People looking to develop their ability to read behavior can build the habit by mimicking and mirroring the behavior of those around you. By taking on the postures, expressions, and gestures of others, you gain insight into what causes people to display certain types of nonverbal behavior and become better at noticing the subtle cues that reveal their true intentions.

In today’s ROC walk, we explain the benefits of acting like someone else.

Video Transcription

When people ask me what are some things that they can do to practice reading behavior and becoming better at observing, analyzing people’s body language, one of the ways that I always recommend people do this is to spend a few minutes every day just acting like someone else. When I say you want to act like someone else, all I’m talking about is looking at a person across the office, or a person that you’re walking behind on the sidewalk, and try to mirror and mimic all of their behaviors. Look at what their feet are doing.

Look at their legs, their hands, their arms, their torso, their face, their neck. Try to take on the same postures, the same expressions, use the same gestures. One of the reasons that I always recommend this is because I really think it’s the best way that you can get better at reading other people.  There are two reasons for this. The first is that it forces you to focus your attention on people. So as we start to take a look at recognizing threats or whatever, a reason you’re trying to get better at reading people, it forces you to look at the people around you.

And by mirroring and mimicking and acting like they are, it not only forces you to look at those people, but it also drives you to look at all of the different indicators that they’re doing, to take a look at what their hands are doing, to remind you to look at their feet or their face or their shoulders. So by going through this process, it starts to make observing people and observing their behaviors part of the habits that you have when you’re out in public and you’re looking around, you try to assess the intentions of other people.

The other thing that helps you do is it forces you to learn how to read people and observe people without getting caught. If you’re walking behind someone on a city sidewalk, and you’re trying to walk with the same stride length and have your arms swing the same way, or have your shoulders sway the same way that they do, if you get caught doing that, it’s going to become very awkward and very uncomfortable for you in that situation.

Same thing if you’re in an office and sitting across the conference room table from someone else, and you’re trying to sit in your chair the same way, or put your hands on the table and gesture the same way that they are. If you get caught, or if they become aware what you’re trying to do, it’s going to make this whole process irrelevant, because now they’re going to be concerned about their own body language, or they’re just going to question you and think that you’re weird to begin with.

So by trying to mirror and mimic the other people just a few minutes every single day, it’s going to teach you how to observe people in a way that lets you do so without getting caught, which is obviously one of the most important pieces of observing people in the first place.

The second reason I like to recommend that you spend a few minutes every day acting like someone else is because it gives you a great deal of perspective as to why people behave certain ways. So once you start to understand how they’re behaving, if you look across the office and see someone standing outside of your boss’s door, and they’re standing with their feet very close together, and their hands are clasped in front of their body, and they look a little nervous, and they’re looking around, by taking the time to take on those same postures and same expressions, it lets you take a step back and ask yourself, “If I was standing that way, why would I be standing that way? What is going through my head when I stand that way? What would cause me to behave and display this type of body language?”

So when you’re able to do this in a practice setting where there is no threat that’s immediate, or you’re not looking at someone where you know you only have a short amount of time to make a decision about them, it lets you go through the process of understanding what causes people to behave in certain ways. So it helps you really gain perspective and almost opens up a door into their mind for different reasons. They take on different elements of nonverbal behavior.

The other thing it does is, once you start to understand why, you can look back at that person, and look at all the different, very subtle cues that they’re giving off that further reveal how they display, let’s say, uncomfortable behavior, or submissive or dominant or comfortable cues.

You might naturally pick up on some of the more macro, the more obvious, cues that are out there, but when you start to mimic their behavior and do the same things that their hands are doing, and have your feet bouncing up and down or shifting back and forth, and whatever it is they’re doing, it helps you become very in tune to all the different, very subtle cues that you might otherwise miss if you’re just doing this only looking at the bigger cues.

The third reason I like to recommend that you spend some time acting like someone else is that not only does it make observation a habit, but it makes mimicry and mirroring a habit, as well.

Something else we’ve talked about, here on this site, or in any of our seminars, is mirroring is a very powerful tool when it comes to establishing rapport with other people. But if it’s nothing that you practice, and you’re trying to do it in a situation that’s very important, or it’s a situation where you need to have some sort of influence over the person, if it’s the first time you’re doing it, you’re going to look very unnatural doing it.

You’re going to be very aware of yourself, or you’re thinking so much about your own body language in trying to mirror their body language you’ve stopped thinking about the conversation, or the conversation is going to become a little bit more unnatural. So by spending a few minutes every day mirroring people when it’s not game time, when there’s nothing on the line, it’s going to make this process much more natural. You become much more comfortable doing it. You’re going to be able to do it more subtly, because you’ve started to pick up on different ways to carry on, different ways you can gesture very similarly to someone else, or ways you can stand very similarly to what they are.

So mimicry itself is going to become much more of a habit for you. And once that element of establishing rapport is solid, you’ve got it, so you’re comfortable doing it. It truly becomes a tool for you, and you can start to focus on some of the other aspects of establishing rapport that some of the other authors and other books that are out there that you can find.

A book that I’m reading right now by Robin Dreeke, it’s a great book on establishing rapport, but it’s important that you go through and use the different techniques at different times so you really understand when it works, why it’s important, so you can really build out the different tools that you would need in a situation that’s a little bit more unpredictable, when you need to have a number of different ways that you can employ some of these techniques to establish rapport with them.

Also with the goal of everything that comes down to behavioral analysis is to make us a little bit more intelligent about how we deal with other people. There are going to be a lot of situations in our life where we need to be able to gain some sort of influence over them, and mimicry and mirroring are incredible ways to do it, but it’s something that you’ve got to practice, and it also makes becoming a better observer a little more fun.

It’s a game that you can play when you’re out on the town. It doesn’t require a great deal of effort, something that you can do for just a few minutes, or you can spend a much longer time doing it, as well. But it helps structure out how you’re going to learn what all the different postures, expressions, and gestures, what they all could possibly mean.

So this week, as you go out walking around throughout the weekend or watching TV, try to mirror, try to mimic, and try to act like someone else.

Transcript provided by SpeechPad.