Observing and using body language - a great, easy to learn tool for shy people that is also great for non-shy people. This article is the first of three on techniques to help people overcome shyness.
Shyness is very common but by its nature it is hidden and rarely shows on the radar of people who are not shy.
Shy people avoid the limelight. In social situations they are almost always on the periphery. Many have plenty to contribute but find it difficult and sometimes impossible to open up. Their difficulties are often tied up with low self-esteem, feelings of inferiority, and fear of being the focus of attention.
Their life experiences have led them to the largely unconscious belief that speaking out or attracting attention can have painful emotional or even physical consequences. The unconscious nature of the belief makes the difficulty particularly intractable.
When I work with such people my focus is often on identifying and dealing appropriately with the original experiences that caused them to fear social expression. However this is not always necessary, especially where the problem is not so severe or deep rooted.
Mirroring for shyness
The technique known as Mirroring and Matching (for simplicity I will call it “Mirroring”) can be really helpful for shy people simply because in order to do it your attention has to be on the other person rather than yourself. The technique is also great for people who are not shy but who want to improve their communication and influencing skills.
A feature of shy people is that they are “self” conscious. This means they ate constantly evaluating, almost always negatively, how other people perceive them and the impression they make. This negative self-evaluation makes it almost impossible to be natural or to speak in a flowing or natural way
Mirroring involves mimicking or imitating the body language of the person with whom you are dealing. If done correctly you create a sense of rapport with that person. The person will automatically feel more comfortable with you, and will therefore be more disposed to listen to you and even be influenced by what you say or imply. Effectively you are tuning in to the person, or getting onto his or her wavelength.
For shy people there are two big reasons why Mirroring can be beneficial.
Firstly the effort required to observe and mirror another person means there is far less time and opportunity to be “self” conscious. By definition your attention is on the other person rather than yourself. Your focus is outward.
Secondly, as you build your skill with mirroring you begin to realise that you have a degree of control over social interaction. You see people being more comfortable with you and as a result you become more comfortable with them. Your self-confidence increases.
However even for non-shy people, knowing and understanding this technique can have huge benefits in terms of life, business, conflict resolution and in the art of influencing people.
Help for shyness - how to do mirroring
You can mirror another person in several different ways. People skilled at using it may use several of them at once, but this is not necessary.
The simplest form of mirroring is to match posture. When with another person you match their posture as if you are a mirror image of him or her. So if his right leg is forward, your left leg is similarly forward. If she is looking down to the left, you look down similarly to your right. This simple process is very effective at getting you into a state of rapport with the other person. As a result both of you will feel more comfortable.
A more skilful, but very learnable form of mirroring is to synchronise your breathing with the other person. When the other person is breathing in, you also breathe in. When he or she is breathing out, you breathe out. Although very subtle, breath mirroring is extremely powerful and can bring two people onto the same wavelength very quickly.
Voice mirroring involves matching the tone of voice, volume and speed at which the other person is speaking. Although doing this may seem very obvious, the likelihood is that it will be anything but obvious. Voice mirroring is a great way to get rapport on telephone calls, especially difficult ones.
Facial expression, eye blinking, and mannerisms can all be mirrored. In the case of mannerisms be careful – if a mannerism is problematic to the person (such an involuntary tic) they may be sensitised to it and matching it could look like mocking.
Experiment with mirroring, especially in the safe environment of friends and family until you get the hang of it. Just doing it will have beneficial effects for all people, but especially those who suffer from shyness.
Help for shyness - more benefits for shy people
One of the great things about this technique is that unless you are dealing with an expert, nobody knows you are doing it. When you mirror another person, even if you think it is very obvious, the other person is unlikely to be aware of it. But they will feel more comfortable or secure in your presence. The “invisibility” of the technique is perfect for the shy person, who can grow into it on a gradual, small step basis, building confidence as he or she goes along.
I have seen clients make amazing progress in social confidence just by practicing and using this technique. When it is combined with some easily learned conversation skills it can be truly transformative.
At a future date I will post an article on how to use mirroring strategically to influence social interaction outcomes. I will also post an article on conversation skills for shy people which when combined with mirroring can have truly impressive results.
If you would like help in dealing with shyness or any other form of anxiety feel free to contact me. I would be delighted to work with you.
You can contact James Jameson on 086 2835758 / 1800924864 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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Dun Laoghaire, Bray and Wicklow, email@example.com