Research by Winkielman, Kavanagh, Suhler and Churchland show that mirroring may not give you the desired results you want in a business relationship and that, perhaps, refraining from mirroring might be the better path to take. If you are in sales, this could be a real bummer because you have probably heard so many people tell you to mirror the client.
Mirroring is a part of emotional intelligence and understanding what it can or cannot do for you is critical to your business and personal relationships. You must know when to mirror and when not to mirror and your emotional intelligence will help you determine the appropriate times.
In sales, if you mirror you client movement for movement, the client will pick up on this and you will certainly see the client change his/her body language to create physical or emotional distance from you. You must be aware of how you are relating to the client. Two people who like each other will naturally mirror the other. This is what you, in sales, must practice. Just because the client crosses his legs does not mean you must cross your legs. Perhaps when he crosses his legs (defensive position), you move into a positive position (lean forward or use hand gestures that attract).
You must be aware of your body language and how this affects your clients and the people around you. This is a critical factor of your success. Remember to be cognizant of and selective when you mirror another. Understand the situation you are in; understand the relationship you have with the other person and if mirroring feels natural, do it. If you have to force it, your client will pick up on this and you will be able to emotionally tell or physically feel the distancing from the client.
Bottom line: mirroring has been manipulated in the past and now people are fighting back! Don’t get caught in this faux pas.
Kavanagh, L.C., Suhler, C.L., Churchland, P. S., & Winkielman, P. (2011). When it’s an error to mirror : The surprising reputational costs of mimicry, Psychological Science
22(10) 1274–1276, DOI: 10.1177/0956797611418678