To mimic or not to mimic

Von Stefan Kühn

An important investor welcomes you in a conference room and you sit opposite each other at the negotiating table. Twenty minutes later the conversation seems to go very well. Coincidentally, you notice that you and your potential investor are sitting in the same position, mimicking the hand gestures and leaning back with your legs crossed. You feel self-confident, in good spirits and wonder whether you should change your position.

It has been proven that if two negotiators begin to mirror each other’s behaviour after only a few minutes, the conditions for an open, constructive exchange are very good and solid.

Instead of feeling ashamed or stupid when you and your counterpart copy each other’s behaviour, you should congratulate yourself. Catching or mirroring body language is a sign that both of you are eager to build a relationship, connect and create common ground, even if you are not aware how or when the mirroring began.

Mirroring not only seems to make us feel comfortable in the presence of those people who behave in the same way, but also makes us believe them more.

With all these positive influences, you should still be aware that well-trained negotiators who are aware of the power of correct mirroring might try to influence you with this tactic. Making them believe that they are in a good, safe position can leave you vulnerable.

About the author

Stefan Kühn
Negotiation expert

Stefan Kühn is a senior international negotiator, mediator and facilitator and experienced in high-risk and high-stakes negotiations in sensitive markets. He successfully conducts national and international multi-party negotiations and consults businesses, organizations and governmental bodies in demanding and conflicting situations. Stefan Kühn graduated from Harvard University and Oxford Saïd Business School and holds a Master of Science in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution and an MBA.