Yawns…. they are an universal phenomenon called “contagious yawning”. Studied have proven that yawning is so contagious that you don’t even need to see another person yawn – merely the sight of a wide-open mouth is enough of a trigger. It was once thought that the purpose of yawning was to oxygenate the body… But recent studies have shown that yawning is a form of social mirroring that serves to create a rapport with others and to avoid aggression (these behavioural patterns have been observed in chimpanzees).
Yawning when others yawn is believed to be a gesture of empathy and a type of social bonding. Children generally only develop this inherent habit around the age of four. Autistic children are half as likely to catch yawns and in some cases, they never do. Is an inability to yawn result in someone missing out on that unconscious emotional linkage to those around them?
“A yawn is a social bonding process… The roots of empathy.”
Much like yawning, the law of mirroring (Social Mirror Theory) is one of the 12 universal laws, sometimes referred to as the law of attraction. Babies even mirror the rhythm of their mother’s heartbeat before birth. As adults this happens subconsciously when we switch our body posture to match that of the other person – mirroring non-verbal cues which sends signals that we are engaged and stimulated.
We are hardwired for this behaviour which is called “limbic synchrony”. The limbic system is the portion of the brain that deals with three key functions: emotions, memories and arousal (or stimulation).
When we are in genuine rapport with someone, we will subconsciously and subtly mirror their body positions, movements and even our breathing reaches symmetrical rhythmicity.
The brain’s “mirror neurons” not only mimic behaviours, but sensations and feelings as well. These mirror neurons are animated equally, regardless of due to making motions or watching the action itself. This was tested in late 1980s, where a macaque monkey’s brain could not tell the difference between the act of physical motion or merely observing. When applied to humans, these non-verbal links are so potent, that we can observe these instantaneous responses of others to help us gauge whether we have developed a mutual connection with them. These mirror neurons are sometimes referred to as Dalai Lama neurons, named after the ruler of Tibetan Buddhism, since they resemble a “spiritual ruler” and compassion. This gentle mimicry can act like a “social glue” and signals cohesion and trust.
The idiosyncrasies of social mirroring can be harnessed in such a way that it can be leveraged as a strategy to flirt or win someone’s affections, acing an interview, signing business deals and leading teams. When done with intent, mirroring can solidify business relationships. Imagine speaking to your boss for example…. Start by casually observing his body posture, but maintaining steady eye contact and approachable repertoire. Subtly start to cross your arms if he does. If he leans back, then do the same. Even focus on breathing in sync… Studies of social mirroring behaviour have concluded that even in a matter of minutes, a connection will be heightened and goodwill is fostered. A quick test to confirm whether you have successfully achieved mutual energies is to observe whether your movements are mirrored back in return. Change your arm position and observe whether your movement is matched. This organic harmony of movements can be a blatant signal of cemented trust and respect.
“If we never acknowledge that we are harbouring a certain vibration, we cannot embrace it and orchestrate it into an experience that we want to have.”
– Claire Bond –
This behaviour is imperative to cultivating social intelligence. Mirroring facial expressions and movements is an instantaneous signal of telepathic empathy. It is effectively placing yourself in another’s “mental shoes” and you can simulate that same emotion and share an emotional depth. Hence the feeling of being “connected” by means of extrasensory perception.
Call it crafty manipulation if you will, but I think it is genius!
These behaviours are magnified in a sociopath. A socio will mirror you, but will deepen the intensity by reflecting back to you, exactly who you are, or even who you think you are… He calculates what your good qualities are and will build up your confidence with praise. He deliberately does not mention your weaknesses in order to store them in his mind for a later date when he can exploit them. Although mirroring can be a powerful manipulation tool, it is important to gauge when and when not to. The key is to mirror the right people at the right time for the right reasons.
Mirroring can be executed with mastery to build your life through “reverse engineering”. Decide where you want to be in a year or five, and then compartmentalize tasks into attainable mini goals…. for each day, each week, each month in order to quench your fortune. Mirroring allows us to come to a state of self-reflection and to constantly evaluate how our actions contribute to living the life that we have envisioned leading. We become aligned with our inner chakra and centre ourselves.
I think that the best word to encapsulate the act of social mirroring is “Namaste”. The Hindu-originated greeting conveys a message that “I am paying obeisance to the soul in you”. At first glance, at the end of your yoga class, the greeting seems to just be the simple action of your instructor of bowing to you and inviting you to bow to her too (this is mirroring already!)…. But there is a deeper ring of spiritual emotion emulated between them. Namaste creates vibrations to the one receiving the gesture. Heart centers are said to connect during this divine saying. So when we mirror each other, we are saying: “My divine soul recognizes the divine soul in you” and I extend my warm welcome to you.