Humans are wired for connection. Thus we crave being in relationships. When our relationships are not healthy/going well, it is very distressing to us because it threatens this sense of safety, security, and connection.
One dynamic that can help a stressful relationship is: being aware of the default tendency to mirror someone.
Definition: Mirroring is the behavior in which one person subconsciously imitates the gesture, speech pattern, or attitude of another.
Mirroring often happens in relationships, meaning we mimic/mirror what other people around us are doing. Let’s say you are out holiday shopping, and someone is super friendly and smiling at a store; commonly, we will do that back to them in some way. This can help us elevate our mood and well-being, but it can also lead to more stress when we mirror someone experiencing a negative feeling or acting out in some way.
Let’s say your teenager starts shouting at you out of the blue; it can be very tempting to start shouting back at them to calm down or yell at how upset “they made you feel.”
This type of mirroring can lead to a lot of anger inside a relationship and does not move the interaction into a positive place. So, if you find that you are yelling at your teenager, who is yelling at you, or melting down alongside your toddler, judging your mother-in-law for judging you, this technique can help.
The first thing to do is to become aware if and when you are mirroring someone:
You can ask: In what ways have I been doing the exact thing that I disapprove from them?
Once you find it, i.e., yelling at them for yelling at you, judging them for judging you, worrying and being stressed out when they tell you they are worried and stressed out.
Then don’t judge yourself for it!!!!! We cannot change what we are shaming ourselves for, so be open, curious, and compassionate with yourself.
Then come up with a thought that you will practice when this situation happens again. I promise that the toddler will have another fit, your teenager will shout at you again, and your mother-in-law will definitely judge you again.
Thoughts like: I can be calm and collected even when they are not. Or one of us needs to model calm; it might as well be me. It is okay for my mother-in-law to have thoughts about my actions.
Have these thoughts prepared ahead of time because your brain will want to go to the default of mirroring in the heat of the moment.
This might be a tip/trick/hack that can make all the difference during this holiday season. No one can get you to think, feel, or act in any way unless you let them, so try to be aware of your tendency to mirror and come away from it with your practiced power thoughts.
I hope it helps.
Have an amazing holiday, everyone!
If you want to give the gift of coaching this year, please reach out to arrange that with me; it is the gift that keeps on giving.
Melanie Shmois, MSSA, LISW-S, is a licensed social worker, holding a Master’s Degree (MSSA) from Case Western Reserve University and a B.A. in Sociology with a minor in Spanish. After spending 2 decades helping others achieve their mental and personal goals, Melanie worked with Master Coach Instructor, Brooke Castillo, and became a certified Life and Weight Coach through the Life Coach School.