Mirroring or “isopraxis” is as important to lifelong friends, as to strangers meeting for the first time, since mirroring is a way to test and maintain the level of rapport being established between two people or groups of people. Mirroring as it applies to nonverbal communication describes body postures, body positions and gestures that are held in unison or echoed a few seconds later across people as they interacting. When full mirroring appears it is as if each person is looking into the mirror and seeing their reflection. When full mirroring happens, it indicates a high level or rapport, or connectivity between people.
We mirror as a form of bonding with one another, and it happens without our conscious awareness. In ancient times, mirroring would have created group cohesion and identity. Sports groups, riot officers, firemen, and a myriad of occupations all wear the same uniform. It is this dress that formulates group think and helps people function in unison. Mirroring says that we are on the same page. It’s like saying look at the two of us, we walk the same, talk the same and our bodies move together, therefore we must agree.
Purposeful mirroring can create perfect flow between people through changing dialect, speech rate or tempo, pitch, tonality, voice inflection, use of words and even accent. This is called “communication accommodation theory.” Mirroring can cut so deep that breathing, blinking, and even our heart rates can beat in unison.
Echoing is similar to mirroring, with one key difference. That is, echoing happens when similar postures are taken up, but only after some time had elapsed, rather than immediately, as in mirroring. Echoing is therefore a more subtle way to build rapport.