Have you heard of the Mehrabian formula: 55/38/7?
In the 1970s, Prof. Albert Mehrabian from the University of California, Los Angeles, came up with what became a widely popular rule. Of all of our non-verbal messages, 55% are body language and facial expressions, he discovered, 38% — tone of voice and only 7%–the actual words that we say. Other research estimates the effect of body language to be 4.3 times greater than that of verbal cues.
Bottom line: non-verbal communication matters.
We all know, of course, that firm a handshake and a stable eye contact are traits of an affirmative person, and that sitting up straight and holding your head high can become instant confidence boosters. Or that we usually have only few milliseconds to leave a good impression on others. So, this short timespan has to be filled with powerful signals—with the most effective cues if you are to come across as confident, competent and likeable.
Generally, these cues are sub-conscious—how you regard yourself and what you think about yourself is what you show to the world through your actions, words, posture, gestures.
However, scientists tell us, there are ways to fall into someone’s good graces right away—by mastering what can be called a “conscious unconsciousness.” This is how.
A rather successful path to improving your confidence lies in the very heart of non-verbal communication—that is, as a tool of making a connection to others. And one of the ways to establish a link to another person is by mirroring their body language.
Mirroring, according to psychologists, is the “sub-conscious replication of another person’s nonverbal signals.”
Almost two hundred years ago, the English writer Charles Caleb Colton famously proclaimed that “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” Today, mimicking is barely a shameful undertaking, rather—it’s a recipe that successfully works.
It’s pleasing to the other person (even if they don’t know that we imitate their actions), and as for the person doing it—it’s a shortcut to learn winning behaviors, without the disappointments of the trial-and-error experiences. So, it’s not hard to see that “behavioral matching” can work wonders for your social status—it can help with these important first impressions, with building trust and finding common grounds.
It’s based on a simple principle—we all like people that are similar to us in some way. Familiarity breeds comfort and likeability.
On a more sophisticated level, mimicking, or “observational learning” can be employed as a strategy—to the ends of, say, getting someone’s attention in a bar or a restaurant, to passing a job interview successfully, to closing a deal successfully.
Just how great can the benefits be?— Quite abundant, according to studies.
An interesting research, for instance, found that a waitress received a much larger tip when she verbally mimicked customers. Copycatting others can not only change the mimicked person behavior toward us, but—surprisingly—as we start to “see ourselves” in others, we tend to become more helpful and generous individuals.
Simply put, mimicking can turn you into a better person and help you project instant confidence. It can also boost the value of your personal stock by making you more likeable and by expanding your social circle.
It ticks a lot of boxes when it comes to becoming more self-assured.
Just don’t overdo it.
True, gentle mimicry can act as a kind of “social glue” in human relationships. It fosters rapport and trust. It’s a way to oil the wheel of social interactions, if you will.
But as one of the scientists involved in the research, put it: “It’s not enough to simply know how to mimic. It’s also important to know when and when not to. The success of mirroring depends on mirroring the right people at the right time for the right reasons. Sometimes the socially intelligent thing to do is not to imitate.”
So, to get successful results with mimicking, you must choose the right role model wisely. Then try it out for a month.
Your entire career (and life) will likely thank you.