The Art of Project Management: Expert advice from experienced project managers in Silicon Valley, and around the world

Mirroring 1.0 – Rapport Building and Physical Appearance

Mirroring 1.0How you appear really does matter to the people you meet. How you dress and your posture send a message. You can tailor that message to have an impact on your new acquaintances. This post describes techniques to help you tailor your look to help you put people at ease in a way that will allow you to establish rapport and, ultimately, build a trusting relationship.

People Like People Like Themselves

First let’s address dress.  People can be put off by those that are either overdressed or underdressed.  The idea is to dress in a way congruous with the person you plan to meet. Ideally, you want to dress just one level above that person.  For men, if you think your new acquaintance will be in slacks and a polo shirt, then you dress in nicer slacks and button down shirt; if you think he will be in business casual with a coat, you select business casual with coat and tie.  You get the idea? For women, the idea is analogous. And while I am no expert, I understand that dress levels can be adjusted using accessories as well as clothes.  Bottom line: you want to anticipate how your new acquaintance will be dressed, do not overdress nor underdress, and dress just one level higher.  In this way, you will put the person at ease without being off-putting.

Next,  you will want to observe your new acquaintance’s body position. Are they sitting with legs open or crossed? Is their body forward or back? Are they propping there head in their hand? The person will feel comfortable if you mirror these positions, appearing to them as if they are looking in a mirror when they look at you. In fact, I have noticed that people do this naturally, as if it is an innate rapport-building mechanism that we have. Needless to say, don’t be obvious.  Simply mirror your new acquaintance’s body position in a casual, natural way.

Using these simple physical mirroring techniques, you will put new acquaintances at ease which will allow you to begin building rapport.


About the Author

A seasoned high tech leader with over 20 years of leadership and technology experience, Matt Schlegel provides consulting services in the areas of team leadership, product development, and manufacturing partnerships. Matt founded Enncorporation to deliver collaboration tools that help clients align teams around strategic initiatives and operate their businesses more effectively. After graduating from Harvey Mudd College with a degree in Engineering and UC San Diego with an MS in Electrical Engineering/Applied Physics, Matt was granted a Mombusho Scholarship to conduct research at the University of Tokyo. The following 3 years were spent living, studying and working in Japan. Leaving Japan, Matt returned to his native San Francisco Bay Area where he has spent nearly 20 years working in a number of engineering, management and consulting roles.
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