a two-day training to the executive team about Six Sigma, but I'd never met any of the team. Fortunately, I went to a presentation by the CEO. Afterward, he hung around answering questions. I stood off to the side and mirrored him. When he finished talking to one of the honchos in the queue in front of him, he turned and introduced himself and I got to ask him what he wanted from the upcoming training. The eye contract works!


Most people are afraid to openly apply this level of mirroring for fear that someone will think you're mimicking them. If your intent is to make fun of them, they will sense that, but if your intent is to create a relationship, they'll respond openly and favorably.

We all do this unconsciously with people we like, but tend to lose it when we're trying to meet someone new, especially if our romantic or business life can be affected. Then we unconsciously fall out of rapport.

Growing Relationships

So, if you've got a big meeting, take an extra 30-seconds at the beginning of the meeting to make sure you are in rapport with the key person at that meeting.

Find yourself in conflict with someone in a meeting? Take a few seconds to realign your body, tone and tempo to match the person you're dueling with. You'll immediately get an understanding of their point of view and vice versa.

Struggling to connect with a spouse or your child? Go the extra mile and mirror them with love in your heart. They'll soften or melt. Ever seen a young couple in love at a restaurant? They're in complete sync physically and vocally.

Learn to be a Human Mirror not a Mimic

You'll build better relationships and create a more joyous life.

Rights to reprint this article in company periodicals is freely given with the inclusion of the following tag line: "© 2008-2024 Jay Arthur, the KnowWare® Man, 888-468-1537, ."