NLP In Action

Welcome to NLP In Action. NLP insights and practical tips to help you discover what NLP has for you.

This is Episode 006 of the NLP In Action podcast. This episode is all about matching and mirroring. Perhaps one of the most misunderstood and misused of all of the NLP tool-box.

What some believe and shouldn’t

If you match and mirror an individual’s physiology, pitch, pace and volume and more during an interaction you’ll be able to create a rapid and stable rapport with them. There is a very fine line with matching and mirroring, and it’s not copying and mimicking. There is nothing worse than that.

Where did the matching and mirroring idea come from?

Simple! You can observe this correctly at work with people who are comfortable with each other. They will sit the same, breathe at the same pace, speak at similar volumes and gesture similarly. It’s very simple to see how this was discovered, and again how easy it would be to deduce that copying those patterns could, and would produce rapid cases of rapport. You need to understand that these behaviours were happening on an unconscious level. Therefore when the unskilled practitioner attempts to match and mirror it can happen on a very conscious level and could come across incredibly awkward, and worst of all the person may realise that you’re mimicking them which is not going to help report at all.

What’s the best place to start?

As I mentioned above, trying to matching and mirror on a conscious level can come across very clunky and reduce the levels of rapport that you can create. This is because so much of your attention is simply spent on matching mirroring that you’re not actually engaging in the correct manner. Therefore I would suggest initially you practice matching and mirroring just by the volume of your voice and also the level of expression of your voice.

As an example, if the person you’re speaking to is very expressive with their language and speaks quite rapidly and loudly, they just focus on matching that in your own way but using those traits. We all know that practice makes………. permanent! Those things that you practice consciously will soon become an unconscious response that you can rely upon. Next time you speak to someone who is quietly spoken, perhaps introverted with minimal body language movement, begin to practice and match that. Before too long you will find that your unconscious takes over and that you become a natural at mirroring a persons volume, expression, and pace. Then it’s a good time to start noticing more body language subtleties, and you can begin to include those within your arsenal to become an effective communicator.

What types of things can be matched and mirrored?

Speech patterns
Body language
Vocabulary style and specific choices of words
Facial expressions
Eye movement
Pace, tempo, pitch, tone, volume (these are the ones that I think are the easiest to start with)
Another subtle introduction into matching mirroring to ensure that you don’t end up mimicking and copying is to use something called crossover matching. If the person you are interacting with is blinking rapidly, then you can tap your finger to the same rate that they are, this rhythm we picked up an unconscious level and a subtle as it may seem can enhance rapport in connection. Head nodding  is another very useful non-verbal timing device that you can use to cross over Mirror someone else’s actions and timing.

Mismatching and when to use it

As much as we all know that having the rapport and a great line of communication can be extremely important, I also explained how when a person is in rapport and feels like to have a connection; it’s possible for them to continue communicating. And at times, we know that there are benefits in stopping a person in their tracks to maybe allow others to join in, or to get your point in without physically asking them to stop. This can be done by mismatching.

Mismatching needs to be done very carefully as it can provoke a response by the person as it can come across extremely rude. However, if used efficiently then mismatching will allow you to break persons line of thought and perhaps let a line of communication to come in. To allow you to move the conversation somewhere different.

Mis-matching could be something like turning your body away from them slightly or breaking eye contact. Subtlety is the key here and remember; it’s just another string to your bow. And also remember if you want to carry on with good levels of rapport and to be on occasion be careful not to accidentally mismatch. Looking your watch during interaction is an extremely useful mismatch. Be careful!