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Mirroring: A Next Level Tool to Diffuse Conflict

Updated: Aug 15, 2023

In our workshop “How to navigate conflict and difficult conversations so they don’t keep you up at night!”, we teach the simplest but most effective tools in resolving conflict. This workshop equips people to understand what kind of conflict they have on their hands and what the appropriate approach and leadership style is to handle each conflict in each stage.

Tone of voice and body language account for most of communication and it’s worthwhile to learn how to use each component to increase the chances of resolving conflict in a positive way.

So what is mirroring anyway?

Mirroring can refer to different concepts depending on the context. In psychology and interpersonal communication, mirroring is a technique where one person imitates or reflects the behavior, body language, or expressions of another person. It is often used as a way to establish rapport, build trust, and create a sense of connection.

Reflecting body language back to the person talking triggers limbic resonance, which is a cascade of chemicals in your brain that make you feel connected to others. There is no need to copy every single movement (that actually breaks rapport and would honestly be a tad weird). Similar actions are enough because the purpose is to reflect their body language back to them. Body language tells you just how well a conversation or negotiation is going. And mirroring allows you to influence the interaction.

Studies have shown that mirroring makes people seem more likable, it makes the people who have been mirrored more helpful and generous! That is a whole lot of influence from such a tiny shift in body language and tone of voice! Do you now see why we are always going on and on about the importance of staff meetings even if you don’t have big things to resolve? Staff meetings allow you to practice mirroring and deepen trust with your team. It’s your opportunity to match their energy! Small talk initiates rapport that gives way for mirroring. No rapport, no mirroring.

Check out this short video on mirroring to get you started on mastering non-verbal communication. Tone and body language lay the foundation, so the tools and skills we give you during the workshop can work their magic. If you have the title but don’t carry the energy, people won’t follow. They won’t trust that you got it. They won’t relax knowing you have a handle on your role so they can relax and focus on theirs.

Using mirroring during a conflict can be an effective communication technique to help promote understanding, empathy, and resolution. Here are some steps to utilize mirroring in conflict situations and to bring blame-shifting back to owning personal responsibility:

1. Active listening: Begin by actively listening to the other person's perspective without interruption. Pay attention to their words, tone of voice, and nonverbal cues. Show genuine interest and make an effort to understand their point of view.

2. Reflective statements: Use reflective statements to mirror back what you heard and understood from the other person. Paraphrase their main points and emotions to demonstrate that you are truly listening and trying to understand their perspective. For example, you can say, "It sounds like you feel frustrated because you think your ideas are not being considered."

3. Nonverbal mirroring: Pay attention to the other person's body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice. Subtly mirror their nonverbal cues without mimicking or imitating them directly. This can help create a sense of rapport and connection.

4. Validate emotions: Acknowledge and validate the other person's emotions even if you don't agree with their viewpoint. Recognize that emotions play a significant role in conflicts, and validating their feelings can help de-escalate tension and foster understanding.

5. Seek clarification: Ask open-ended questions to seek further clarification and encourage the other person to expand on their thoughts and feelings. This demonstrates your willingness to understand them more deeply and can uncover underlying concerns or needs.

6. Express your own perspective: After mirroring and showing understanding of the other person's viewpoint, it's important to express your own thoughts and feelings respectfully. Use "I" statements to communicate your perspective without blaming or attacking the other person.

7. Find common ground: Look for areas of agreement or common goals and values. Highlight shared interests or objectives to find a basis for collaboration and potential solutions. Emphasize the importance of working together to reach a mutually beneficial resolution.

Remember that mirroring should be used with sincerity and genuine intent to understand the other person's perspective, rather than as a manipulative technique. You can’t fake it because humans are built with a bs detector in their nervous system. Your words can say something different but your body language will give you away. Always approach conflicts with empathy, respect, and a willingness to find a solution that is good for everyone.


Want to learn more about healthy conflict and how to navigate those hard conversations that keep you up at night? Click the link below to get on the waitlist for our next workshop series.

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