Mirroring someone’s behavior is an important technique often employed by sales people, so I’ve learned. But the other day I was in a meeting with a woman whom I’d just met and she was trying to sell me a service. And she was mirroring me. Badly. I’m guessing when a good salesperson does this, it’s not supposed to be so painfully obvious. When I leaned forward and acted serious, so did she. When I threw a hand up in the air in the “What are you going to do?” gesture, so did she. It bordered on the ridiculous. I felt like I was in that I Love Lucy episode when Lucy does the Mirror Routine with Harpo Marx. It was almost creepy.
Now I’m no salesperson. I’ve often said if my family had to rely on my selling ability to survive we should just start the food strike immediately and get it over with. So maybe I’m not the best person to write about good or bad sales techniques. After all, I did end up buying her product (tutoring for my daughter). But seriously? When I shake my head in the Can you believe it? gesture, she shakes her head too? In the same exact way. It was as though we were in a joint audition for a Miss Clairol commercial.
I suppose no one likes having their idiosyncrasies pointed out, much less mimicked. Can I be the only one who’s ever gotten annoyed when a game of monkey-see, monkey-do goes out of control, meaning the kids won’t stop playing and start following me through the house making fun of—I mean imitating, every thing I do?
Maybe that’s why this woman’s mirroring behavior annoyed me. It felt like she was making fun of me. People that are good at it, I imagine, would do it imperceptibly. In a study I read about for this article, successful mirrorers were found to be more well-liked by their mirrorees. Regardless, acitymom was not going to just let this opportunity for comedy go without taking the opportunity to amuse myself. I decided to do my own scientific study on bad mirroring technique and gave this poor girl a workout. Leaning forward, leaning back, crossing my arms, crossing my legs, uncrossing and re-crossing, throwing my head back to laugh and gesturing with my hands as if I were channeling my inner Italian. Which is when it occurred to me, maybe she didn’t realize she was doing it. Maybe I was now the one making fun of her.
For the remainder of the discussion, I sat pretty still. And not surprisingly, so did she. I guess in the end mirroring, bad or good, isn’t anything to go ape over.