It’s human nature in some ways; we’re wired to mirror each other as a way of bonding. Reflecting someone’s body language (and breathing pattern) can help us feel what they’re feeling, understand them better, and make them feel comfortable.
Mirroring helps us feel empathy and connect, and it’s one of the reasons why being around someone who is anxious and upset can make us feel anxious and upset too.
So I’ve noticed that if a new friend/date is quiet and reserved, I end up more quiet and reserved as well, and if a new friend is expressive and uninhibited, than so am I.
It’s not about trying to be what someone else wants me to be– trust me, I spent way too long down that road.
Sometimes it’s about politeness and equality, because I know I can accidentally bulldoze a quieter person if I’m not careful, and I’d rather create space for them to feel comfortable and heard.
Often though, it’s more like I inhibit myself juuust a tiny bit– often so subtly that I’m not even really aware of it– in order to match another person’s vibe/mood.
I think of it like how you’d naturally move a bit slower and quieter if you wanted a stray cat to come over to you. I want people to come over to me–I love humans! But I recognize that many people are inhibited, untrusting, and anxious at first when they meet someone new. So when I mirror someone new, I try to stay warm and open, but also slow/quiet myself down just a touch.
The cool thing though is that with some new people I find myself stepping into my full (loud, talkative, expressive) self, because their natural vibe is playful, garrulous, or silly, and it brings out more that in me!
Typically the kind of person this works with is someone whose natural sense of humor, love of words, and imagination are compatible with mine, and who slips easily into big body language, wide open mouthed laughs, and banter that feels like a game of vollying back and forth for the pure pleasure of delighting in each other.
Note: I’ve been on quite a few dates with comedians, and that feels completely different. They are controlled, thinking instead of playing, and their banter says “let me show you how funny/smart I am,” not “I want to play with you.”
All of the closest people in my life share this thing, this uninhibited and highly expressive vibe. We talk fast, we laugh a lot, and we approach humor and silliness like a grand experiment in which failure is received with as much pleasure as success.
This kind of exchange nourishes my soul in a way I can’t describe, and I’ve come to understand it as the pleasure of freedom, the joy of complete lack of self-inhibition or emotional labor. This is me at my lightest and brightest, boostered and brightened by mirroring back the vibe to someone who is authentically like that too.
Don’t get me wrong, I am also dark, emotional, sensitive, and messy.
But what I’ve discovered is that the relationships in my life which easily sustain the rapid-fire banter and silly playfulness are far more likely to sustain the dark and messy stuff too. It’s a sneaky way of building trust, I think. We’re gaining experience being vulnerable, failing in front of each other, and working through problems as a team.
It feels so good.
And while the majority of people require some investment, some labor and patience to connect, this kind of connection is available with a small number of people from day one.
There are a few points about this that I want to make.
The first is the power of discernment. While I love connecting with all kinds of people and don’t mind putting in some labor to make that happen, that there are so many friggin people on this planet.
Some people, just by being themselves, will naturally bring out parts of ourselves that we don’t like, and others will bring out parts that we do.. Personally I like people who bring out my uninhibited and expressive side, but it’s different for everyone. (For example, my vibe might stress someone out, and they might prefer quieter people.)
Discernment isn’t a judgement of the other person, it’s simply the acknowledgement that other people affect us, and we get one life– we deserve to spend it feeling how we want to feel.
The second point is that being uninhibited is an extraordinary gift.
Even if your uninhibited looks completely different than mine (as it surely will!), dropping some of your inhibitions with a new person gives them the chance to both see your authentic self more clearly, and drop their own to show you theirs.
This is where you both get to find out– do you match? Does it work? Is it fun and pleasurable?
Until we really let people see us, we have no idea if we vibe with them, if they’ll like us, or if their energy will feel good to be around. Plus, letting people see us makes others more likely to let us see them back!
It may sound even more painful, letting someone see the real you and then maybe they decide they don’t vibe with you?? Ouch!
But in my experience it’s actually a lot more painful to move through the world feeling like nobody knows or sees the real you at all.
You’re not for everyone. I’m not either. But this planet has more than 8 billion people on it. Connection is a numbers game my friends.
There will be some people who bring out the best in us, and delight in how we bring out the best in them, and it will feel like coming home. And then there will be a whole lot of people who feel kind of “meh.” Nice, good, fine, no problem. Nothing special, but we can make it work.
I know how I personally want to spend my one life.
How about you?
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