Mirroring: The Key to Understanding

One of the biggest challenges I see in business today is people failing to communicate properly. While one side is trying to make a point, the other side is most likely not listening because they are more worried about forming their next point. So each person spends more time thinking about what they are going to say next rather than trying to understand what the other person is saying.


In Stephen Coveys bestselling book 7 Habits of Highlight Effective People, the fifth habit is: Seek first to understand, then to be understood is the foundation of good communication. Seeking real understanding affirms to the other person you understand what they have to say. But how do you do this effectively?


In Chris Voss’ book Never Split the Difference, he talks about a technique called mirroring. Mirroring is repeating the last one to three things your counterpart just said. With this technique you can get to understand what is being said by just repeating the last few words.


For instance, you are having a discussion with your significant other and they say they want you to go to the store. You mirror back, “You want me to go to the store?” By doing this, multiple things are accomplished. First is that it helps you connect your thoughts and lets you understand what is being said or asked. Second, it shifts the conversation back to the person who said it so they will feel the need to explain and can give you more details of what is being asked. And lastly, it can buy you time to think about what was said.


Mirroring is such a simple concept, but it is rarely used because we spend so much time wanting to talk that we never really understand what is being asked. When we mirror the person we’re talking with it lets us know how firm they are in their position or if there is wiggle room.


Next time you are in a conversation, mirror back what the person is saying and you will be amazed how much better the outcome will be.


Until next time…I’m Marty, make every minute count.


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