The other day I was witness to a remarkable though simple ritual of connection. The whole family were at a shopping centre (the Mall to the Americans 🙂 ) – something that happens very rarely as I’m really not a shopping centre kind of person – and we’d stopped for lunch. Our seats were outside the establishment in what I’d guess you could call the hallway outside the shops, and we were right next door to a hairdresser. Our kids couldn’t sit down long and after a short while started to play, coming back for the occasional bites which was alright with us. So it wasn’t long before my 3 year old noticed a pair of sisters sitting bored at the hairdressers waiting for their mother to finish having her hair done. One of the children was a similar age to her. The girls had obviously been told to stay inside the hairdressers at all costs. My daughter on the other hand was reluctant to cross the threshold into the next shop, so the two three year olds faced each other across the open doorway.
I think first they stuck their tongues out. Then they started making faces at each other. Then they started copying each other’s faces. All this was wordlessly, amid the noise and bustle of the shopping centre, almost like a magical little oasis of connection. After that they started to add in various body movements, becoming more and more attuned. One would raise an arm, and the other would copy, one would bop her head and the other would copy. They took turns leading and following. Finally they progressed to full body movements, doing lunges and star jumps. At times they were so in tune with each other that they performed the actions at the same time, and it looked like one was the mirror image of the other. All this went on for a good ten minutes or so. Only then did they progress to a little conversation about brothers and sisters and such like, but by that time they were already friends! After a couple of minutes of that the sisters mother had finished having her hair done, and they trailed off after their mum, my daughter and her friend waving to each other and yelling ‘Bye!’
I was transfixed by the whole thing. There are times when I find this mortal state of humanity limiting, and there are times when I rejoice in it and just love being human! This was one of the latter. Isn’t it fantastic that two little people can build such a connection, without words, just by mirroring each other’s movements? And they had such fun doing it! From a young age it seems we are born to interact and to read and predict each other. NLP will have you intentionally match and mirror the actions of someone you wish to build up rapport with, and if that’s not done carefully it can be very artificial, actually a little creepy and more of a turn off than anything … you might also be so busy matching and mirroring that you neglect to actually listen to what the other person is saying. I personally prefer to pay deep attention to the conscious and unconscious messages the other person is sending my way. You know how you can soften and relax your vision, and then you get to see every little thing that happens even out of the corner of your eye? It’s something to experiment with whilst you’re driving. Rather than having your eyes dart sharply from one target to the next, try looking softly. Defocusing your vision a little. You’ll find you see a lot more. Then you can zoom in on anything that seems incongruent or relevant in some way. Well when I’m having a deep conversation with someone or if I’m working with a client I like to do that with all my senses, with my whole awareness rather than just my vision. I find that the most important things then jump right out at me. And I also find that I match and mirror spontaneously rather than by design. Rather like the two little girls at the shops! See, we have it all inbuilt already, all we have to do is remember…
I had my own mirror experience yesterday … I was having a one to one business meeting with someone I’d met and briefly chatted with several times. We’d previously noted that we had some common interests, and until that point we hadn’t actually talked deeply. To start with, when I came into the room and we greeted each other, I was once again astounded by our physical similarities – both petite frame, shoulder length brown hair left down, glasses. I had even narrowly missed wearing a similar jacket to the one she was wearing that morning! Our conversation quickly progressed from the mundane to life goals and our understanding of life’s deepest concepts. She grew up in Hinduism and I grew up in Judaism, so we had different words for things and a different framework … but many of the concepts were the same. In the course of the conversation we kept finding things we matched on … cue the creepy music! At one point I had to remark to her ‘You’re like my Hindu twin!’ At the end of the meeting it was something of an effort to float back down to earth and pin down some concrete steps we could take action on. At this point no one knows if we will collaborate on anything or what the results will be, but whatever happens it will certainly come from a place of mutual understanding.
When I think about it I’ve had this experience of deep similarity before, with a number of people and each time it has been a friendship that lasts and brings forth great things for both of us. You know when I watched my daughter playing with the little girl at the doorway of the hairdressers and their rapport seemed so effortless and light, and yet so deep, I wondered whether we as adults could still attain that same rapport or whether we had lost something, a certain simplicity and direct connection perhaps, that we needed to regain. Yesterday’s experience reminded me that we still have this vast ability to connect, even as adults – if we are open to it.
Have you had experiences of deep connection? I’m sure you have and we’d love to hear about them… please share!
Make it a great week 🙂