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What Is Mirroring: A Manipulation Tactic?

by Lily Hale about a month ago in advice
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A short guide to how mirroring can be used in social settings

Photo by Min An from Pexels

Contrary to popular misconception, mirroring is not copying the other person or their body language. It’s giving someone what they want based on your reading of them.

Let us consider an example where you’re having a conversation and you want to tell the person in front of you that you love taking LSD. They might be judgemental about drugs and if your goal is to get on with them, you don’t want to make a bad impression. It’s better to test them first by saying ‘A friend of mine did LSD last weekend’ and watch their reaction. Their facial expression, tone of voice and body language will tell you how they feel about the idea of taking LSD. If they seem judgemental then you can simply not disclose the fact that you have tried it. However, if they seem open to it or it feels like they think it might be interesting, you can carry on with ‘Yeah, when I tried it in the past…’

In other words, when mirroring you need to always be checking and testing what the other person is comfortable with and adjusting your personality to match that. You can hint towards certain topics and ideas to make sure the other person is okay with them before bringing them up. In the case of LSD for example, some people may not like you simply because you use recreational drugs. They might find you irresponsible or they might be against anything that goes against the law. If the goal is to get on with the person, it's best to not mention things that may cause them to judge you at first. Once you have built a rapport with the said person, you should be able to bring things up without making them dislike you. This is because once we like someone as a person, it is more difficult to dislike them as opposed to someone we have just met.

Another thing you can do is to be aware of the other person’s personality and what they might need from you based on that. For instance, if you come across a narcissist, you might be able to tell that he is one by reading his traits and behaviours accurately. If you pay attention to certain behaviours like bragging way too much, arrogance, being rude to waiters, being obnoxious and only talking about oneself and signs of envy. These are hints that the person in front of you might have Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

If it is in your best interest to get on with this person, copying his behaviours clearly wouldn’t work at all. Actually, this may lead the narcissist to feel threatened by you. What narcissists want is something called narcissistic supply, which is attention, admiration and adulation. What you can do once you realise that there is a chance you are dealing with someone with this disorder, is to keep quiet about yourself and listen to them talk about their success, achievements and accomplishments and feign admiration. This will get the narcissist to like you because you’re providing them with exactly what they need.

To put it simply, mirroring is being socially savvy and considering the psychology of the person you are dealing with instead of being self-focused and self-absorbed all the time. It requires one to stop thinking about what they want to say about themselves and pay attention to the person in front of them to determine what this person wants to hear and act accordingly. It is important to learn about psychology and be able to read people well so you can determine how to deal with each person as a seperate and unique individual.

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About the author

Lily Hale

Writing about trauma, personality disorders, abuse and psychology in general

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