Mirroring Your Way to Fun and Profit

Mirroring: This post focuses on an Advance Negotiation Skill: Mirroring. Don’t overlook its power.  

Negotiation is a useful skill to develop. Few physicians work on it, but those who do notice benefits in their personal and professional lives.

Start with the basics. Then, read this post to learn a more advanced skill.

Losing With Logic

I used my nerd skills to succeed in many areas of life. In college, I played chess, studied chemistry, programmed computers, and aced symbolic logic. 

However, cold calculations do not always result in the best deals. Our emotional intelligence is more important.

Renee Descartes was brilliant, but he over-emphasized and underappreciated our emotional experience. He worked hard to separate mind and body. This separation promoted science but created a false divide. 

Perception, empathy, and emotion are the keys to negotiation mastery. The key is not logical reasoning.

I’m not here to bash the Harvard Negotiation Project by any means. Its book “Getting to Yes” is a foundational work for Basic Negotiation. Their focus on win-win deals revolutionized effective negotiations. However, you must build your “soft skills ” to get beyond the basics. “

Being like Spock (on Star Trek) will limit your success. Ignore people’s feelings at your peril.

Fierce Use of Soft Skills

Chris Voss taught me these skills. Anyone interested in improving interpersonal relationships or business success should study his book

Chris Voss started as a street cop. He admired officers who could de-escalate a high-stakes conflict. He noticed the most successful officers didn’t use force and aggression. Instead, they were soft-spoken, savvy listeners. Over time, he improved his tactical empathy skills. 

You can also obtain mastery. The key is to use soft skills without becoming soft. Have a lot of tools in your tool kit and know when to use them.

The higher the negotiation stakes, the more emotions run the show. Managing the emotional terrain requires soft skills, so practice your soft skills to stay sharp.

Master Negotiator Training

Chris Voss started by volunteering on a suicide hotline. He built his skills over time to become the FBI’s lead hostage negotiator.

Later, he learned at Harvard, taught at two business schools, and now runs a consulting company.

Chris Voss’s “Never Split the Difference” is an engaging and insightful book that offers a fresh take on negotiation. Drawing from his extensive experience as an FBI hostage negotiator, Voss provides a wealth of practical strategies that are both innovative and counterintuitive. His book, Never Split the Difference, reads more like a novel than a business book. He credits his co-author, Tahl Raz, for making the writing enjoyable. 

“Never Split the Difference” is a must-read for anyone looking to improve their negotiation skills. Chris Voss provides a unique blend of psychological insight and practical advice, making it a valuable resource for professionals and individuals. The book’s emphasis on empathy, understanding, and strategic questioning sets it apart from traditional negotiation literature, offering a fresh, engaging, and highly effective perspective.

Improving at Negotiating

Negotiation can be a lifelong passion. You can never get too good at being an expert negotiator. When novice negotiators start out, they tend to focus on the numbers and the ranges between figures, such as salaries. More experienced negotiators focus on the interaction’s subtle social cues and psychological aspects.

One negotiation key is to be open-minded and expect the other side to reveal some surprising information. Have multiple hypotheses about what is really going on. Face a negotiation with a ‘mindset of discovery.’ Great negotiators question assumptions. Other players accept on faith.

Be wary of people who overuse personal pronouns such as we and they. The less important he makes himself, the more important he probably is, and vice versa.

Realize that you will not hear or understand all the information transmitted. It is best to have another set of ears to listen to the information and monitor body language, tone, and subtext. As you try to process what they said and think about what you will say next, you are selectively engaged and distracted and missing some critical information.

Be Calm and Slow!

Chris Voss speaks of the importance of being calm and going slow. Novice negotiators tend to make mistakes when they rush things through. A slower pace allows time for camaraderie to develop and for new information to pop up.

He also recommends a calming voice, which he refers to as my late-night FM DJ voice. It’s soft, deep, slow, reassuring, and intends to have a downward inflection at the end of a statement.

In the context of Chris Voss’s “Never Split the Difference,” mirroring is a negotiation technique where you repeat the last few words (or the most critical part) of what the other person has just said. This strategy builds rapport and trust by showing the other person that you are actively listening and trying to understand their point of view.

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Mirroring is laughably simple. According to Chris Voss, the FBI version of the mirror is when you repeat the last three words of what someone has just said. This could be a critical one, two, or three words. For a mirror to be effective, you must let it sit and do its work. It needs to be followed by a bit of silence. That can be awkward, but it is essential.

Mirroring is an essential tool of influence and persuasion and should be in your toolbox of applied psychological tactics.

Warmth, acceptance, comfort, and enthusiasm will attract people to us, make them comfortable, and allow them to share information that may be helpful to us. Smiling and friendly, along with a kind and playful tone, also helps with information transmission, trust, and comfort level.

Mirroring is a powerful tool that may get the other side lending information to you that you would never have suspected. Mirroring is also called isopraxism, and it is a form of imitation. When you use mirroring, you signal to others that we are alike and that they should trust you.

How Mirroring Works:


When the other person speaks, you repeat back a few key words or phrases they used. This can be the last few words they said or something particularly significant from their statement.

Creating Connection:

By mirroring, you subtly encourage the other person to continue talking and elaborate on their thoughts, which can provide more information and insights.

