HomeMain PageRelationshipsSkillsCommunicationNotes: On Teaching Mirroring

Notes: On Teaching Mirroring

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Link to listen to this Class, taught on August 1, 2007.


My History

  • I was taught, like everyone else in Imago Training, to MVE (Imago Couples Dialogue- mirror, validate, empathize)
  • I had trouble with the Validation step, but went along with it during training.
  • Luckily I was in training with my wife, Sandra
    • We both practiced teaching it to others
    • And practiced doing it.  I learned much more from sharing our experiences.
  • Led us to understand the “trouble with Imago Validation”
  • Led us to define the term “sense” practically, and to teach and model PreValidation
  • Led us to value Mirroring very highly as a teaching tool
  • Led us to incorporate “Imago empathy step” into Validation
  • Led us to discard MVE as the primary communication skill we do and teach couples
  • I wrote about this in an article To Imago Therapists


The First Interpersonal Skill – Mirroring

  • A skill that involves two active participants
  • Action by one, reaction of the other measures success
  • Mom toilet trained according to Spock, not according to her kids’ needs.
    Children experience abandonment in her training.  
  • Sandra and I pondered the two statements
    • “I mirrored you correctly.” But,
    • “I didn’t feel heard.”
  • We resolved then by re-defining successful Mirroring as “Anything I do that makes you feel heard.” 
  • Defined successful Validation as “anything I do that makes you feel understood.”
  • Involved letting go of self-judgment of success and evoking interpersonal measures of success.
  • Example: Sandra and I pondered “how accurately to mirror” 
    • To get that head nod
    • You mirror accurately when your partner immediately feels heard
    • If they look puzzled as you mirror, you are way off.
    • The requirements for success will vary from time to time.
    • The Mirroring partner must relax to reach their partner’s level of need.



Notes on Teaching Mirroring

  A:  Introduction is by Modeling ·         I have a vision of a skilled Imago Therapist·         Able to mirror without person knowing it·         Willing to Mirror happily, on demand.  Show them you like it.·         Can tell by how they talk: focus on one or other – no confusion·         Interrupting for only for the sake of hearing fully – understanding/validating·         Inviting people to finish their points. Aware that people speak in points.·         Using the Cat Principle alot, to keep people on their track. ·         Speak with awareness of current state of receiver·         Default condition is to receive, “I come to hear your, and wish you would like hear me.”  Rather than, “I come to tell you something, whether you want to listen or not.”·         Do it on phone, in office all the time – all contacts. 

 B: Teaching is by Guided Doing – Coaching

First session:

Simple Sending

·         2x both ways, start with non-appointment making partner.

·         Tell your partner something you do that you think frustrates them. Example, “I think it frustrates you when I leave my socks on the floor.”

·         Receiver: do not think!  Turn that part of your brain off.  Act like court reporter.  Send back what you hear.  Example: “What I hear you saying….” Maybe use the speaker’s words, but reverse the pronouns: “I’s” and “You’s. “Use your finger if you need to in order to keep the “You’s” and the “I’s” straight.

·         Monitor and assist by modeling as necessary.


History Class both ways:

·         Remember a time when you were fully in love.  Don’t refer to the present or compare.  Just speak of “back then.” 

·         Tell 4 characteristics you loved about your partner.  Tell one, they will mirror and say, “Go on”.  Tell another. Do not refer to the present.   “I loved your….”  “I really like it when you….”

·         Include one specific physical characteristic. “I really loved your eyes.”

·         Monitor and assist with modeling as necessary.


 2nd Session

First Mirroring practice

·         Start with right person, One who made the first appointment

·         Tell your partner something they did in last week that you appreciate.  Partner will mirror.

·         Monitor and assist as necessary.

·         Point out the “head nod” the gesture that shows successful mirroring.  Tell the receiver, “This is what you are working to get.”·         When they get it right, teach Straight Pulling

·         “Have you ever been interrupted?  Do you like it?  I don’t.  I imagine your partner doesn’t either.  But you and I are in an awkward position.  We know your partner has stopped, but we don’t know if they are finished.  We don’t have that data – either you or me.  If we open our mouths we run the risk of interrupting, and we don’t know.   Shall we fix this problem, once and for all, for the rest of your life?”

·         Say, “Please say more about that.”  And for this session, please use exactly that phrase.  (Write phrase on board in proper place.) 

·         Continue Mirroring and Pulling till speaker says, “No more.”  Now you know when you speak you are not interrupting.” This is all about taking turns and clearly knowing when it is your turn. 


·         Draw on board





          St: for Straight Pull,

Dp: for Deepening Pull – will teach later


·         Reverse direction

·         Now, you tell something that your partner did that you appreciate, and you mirror and pull.



