DID YOU KNOW? The Reflector Brain depends on mirror neurons. Mirror neurons are important for understanding the actions of other people and for learning new skills by imitation. Mirror neurons fire during empathetic engagement when you experience emotions or when you see others experiencing emotions.
The Reflector Brain labors instinctually to communicate with others for survival purposes. It knows it is safer to be in a tribe or with a group rather than to be left alone to fend for itself. It is designed to heighten self-awareness. It is empathetic in nature and wired to affiliate, to build rapport, and to communicate with others. The Reflector Brain talks non-verbally through mirror neurons to emote and empathize with others.
Empathy is a physiological response of the reflector brain. The brain uses its mirror neurons first to copy and then to comprehend…to imitate and to understand. A simple example is a yawn or a nod of the head. When one person yawns all too often it triggers a mirror reaction in another. The tendency is to say, “I am tired or I need oxygen.” But at another level it signals an understanding of the other person’s condition. If you have ever waked down the street and a person nods at you and you nod back, then you have experienced body talk through your reflector brain. It is as if you are standing in front of a mirror and copying the exact move of the person reflected. This dynamic interaction of copy and comprehend happens unconsciously in a nano-second thanks to mirror neurons.
The Reflector Brain mirrors non-verbal language or body talk to imitate and to reflect the gestures, postures and movements of others. Its purpose is to connect, to understand and to secure group association. It is an instinctual and unconscious communication system. When it becomes conscious and is used intentionally, it strengthens the voice of rapport born out of empathy with and for others. It heightens compassion in times of stress, suffering and pain. Practice ABC Tool #11 to embrace your mirror neurons and to cultivate the Reflector Brain’s ability to communicate.
The Reflector Brain is laboring to communicate with others.
ABC Tool #11: Mirroring
A – Affiliate with others
Ask yourself, “Who am I mirroring?”
Ask yourself, “How was I a mirror to another person? What gesture, posture or movement did I copy?”
Ask yourself, “Did another person mirror a gesture, posture or movement that I made?”
B – Build Rapport
Stand in front of a mirror. Move your head up and down. Pay attention to how the mirror reflects your movement. The mirror only copies. It does not assign meaning. You assign meaning. Perhaps the head moving up and down means yes to you or perhaps you are simply stretching your neck muscles. Only the person who makes the movement understands what it means.
Scan a group during a meeting or at a family gathering. Pay attention to who has the same body posture. Who is leaning in with arms on the table? Who is sitting back? What sub-groups are forming non-verbally through mirroring? Move into a mirror posture, movement or gesture to align with a sub-group. Pay attention to the non-verbal changes when you do. Option: Make your own move with a posture or gesture and see who follows your lead.
C – Comprehend the message
Copy Cat: We cannot not mirror another person’s gestures, postures or movements thanks to our mirror neurons. It is automatic … or is it? What if we consciously and intentionally work with our Reflector Brain, staying neutral and observing these changes? What difference would this make empathetically (physically) and emotively (emotionally)?
o Pay attention to another person’s breathing pattern. Describe it … is it short and shallow? Are they holding their breath? Now, pay attention to your own breath. What/Whose pattern are you breathing? If you find you have copied his/her breathing pattern, exhale, count to 3 and take several deep breaths. You might find that s/he copies your breathing pattern. If they do not, be intentional and mirror his/her breathing pattern again and repeat the exhale, count to 3 and take several deep breaths. What difference does this make to you, to the other person, to the relationship?
Mirror Reflection: Your Reflector Brain works empathetically and emotively to copy, imitate and comprehend. Perhaps this is easier to grasp if you watch the relationship between an infant and his/her parent. Here, you will see the Reflector Brain at work. The infant sees the parent’s face with mouth turned up (smile.) The infant merely copies without assigning any emotional meaning. The parent interprets the expression based on how s/he feels (happy.) Eventually, the child learns to pair the facial gesture with its emotional meaning. In other words, the physical sensation is translated into an emotional language so that we learn how to socialize and be a member of a family, tribe or group.
o Pay attention to facial expressions and body movements…not to interpret their meaning, but rather to imitate them. An eyebrow goes up, what does your eyebrow do? A head tilts to one side, do you copy? A body shifts to another position, do you shift in the same manner or do you shift differently? Since 94% of our communication is non-verbal and only 7% is verbal, it may be time to practice body-talk by letting your Reflector Brain work for you. Be a mirror! Realize, like a mirror, you have already reflected the other person’s facial gesture (body posture or hand/foot movement.) Take a breath-break by exhaling to the count of 3. Inhale deeply. Repeat the breath-break several times. Be intentional. Mirror the gesture again and then change it slightly. For example, the left eye-brow goes up and you do the same. Then you offer a head tilt to the right. What happens? Does the person copy your head tilt and add another gesture? Or does the person keep the left eye-brow raised? Explore how your Reflector Brain is working for you.
Experience the mirror of Your Reflector Brain!
May you live life to the fullness!