Thursday, August 6, 2015

Mirroring and Attunement

In our Foundational Cognitive Coaching Seminar we learned about mirror neurons.  Mirroring is an important form of non-verbal communication that help us establish rapport.  Discovered by scientists at the University of Parma in Italy in 1996, mirror neurons are brain cells that fire when we perform an action and when we watch someone else perform the same action.  It is believed that mirror neurons explain how we learn social skills and cultural behaviours and that they make our brains sociable.   We learned that mirror neurons help us to tune in to what others are feeling which can lead to empathy.

In the book To Sell is Human Dan Pink also writes about mirroring.  His ABC of how to be a great salesman is attunement, buoyancy and clarity.   He mentions that humans are natural mimickers and that we often unconsciously mirror back accents, speech patterns, facial expressions, overt behaviours and affective responses.  He also writes that it is a natural act that serves as social glue and a sign of trust:
Our brains evolved at a time when most of the people around us where those we were related to and could trust, but as the size of groups increased it required more sophisticated understandings and interactions with people.  People therefore looked to cues in the environment to determine whom they could trust.  One of these cues is the unconscious awareness of whether we are in synch with other people, and the way to do that is to match their behavioural patterns with our own.  Synching our mannerisms and vocal patterns to someone else so that we both understand and can be understood is fundamental to attunement.
Attunement isn't enough by itself however.  Just as in Cognitive Coaching, once rapport has been established it's important to think of mediative questions.  Pink writes that "top salespeople have strong emotional intelligence but don't let their emotional connection sweep them away.  They are curious and ask questions that drive to the core of what the other person is thinking."

Photo Credit: downhilldom1984 via Compfight cc

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