Description: Even though we’ve never met, the fact that your body language is the same as mine, you use my name A LOT, and you keep repeating the same key phrases make me feel like I should sign a long-term, strategic partnership.
The theory is that certain behaviors – like copying your counterparty’s non-verbal gestures, postures and body language, repeating his name and certain key phrases, and basically acting just like him – will make him more comfortable with you.
The problem is that if he catches on to you, it tends to undermine trust.
Use this one judiciously (and don’t try this for the first time in an important meeting), and keep your eyes open. Someone who uses mirroring techniques on you probably thinks he can fool you in other ways.
Mirroring is a shortcut, and people who do this don’t always worry too much about executing. People who use this technique are more about signing deals then fussing with details like execution, implementation, or quality. They won’t be limited by your petty concerns — they are already thinking about the next deal.
Intent: The innocent explanation is that they are putting you at ease. The less innocent explanation? They beleive they can manipulate you at will.
Style: Looks collaborative, but can be very competitive.
Counter: Reconsider the wisdom of using this counterparty. If you have to work with this person, purposely feed him cues that don’t mean anything. (When travelling in certain developing economies, I tell overly-friendly strangers at airports that my name is “Bubba”. )