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  • Writer's pictureJonathan E. Pearl

Mirror, Mirror on the wall!

"Mirroring" is a great technique that mediators can use to build rapport with the parties. This can range from mirroring the parties' posture, tone, but more importantly, what they say.

A 2003 study by the psychologist Van Baaren at the University of Nijmegen (2003) looked at the "mirroring" phenomena. Van Baaren and his team took 2 groups of waiters. The Group 1 waiters lavished positive reinforcement on their dinner guests when they were ordering - with words like “great” “no problem” “sure” . The Group 2 waiters "mirrored" their guests by repeating back to them the dishes they had ordered only - without any positive additions.

Surprisingly, the tips given to the Group 2 waiters, who only “mirrored”, were 70% higher than those given to the waiters who used positive reinforcement.

"Mimicry creates bonds between people - it induces a sense of 'we-ness'," said Rick van Baaren of the University of Nijmegen. "You know that what you're doing is ok, and you become more generous."

I think it's also that people want to "know" they have been heard correctly. They are maybe less interested in being flattered (?).

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