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Mirroring: How to Get Past the Like/Dislike of the Human Condition

How does being influenced work? Why some people are "influential" in shaping the motivations of others and others are less motivators then others. How can we learn to be actively influenced by the people around us in ways that move us towards positive changes rather than taking on the 'negative influences' from the people around us?

There’s a very big connection between your mind/Healthy Body and its influences. Sure, we think of our influences in terms of genetics, the people who raised us, their parents perhaps, and the friends we associate ourselves with. However, we don’t think much about the ‘how’ of it all.

How does being influenced work? Why some people are “influential” in shaping the motivations of others and others are less motivators then others. How can we learn to be actively influenced by the people around us in ways that move us towards positive changes rather than taking on the ‘negative influences’ from the people around us?

When you think about it, Influence is involved in everything we do! There’s influence peddling in politics, and in policy debates, there’s influence going on everywhere.  For instance, on a massive scale in sales, by advertising agencies and marketing firms. It’s there in the churches, in cults, on sports teams, schools, teacher…you get my point.

In the study of influence, over all the different spectrums, cultures and professions, six basic principles emerged again and again about what was going on….

“Likeness” and “liking” is one of the six principles of influence. The core of this concept is that people respond favourably to people who are ‘like them’ in some fundamental way.  There’s a basic advantage that springs from this concept of likeness, which is rooted in our evolution.

 If you are a monkey and you venture out of your territorial space for food, and you come across “something”, you have to make a very quick decision. Is what you have come across a friend or a foe? To gauge that, the first determination is the question “Is it like me or not like me? Is it a monkey or is it a ‘non monkey’.  If it’s a non-monkey is it food or am I food for it? Am I going to fight it, try to eat it, or try to run from it?

Can I go faster than it? Or is it likely to outrun me?  If it’s a monkey, is it a friend?  Where am I in the hierarchy of our clan? Would it defer to me or do I defer to it, if we both want the same fruit from the same branch?

Astoundingly, the full set of these complex determinations goes through your nervous system in 1/5th of a second.  Yes, that’s all the time it takes to process that amount of information. So anything that is processed so quickly is being processed by your subconscious mind. Your conscious mind is just left with the conclusion or summation of the process, which is either “I like him/her’ or “I don’t like him/her”.

So the conclusion we make is that “monkeys” that are like us are the safest kind of monkeys to be around. After all they are “like us”. So there’s a very basic rule of thumb that is running alongside our conscious consideration of anyone we come across, which is “Is it like me?” Influence peddlers ask that consciously, “How is this person like me?” and of course the subconscious mind interprets the statement as “Like me’.  Ie. Not dissimilar to me.

So if  you fall into the “Healthy Mind trap” of seeing others as  “not like me” (as a foe, someone who will take something from you and not replenish you, not understand you, not offer you value or meaning in any way)  you likely don’t utilize this important principle of ‘liking’ and ‘likeness’ well.

This I have to concur was me in certain ways. I had deep distrust of people on an emotional level for many, many years. While I could ‘fake it’, internally I did just enough to survive around others, but ultimately I couldn’t get past a certain level of lack of trust.

 Consequently, if you are like myself,  you may  have a harder time in establishing rapport  in another person, or have a hard time in  forming the necessary bonds and have ‘likeability’ with others. If that is a chronic circumstance you may feel often ‘against the world’ or like you are ‘swimming upstream’ without sensing why. Many people who don’t build rapport or ‘likeness’ with others easily suffer because of it. They will describe their social lives as difficult or highly challenging. 

So what are some of the considerations or reasons for ‘likenesses? You have gender. You have race. You have age. You have nationality. You have ethnicity. You have political affiliation. You have sexual orientation. You have social status, you have geographical location. You have social circumstances such as parental status, pet ownership. You may be a student, a retiree, a homeowner, etc. So you can always start there in a rapport building scenario.

When you think about our reliance of conversations about the weather, even that is based on ‘likeness’ in the sense that both parties are experiencing the  same geography and the same weather conditions, in that moment of saying ‘hi’.

Further down the list you have political affiliations, and political ideologies, religion, and you have affiliations such as motorcycle riders, or tattoo enthusiasts or environmentalists, etc. So you have your level of interests’ and hobbies to consider as well.

Ironically even events considered “negative” such as having been adopted, or having been adversely affected by a drunk driver can create a strong thread to ‘likeness’ with someone else with a similar experience. 

The subconscious calibrates astounding amounts of data in virtually no time at all.

There are all sorts of ways to establish ‘likeness’ or ‘liking’.  The positive to take from this is that regardless of our circumstances, there are others who also share it. This is the basis for human bonding.

We sometimes tend to think of this concept of liking/likeness on the level of attraction or on the level of sexual chemistry, which is a form of attraction, which brings people together. However you can be very attracted to someone you don’t actually like very much in many respects, and may not be  all that  compatible with. So likeness is on the level of the nervous system, and involves comfort and compatibility, not ‘chemistry’ per se.

In NLP, (Neuro Linguistic Programming) there are many ways to cultivate likeness, or to draw the conclusion “I like this person’ to the forefront of someone’s consciousness. One way is to mirror them physically.

Suggesting ‘mirroring’ to some people brings with it a bad ‘smell’ or connotation.

Some people find the act of ‘mirroring’ someone to be a kind of manipulation to get something from them. And while that tends to be true in some cases, the fact is that as people move into rapport with each other they will tend to mirror each other’s behaviors, postures, and intonations on their own. Simply watch parents and children, football players when they are in their own element, or sports fans.  They all have the same postures and enthusiasm as the other.

OK, let’s look at sports fans.  

When you have 15,000 people all dressed virtually the same with the same jerseys and the same cheering routines, (waves, chants, clapping) this is a form of mirroring.  It takes no conscious prompting to do this or follow along. 

It’s not like each person communicated with each other directly to prompt them to all dress the same and use the same chants.  So it’s really our mechanism for saying ‘I like you’ or “I’m like you’ that we engage in mirroring. In the same way that if you share a kitchen with someone for some time, it’s likely they will begin to influence you on certain habits around the kitchen or vica versa. The standard of hygiene or cleanliness may be altered one way or another. Or you may be introduced to certain foods or combinations of food that you would not otherwise eat, like being introduced to breakfast smoothies for example because this is what your roommate makes in the morning. There likely will be no suggestion to drink them but you adopt it anyways. I simply adopted the habit on my own, based on mirroring someone who was staying with me.  It made sense as an alternative to cooking.

So by simply taking on the Healthy Body postures of another, their leg crossing, their head scratching, their pen tapping or nodding,  or adopting similar clothing, or listening to similar music we are matching and  mirroring that person or group and more likely than not have them conclude that they like you more than that they dislike you. That said, if you are going to use mirroring, it’s best to do it sparingly. But it works and it can make a difference in feeling powerful versus feeling ineffective to attract others to you. We are social beings after all. We want others to like us and to want to feel included.

The message conveyed on a deeply neurological level is often much more powerful than what you would say to that person. So the bottom line is that while it may not feel natural doing it, and even if it is a ‘device’ utilized to be in a less adversarial relationship to someone you need to work with, it can be an important first step. Yes, it’s a ‘device’ and it doesn’t represent your deepest impulses for intimacy or love,  but keep in mind that it  just happens ‘naturally’ when people are spending time together, regardless of any conscious intent.

Once it is established, you don’t need to continually exercise it because you are already ‘in rapport’. This can allow you to focus on other things and not stress out about ‘not getting along’ with someone you need to have around,   or can gain from, by having that person in your corner.