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Body Language that Will Make You More Persuasive and Likable

Mirroring is effective body language for public speaking and presentations.

Do you want to persuade others and be viewed as more likable? Of course you do! Here's an easy and dependable way to make that happen. 

Want to know about a body language tool that will improve your likability and influence on others?

There is such a tool, known as "mirroring." This technique of interpersonal communication will allow you to connect with, network with, and gain trust and credibility in the mind of the person you're talking to.

That's not bad for an aspect of body language that isn't on most people's radar screen.

Body language is important not only in getting your message across. It also plays a role in how people perceive you, and even how you feel about yourself! From job interviews to in-person and virtual presentations, you're revealing more than you think about who you are. Learn more from my free cheat sheet,  "5 Secrets of Powerful Body Language." 

So what is mirroring, how easily can you learn it, and what are the situations in which you should be using it? 

The Power of Body Language to Foster Person-to-Person Connections

Mirroring means adopting the posture, gestures, vocal qualities, and language of the person you're speaking with in interpersonal communication.

How does it work? A study conducted in 2016 using functional MRI found that the brains of speakers and listeners "reacted and adapted to signals from each other." That finding was reported this week in The Wall Street Journal in a story on the benefits of mirroring, especially in business. [1]

This resonated strongly with me because it’s the basis of a standard acting exercise. The exercise is called Mirror, and it reveals the same effect concerning person-to-person connections that the scientific exercise validated, even without the expensive technology. Here are 5 more acting techniques for greater stage presence in public speaking.

In Mirror, one person (Person "A”) stands in front of an imaginary mirror and moves naturally (“Getting ready for your day” or “Arguing a point” are good directives here). Typically, that person is reminded to move slowly. "A"'s partner (Person "B”) faces "A" and mirrors everything he is doing. The exercise can be stepped up a notch by telling “A” that he is silently talking to himself. Again, “B” must mirror everything she sees “A” doing (and in the second version, expressing facially). The roles are then switched, sometimes multiple times.

The interesting thing about the Mirror exercise is that intention, emotions, expressiveness, and energy level are all revealed through movement and gestures. That's an invaluable lesson in itself for learning actors. Equally important, it’s a fast-track demonstration of the interconnectedness of human beings, and the fact that it can be fostered by displayed and mimicked behavior. Both lessons are as invaluable for public speakers as stage performers. Here's more on theater-based techniques for effective speaking skills for business.

How to Establish Rapport and Trust in Interpersonal Speech

How then can you use mirroring productively in your own conversations and interactions with others? The key is the honesty with which you approach and practice the technique. Here's how to use body language to make a great first impression for instant rapport with others

You can start by not intending to mirror your conversational partner at all. Instead, focus on understanding what the other person is all about and what their needs appear to be. You’ll foster your ability to practice mirroring if you remain open and genuinely interested in what the person has to say. That is, if you're trustworthy in your intention, what you show your partner will emerge out of sincerity rather than a desire to manipulate.

As to the technique itself, begin by matching the other person’s vocal tone and pace. Vocal cues are usually more subtle than body positions and should help smooth your first attempt at mirroring. Then allow yourself to adopt nonverbal behaviors you’re seeing. These include stance and position, whether the person is sitting forward or leaning back in a chair, frequency of eye contact, head nodding or positioning, and the level of engagement or excitement being displayed physically and by the pace of the person's speech.

And don’t neglect the linguistic aspect of the interaction. Pay attention to imagery, metaphors, sports terminology, and whether the person favors visual, auditory, or kinesthetic references (respectively, “I see your point,” “I hear you,” or “I can get a handle on that.”)

Honesty and trust are the true elements that will give you charisma in public speaking.

Act Naturally and Honestly to Get the Right Results

The idea is for you to be genuinely interested in what the other person is saying. Your voice, body, and emotional involvement reflect that level of engagement. Tap into that wavelength, and you may be surprised at how energized and focused you become within the conversational dynamic. If that happens, you may forget that you’re practicing mirroring at all!

Mirroring will pay dividends in terms of understanding and connecting with the person you’re talking to at the moment. But it’s also good training for generally becoming a more mindful speaker, one who focuses on others rather than oneself. As sales trainer David Hoffeld reminds us, “The very process of mirroring will help you keep your focus where it should be—on the other person.” [2]

[1] Sue Shellenbarger, “It’s Not Copying, It’s Connecting, We’re Networking,” The Wall Street Journal, September 21, 2016, D1.

[2] Shellenbarger, “It’s Not Copying,” D3.

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Tags: persuasive speaking,body language,persuasive speech,persuading audiences,persuasion,acting techniques,The Genard Method,Dr. Gary Genard,likability,mirroring

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