There are two types of mirroring, one is instant (whether conscious or not) and the other is delayed.
I remember reading up on interview techniques in my early 20s (always researching). There was a chapter about the importance of body language. It talked about mirroring and how mimicking the interviewer’s body language would make them warm to you.
I was surprised that everyone didn’t mirror as standard. For me, mirroring has been my default setting for meeting new people, for as long as I can remember.
If in doubt, watch how the other person moves and copy it. It saves processing. It’s a shortcut to doing appropriate body language without having to think about all the possible variables. Just do as they do and it’ll be fine.
Of course, it’s not always fine. I’m good at mirroring, but not always quite as good at noticing subtle undertones.
I’ve met people in the past who seemed overtly friendly, so I mirrored their body language, and they withdrew.
What I hadn’t noticed (but worked out later), was that their body language was “socially appropriately friendly” but with uncontrolled defensive suspicion thrown in.
I threw all that back at them, they saw it for what it was, and read me as “unfriendly but pretending”.
The problem with mirroring is that sometimes people see their own reflection when they need to understand the real you. It’s a shortcut for a short term problem, and whilst it can be used when you don’t know someone better, mistakes can be made if you miss something.
The delayed mirroring is something I notice most in my children, although I definitely do it too. Mostly they get on really well, but every once in a while there’ll come a day when everything is an argument. I’m a firm parent, not a shouty one, but sometimes even my best laid plans don’t work quite as I want.
It wasn’t a coincidence that when I was ill and had less patience, their behaviour got worse. They were mirroring my emotions, my actions.
You can’t battle grumpiness with grumpiness. You can only do it by projecting something positive for other people to mirror.
Sometimes it can seem that the whole world is caught in a spiral of mirroring negative emotions, bouncing them back and forth, and building to a crescendo of fear and hate.
You can’t fight negative with negative. You can’t fight grumpiness with anger. You can’t fight hate with bigger hate. If you want the world to be better, you have to give it something to mirror.