Building Trust:

This technique helps to create a sense of empathy and understanding, demonstrating that you are engaged and interested in what the other person is saying.

Benefits of Mirroring:

Encourages Further Communication:

Mirroring prompts the other person to continue speaking and often results in them revealing more information.

Shows Active Listening:

It demonstrates that you are paying attention and value what the other person is saying.

Build Rapport:

By reflecting their words, you create a sense of connection and mutual understanding.

Mirroring is a simple, yet powerful technique used in various negotiation and communication scenarios to foster better relationships and achieve favorable outcomes.

Detailed Explanation of Mirroring

Mirroring is a communication technique that repeats the last few words or a critical part of the other person’s words. This technique shows active listening, builds rapport, and encourages the other person to elaborate on their thoughts and feelings. It’s a subtle yet powerful way to make the other person feel understood and validated.

How to Use Mirroring:

Listen Carefully:

Pay close attention to the other person’s words, tone, and body language.

Repeat Key Words:

Select a few critical words or the last few words they said and repeat them as a question or a statement.

Pause and Wait:

After mirroring, pause and wait for the other person to respond. This gives them a chance to elaborate and continue the conversation.

Keep it Natural:

Ensure your mirroring sounds natural and is not overdone. Use it sparingly to maintain its effectiveness.

When to Use Mirroring:

Building Rapport:

Use mirroring at the beginning of a conversation to establish a connection and build trust.

Clarifying Information:

When you need more information or clarity on a point, mirroring can encourage the other person to elaborate.

Defusing Tension:

In tense or confrontational situations, mirroring can help to calm the other person and create a more cooperative atmosphere.


Mirroring is especially useful in negotiations to understand the other party’s position and uncover underlying concerns.

Benefits of Mirroring

Builds Rapport and Trust:

Mirroring helps build a positive relationship by showing that you are actively listening and engaged.

Encourages Elaboration:

It prompts the other person to provide more details and insights, which can be valuable in negotiations and problem-solving.

Clarifies Understanding:

Mirroring helps you understand the other person’s perspective correctly.

Creates a Cooperative Atmosphere:

It can reduce tension and create a more collaborative environment.

Pitfalls of Mirroring


If overdone, mirroring can come across as insincere or mechanical, undermining trust.


If not used correctly, it can be perceived as mimicking or mocking the other person.

Lack of Authenticity:

If it doesn’t feel natural, the other person may sense that you are using a technique which can reduce its effectiveness.

Why People Don’t Use Mirroring

Lack of Awareness:

Many people are unaware of the technique and its benefits.


Some people may feel awkward or self-conscious about repeating others’ words.


There may be a misconception that repeating someone’s words is annoying or ineffective.

Lack of Practice:

It can feel unnatural without practice, and people may give up before becoming proficient.

How People Respond to Mirroring

Positive Responses:

Most people respond positively to mirroring as it makes them feel heard and understood. They are likely to elaborate more on their thoughts and feelings.

Increased Openness:

People may become more open and cooperative when they feel their perspective is being acknowledged.


Mirroring can help calm emotions and create a more constructive dialogue in tense situations.

How to Get Started with Mirroring

Practice Active Listening:

Focus on hearing and understanding the other person before responding.

Start Small:

Begin by mirroring in low-stakes conversations to get comfortable with the technique.

Observe Reactions:

Respond to how people respond to your mirroring and adjust your approach as needed.

Combine with Other Techniques:

Use mirroring alongside other communication techniques like labeling and calibrated questions for maximum effectiveness.

Reflect and Adapt:

After conversations, consider how your use of mirroring affected the interaction and how you can improve.

Examples of Mirroring

Example 1: Workplace Scenario

Colleague: “I’m really worried about meeting the project deadline.”

You: “Meeting the project deadline?”


Colleague: “Yes, we have so many tasks left, and I’m not sure if we have enough resources.”

You: “Not enough resources?”


Colleague: “Exactly, we might need to allocate more team members to this project.”


Example 2: Personal Scenario

Friend: “I’m feeling overwhelmed with all my responsibilities at home and work.”

You: “Overwhelmed with responsibilities?”


Friend: “Yeah, it’s just hard to balance everything, and I don’t feel like I’m doing a good job anywhere.”

You: “Not doing a good job anywhere?”

Friend: “Right, it’s frustrating because I want to be there for my family and excel at work, but it’s just too much.”

Try the magic phrase, “Please help me understand?” followed by rewording their last few critical words. Try to paraphrase what they said rather than using the same words. This will help clarify the information behind what they were saying.

Then, follow it with silence. This will feel awkward, but it will become more comfortable with practice. This simple process is a kind of hypothesis testing in discovering information that could otherwise not be uncovered.

Steps to Mirroring:

  1. Use your FM DJ voice.
  2. Start with “I’m sorry… “
  3. Mirror.
  4. At least four seconds to let the mirror work its magic on your counterpart.
  5. Repeat.



Mirroring is a valuable communication tool that can enhance your ability to connect with others, gather information, and create a more collaborative environment. By understanding when and how to use mirroring and being aware of its benefits and potential pitfalls, you can improve your negotiation and interpersonal skills significantly.

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