NLP Techniques

Matching and Mirroring

Written by Lee Avery

The basic technique for building Rapport with a client is emulation or copying of behaviours. This builds a level of trust and gives the subconscious the signal that you are like me and that is Ok.

At its simplest it is just a case of doing the same thing as your client, if they cross their legs then you cross yours, if they scratch their head then you scratch yours, if they laugh loudly at a joke you follow suit.

Matching and Mirroring are just general NLP jargon for the copying process. Matching means that you do the same thing with the same side of the body, Mirroring means creating a mirror image of what the client is doing. For example, the client scratches their left ear with their right hand, Matching is the same, left ear, right hand, for Mirroring it is right ear, left hand.

There are two important points to make with this:

  1. Subtlety – If you are too obvious or copy too much then it becomes noticeable and the whole thing falls apart very quickly;
  2. Parody – Beware of making your copies too expansive so that it appears to be a parody rather than a subtle imitation.

There is an art to building rapport with this technique and it really depends upon how confident and experienced you are.

Advanced Matching and Mirroring

At its most basic the emulation takes place at a physical level and this is perhaps the easiest to initiate. You can Match and Mirror the behaviours of another from across the room and their subconscious will still pick up the cues and begin building rapport.

However more complex Matching and Mirroring takes place in a face-to-face meeting where you have the opportunity to pick up on other cues including auditory (speaking rate, tone, language etc.), visual (movement, eye positions etc.) and kinesthetic (closeness, tactility etc.) and can copy those too.

The more time you have with someone the greater the opportunity to build a strong connection, be aware though that to create a great level of rapport needs time and rushing in can actually have a negative impact especially if the person becomes aware of what you are doing.

Asymmetric Matching

Simple physical matching and mirroring is a symmetric process; if they cross their legs, you cross yours. The problem with this technique is that it can be spotted by the observant and can sometimes look false. The advanced technique of Asymmetric Matching can be useful however it can also be extremely complex.

The idea is to pick behaviours that are similar but not the same. So a crossing of the legs becomes a crossing of arms, a scratch of the nose becomes a scratch of the shoulder etc.

Similar behaviour but different enough that it will not be seen as copying by the conscious mind, however the subconscious is aware of the similarity and will react accordingly.

A word of warning – Matching and Mirroring have been used and abused over the years and has been one of the most popular techniques to come out of NLP. As such many people are aware of it and are now on guard, to use it effectively requires practice, patience and subtlety otherwise it can blow up in your face.

About the author

Lee Avery

Professional Therapist, Clinical Hypnosis & NLP Trainer with over 25 years of experience in training new professionals and treating clients. He specialises in Trauma related Psychological health issues. After years of running training classes Lee has decided to publish his training materials online to further the accessibility of NLP and Hypnosis. He is an advocate for Clinical Hypnosis Excellence and is constantly looking to improve the professional standing of Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy within the medical community.

He also runs Achieving Greatness a software development company producing mobile apps for the mental health community.

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