Board talk

·         Goal is to be relaxed while listening and communicating anything.

·         Public Speaking is greatest fear in US

·         Focus on Predictive Information, and Control, first mentioned in last session.  “Since we have no control or predictive information about the content of our partner’s message, we create a structure that is predictable and yeilds a sense of order.”

·         Review each step, Send-Mirror-Check-Pull with how it creates Predictive Information

·         Sender knows

o        Will get done, to the end of their point.

o        Will get to be heard. 

o        Will have help

o        Can correct misspoken phrases before any action

o        People will not “jump” as you send, you can focus on your message.


·         Receiver knows

o        Nothing to do but listen

o        Do not have to “do anything.”

o        Focus on words not on meaning

o        Won’t interrupt

·         Review each step telling “who is in Control of what”

·         Sender in charge of

o        Subject

o        Logic

o        Meaning of every word (Words have no meaning. Dictionary is a history book of how words are used by people.)

o        Point they are trying to make

o        Order of sentences

o        Amount


·         Receiver is in charge of

o        Speed

o        Only they know if sending is too fast

o        I let my wife control my speed, give her my accelerator.  That produces that fastest speech possible.

o        Communication can proceed at the maximum speed of the slower person present.


Pause for questions


     Goal is not to Mirror forever, but to “Make ‘em feel heard”

·         Mirroring is a teaching tool

·         Story of Miter Box

·         Learning the “52” Communication Skills

·         I want you to get good at the skills.  Mirroring is the fastest way to learn them that I know.

·         If you love mirroring, you don’t need it.

·         If you hate mirroring, it is teaching you a skill.  Keep working at it.

·         Practice this week, and next week tell me where you hate it.

·         I’ll be glad to share what that skill is that it is teaching you.


Why Mirror – why make ‘em feel heard

·         Earn points, nurturing, create gratitude

·         People repeat themselves cuz they didn’t think they were heard.  Use mirroring to stop repeating.

·         People raise their voices cuz they believe they won’t be heard.  Use mirroring to stop people from needing to raise of voices.

o        Taught to employees in complaint departments, to keep customers relaxed.

·         Cannot argue with a person who Mirrors.

o        Unilaterally stop all arguments for the rest of your life by mirroring.


Five problems in Mirroring

·         Dealing with MasterTalk.

o        #1 “We” sentences

o        #2 “You” sentences

o        #3 Sentences containing “Right” “Wrong” “Fact” or “Know”

o        All three solved the same way with a Boundary insert during the mirroring.

o        Converts them to “I” statements

o        Examples: “So you think that we….” “So you believe that…”


·         #4 Feelings

o        Convert “Feel that” or “Feel like” to “think”

o        Sandra and I are critical about this.  We valued speaking of feelings.

o        In “Feel that” sentences, the actual feeling is left out.

o        Example:

o        “I feel that you are picking on me.” becomes

o        “I think that you are picking on me and am angry.”

o        The feeling of “anger” is now reinserted.


·         #5 Questions

o        Question is an attempt by a person to control the topic of the next speaker.

o        Most questions come across as a kind of attack.

o        Question is the last step in a series of thought in the questioner.  The thoughts are left out,  just the question is spoken.

o        Mirror the question and invite the speaker to say what it behind their question, why they want the information, what they plan to do with the answer.

o        Rule in our relationship:

·         A person is not entitled to an answer unless they are willing to share what is behind their question.



 2nd Mirroring Practice – first session conluded

Give them Definition of Perfect Marriage

·         Intimacy

·         Passion

·         Commitment

·         Safety


Share alternately their definitions – this is a practice of mirroring “disagreement.”  When done, give them your understanding of this kind of relationship.

·         Do they want it?  Is this a good enough definition for them?

·         Good news – it’s Do Able

·         Bad news – only 4% get it, one in twenty couples succeed

·         92% get Commitment only

·         4% get Commitment and Passion in form of Rage

·         Whose “Afraid of Virginia Wolfe”

·         4% who got it seemed weird. The talked funny – not like Americans.  They had learned the 52 skills.

·         I give you mirroring to help speed your journey into the Relationship of your Dreams.

   C: Modeling, Reinforcement and Guided Doing This session focuses on “making ‘em feel heard”.  Next session will move on to “making ‘em feel understood.”  This is, again, a straightforward skill but there are some problems on the way to being able to do it.  I will clear that up next week.  HomeworkMirroring Homework


Notes: On Teaching Mirroring — 2 Comments

  1. Pingback: The Power of Passivity: The Essay | Al Turtle's Relationship Wisdom

  2. Pingback: Restructuring Frustration: The Process | Al Turtle's Relationship Wisdom

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.