Have you ever found yourself subconsciously imitating the hand gestures, attitude or tone of voice of someone you are in a meeting with for an important pitch? You may have to think back a little because, more often than not, most of us do not even realize it when we are doing it! And this is called personality mirroring or personality mimicry.
I very well remember the first time I ended up doing personality mirroring, without knowing what I was doing, when I met a very senior stylist in London to work with her as a fashion assistant.
The night before the meeting, I was going through her online portfolio and doing some background research on her as a part of my prep, and I found myself picking out an outfit that matched her aesthetic. When I met her, my body language the way I spoke was almost exactly like her. In contrast, in reality, my mannerisms or personality traits were quite different from what I displayed that morning!
This happened a few times during various social and work set-ups after that, until I finally clocked it! Upon speaking to my friends and peers, we realized that we were all doing it at some point or another, which I found extremely intriguing and made me delve into the good and bad.
It is a natural human tendency to be accepted and liked by everyone, especially in a group setting. People also tend to warm up to others who exhibit similar behavioural patterns, and hence mimicry becomes a part of personality traits while mostly going unnoticed.
It is safe to say that there are certain kinds of personality mirroring that can work positively, but at the same time, it can also go horribly wrong and unpleasantly provoke a person.
Let’s have a look at a few examples to understand how in various situations, mimicry can change for the better or worse:
E.g., a new employee with an introverted personality type joins a team full of extroverted people. They may imitate certain traits of an extroverted personality type to fit into this new set-up. They might be more chatty, ask more questions and come across as more socially active than they actually are.
In this scenario, the process will be so natural, from both sides, that neither may even notice the difference, and the new employee will blend in with the team, creating a very relaxed atmosphere.
Whilst the above was an example of mimicry done right, and there are often situations in which mirroring can go very wrong and offend the other party.
E.g. someone with an obviously pragmatic thinking personality type, to strike a conversation with a person with an extremely creative streak and dreamy outlook towards life tries to mirror their personality traits. It can seem very unnatural and hence fake. This may make the person being mimicked feel uneasy and end up in an argument instead of a healthy conversation.
There is no right or wrong way to mimicry; however, it is best when practised in a very non-chalant manner instead of coming forth very strong, and looking like a manipulative person, when your only intention was to fit in!