“Mirror” can be a noun or a verb. Its verb form means “to reflect”.
Magic mirrors are common plot devices in fairy tales. They serve many purposes including rapid travel to someplace else, giving advice or the ability to see distant events. Even if those stories aren’t real, there is something very real about mirror magic, and it can transform your life.
Modern humans take mirrors for granted. We rarely consider how special or important they are. Prior to the German creation of the silvered mirror 200 years ago, mirrors were too expensive for most people to afford. Their invention revolutionized our world in ways few of us can appreciate. For example, we can all look good, because we can all afford mirrors to groom ourselves in. Even more amazing is the fact we can use them. It’s a neurological miracle.
Humans are currently one of only ten species scientifically proven to recognize themselves in a mirror, by passing the Mark Test. A member of the species passes this test when a scientist puts a green smudge on the subject. Then they put the subject in front of a mirror. If the subject examines it and tries to remove it, they pass. All great apes pass the test. This includes bonobos, gorillas, humans, common chimps, and orangutans. Other members of this elite group include Asian elephants and dolphins.
Fast Fact: Your mirror image is not what others see. Mirrors flip your sides, so your right side looks like your left. Use a “true mirror” to see what you really look like to others.
Another thing makes our species different is that we have “mirror neurons”. These special neurons help us form a “theory of mind”. This is the ability to figure out what others are thinking, and how they will respond to our actions. This is an obvious edge to getting what you want.
Mirror neurons help us imitate others, and be more sympathetic. They are how kids learn to behave, talk and walk. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to experience the emotional rollercoaster of movies, because they wouldn’t make us feel anything. They are also why we learn so much better when teachers show us how to do something by acting it out. Whether we know it or not, we use these neurons all the time.
They are integral to our communication and give us powerful unconscious responses to other people’s actions. We’ve all gagged when we saw somebody else puke. This trait evolved because historically we ate the same food as the rest of the tribe. If we saw somebody else puking up bad food, it was probably best to copy them before we felt the full effects of food poisoning. There are many other ways we mirror people’s behavior.
We get afraid when we see other people afraid because if they are afraid, chances are we should be too. This is why we prefer leaders who are calm and confident under stress. They help us remain calm, so we can think more clearly, and come up with solutions to our problems. It’s even better if they laugh in the face of danger.
Most people instinctively laugh when other people laugh because it builds rapport and shows they are on the same wavelength. Theaters used this to great effect by hiring professional laughers. We might think this is crazy, but television shows still use this same technique to make their shows seem funnier with laugh tracks or live audiences. Either way, laughter is undeniably powerful.
Marketers use it to tap our mirror neurons and sell their products. They show us ads with people smiling and laughing to associate positive feelings with their products. If we identify with the people in the ad, it makes us more likely to buy those products, so we can feel good too.
People often use mirror magic to impress others, and rapidly establish rapport, by dressing like they do. Smart CEOs prepare for meetings with other CEOs, by finding out what they are going to wear. Then they wear the same clothes to build group cohesion and demonstrate similar values. It’s not as weird as it sounds. We all tap this important technique when we ask what kind of attire to wear to our job interviews, and why we use buzzwords.
People mirror each other’s language to show that they are a part of the tribe. Tribe members use the same buzzwords their leaders do, to show deference to their intelligence. This behavior also helps spread important knowledge more quickly. It also helps others feel like they were heard.
That’s why mirroring is the first technique that former-FBI negotiator Chris Voss teaches in his Master Class. By reflecting part of what you just heard, it shows the other person we are listening. It also makes them more likely to share more information, which can help you find the path to a successful negotiation. This technique is guaranteed to change your relationship dynamics. If you don’t believe me, ask my wife.
Another way to harness mirror magic is by writing. Computer screens are a type of mirror. When we write, our screen literally reflects what we are thinking. Writing something down lets us craft and hone our thoughts. Seeing what we are thinking or doing helps us think and communicate more clearly.
Every performer knows how important mirrors are. I know this is going to sound weird, but this is one time you should do what Hitler did. Despite what you might think of the man, he was a hell of an orator. But he wasn’t born a charismatic speaker. He got great by practicing in front of a mirror. Whether you are an actor, dancer, magician or public speaker, mirrors are indispensable if you want to give good performances.
Better yet, video your talks and review them. That’s what I’ve been doing to practice for my international speech contest. It has revolutionized my talk, and will greatly improve the quality of your presentations. It’s also a way to get the one thing that is guaranteed to make you a better speaker: stage time.
In conclusion, mirror magic is real. TV shows and comedians use it to get their audience laughing. Marketers use it to sell products. Pros use it to get better at performing. When you practice mirroring, you will come to a better understanding of what others are saying and be a better listener. By learning to put yourself in other people’s shoes, you will find common ground more quickly, which is not an easy thing to do.
And that’s real magic.