Learning to Become a Mirror - People Love Their Reflections the Most
Today’s post once again comes in the form of a summary of Chris Voss’ Never Split the Difference. I will admit, this advice can feel very funny at first when you begin to implement it, but it will work its magic, trust me.
The advice in this post should be applied directly on top of the advice given in my previous post, How to Become the Smartest Person in Any Room. Adding it all together is extremely powerful and is guaranteed to make a difference for you.
Open Mind, Open Ears—Shut Out Assumptions and the Voice in Your Head
The reason break down happens in communication is because most people are not interested in listening. Arriving at a conversation or negotiation with assumptions creates a loud voice in our head that talks over the person we are engaging with. As non-native speakers, we are faced with formulating a response while listening, thus making it even more difficult to actively listen.
I am constantly fighting this battle while speaking Spanish because I want to reply quickly. I mostly do this to respond fluently, because I fear that if I pause before responding it will appear like I don’t know exactly what was said. This is actually silly because if I listened more intently it would certainly lead to a better and more rich conversation.
So, how do I combat this? I shut out this voice in my head. This is much, much, much easier said than done. I do this by being conscious of my responses and when I begin formulating them. If I recognize that I have loaded a response up in the queue but the person is still saying things, I know that I need to start shutting off the voice in my head.
The fear that I won’t appear ‘fluent’ or that maybe I didn’t fully understand what they just told me can be paralyzing. It is exactly this fear that hinders conversation, and that holds me back. So, like any other fear, we look it in the eye and overcome it.
Mirrors Create Safety—People Feel Safe When Things Are Familiar
Being a mirror is how we overcome this fear of not sounding fluent, ignorant, or that we don’t understand what was said to us. Now, we may not have fully understood everything, but being a mirror allows for us to clarify without letting them know that we didn’t. It is a beautiful thing. People love looking in the mirror, which is exactly why this is effective. If you don’t, you should, you are beautiful :)
How to Be a Mirror
There are 4 key aspects to becoming a mirror. First of all, what does it mean to be a mirror? Being a mirror means that you will be copying the person you are negotiating or having a conversation with. Let’s look at a simple example first before going deeper.
Colleague: “I am feeling really stuck right now because Joe didn’t make it clear what he wants me to do. I’m afraid if I go ahead and send this out he will say I should have double checked with him before sending it, but if I ask him for help he will get mad and say I need to figure it out.”
Me: “I can understand why you feel stuck. Double checking with Joe first before sending it out probably wouldn’t hurt, especially if you explain what all you have done. That way he can see the picture more clearly and he should be able to clarify exactly what he wants you to do but he will also see that you have made a strong effort.”
The 4 key aspects of being a mirror involves copying the following:
Tone of Voice
Repeating the last 3 words that the other person said, or the 3 most important things that they said, will help fully engage them to make them feel safe. When solving conflict or negotiating, we need them to feel safe in order to get them to tell us what they want. If they tell us what they want, we can then understand what they need, which allows us to come up with a solution.
Humans are instinctively drawn to those who are similar. By copying their vocabulary, speech pattern, body language, and tone of voice, we have now shown that we can relate to them. Doing this will feel funny at first, but keep in mind that it only feels funny to you. To your listener it feels like someone truly understands them.
Now, I’m not saying that you can easily fake this. Your tone and gestures must feel genuine to them. If you are an active listener, being genuine with your tone and body language will be natural, so don’t worry.
The last key is to pause and allow them to think. The main reason we are using these tactics is because we are trying to solve a problem. We have now successfully related with their System 1 brain, and are beginning to engage their System 2 brain, which requires time to activate. We are on the brink of solution, and patience is key.
Use ‘how’ and ‘what’ in place of why when asking questions. ‘Why’ feels like a challenge, whereas ‘what’ and ‘how’ give the illusion of control in a conversation.
Being a mirror by copying the speech pattern, vocabulary, body language, and tone of voice, will help you to further establish rapport. Humans are instinctively drawn to those who are similar. Pausing and allowing them to think is key to moving forward.