Mirroring: The Skill

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© Al Turtle 2000

Mirroring provides a structure and a template for learning how to securely connect with another person during conversation.   It teaches the skill of making others feel heard.  It consists of  four distinct actions: Send, Mirror, Check, and Pull. The last three steps may be verbal or non-verbal, but must take place in order to shift from monological (talking to yourself) to dialogical (talking with another) communication.



Must be short, simple, clear and slow enough for receiver to handle it.  If it is too long, too quick, etc. then the sender is talking to themselves.  Conversation can only proceed at the rate of the slower person present.  The Sender controls the subject, logic, meaning of words, the order and the amount sent.



Mirroring assists the sender in becoming clear, and in learning contact-ful sending.  Sender must speak so that a receiver can mirror. 

Mirroring assists the receiver in focusing on the sender’s words, not on the receiver’s thoughts or reactions.  It helps clarify that the sender’s words are coming from the sender’s world only.  It helps develop listening skills that are relaxing. Remember if  you react to anything your partner sends, you are allowing their words to penetrate your world.   If you are analyzing or thinking about what your partner is saying, you are probably not listening.  The Receiver controls the length of the individual sends or the speed.



A very brief event that reaffirms the vital and “fair” communication concept: the sender is in control of what is said, what words are used, what order they are put in, and how much is said, etc.  The receiver is only in control of the speed of the sending. Both will tend to feel safe with this shared control.



A brief verbal or non-verbal invitation by receiver to the sender to keep talking on a) the subject at hand only, or b) to go a bit deeper.  This gesture ends the insulting, and distracting, behavior of interruption.

The Goal of the receiver is to hear anything without reacting.  The Goal of the sender is to send their genuine truth, without regard to the receiver’s thoughts, beliefs, values, etc., while at the same time helping the receiver feel safe. 

Mirroring does not involve understanding (see Validation), but does lay the necessary groundwork: habits of speaking with clarity and listening skills.

Until you are good at these skills, practice them consciously and verbally.   Later you will do most of them non-verbally.  No one will notice. They will just feel heard by you. 

Practice: Now take turns talking about the subjects listed below.  Both partners do #1, then #2, etc.  Senders should send and check only.  Receivers should mirror and pull only.   Practice sending and mirroring and not commenting on your partner’s material.  If you step out of the process, catch yourselves and restart.  This is called falling-out-of-the-canoe.  We all do it.  Climb back in. It takes two to paddle the communication canoe.

  1. Describe the cast of characters in your life to your partner. List your friends, your potential friends, and your rivals, competitors, and "enemies".
  2. Identify at least three recent events that were very important to you.
  3. List at least three upcoming events that you are looking forward to.
  4. Identify the current stresses in your life.
  5. List your current worries.
  6. Describe your hopes and aspirations — for yourself and for others.  

Watch for Special Words:

  • Replace “You….” “We…” with "I think that you…. "I think that we….   (reference MasterTalk)
  • Replace “fact or know” with "I believe that… I recall that… I think that…" (reference MasterTalk)
  • Replace “I feel that” or “I feel like” with "I think that…"  (reference Feelings)
  • Questions: If a person asks a question, it is often an attempt by the questioner to control the subject of the next speaker.  Mirror the question and then invite (pull) the questioner into stating why they are asking the question, and what they plan to do with the information. The general rule of questions: No one is entitled to an answer until they have shared what is behind their question.

Click here for a poster to remind you of the steps.

Click here for an audiovisual class on Mirroring. 

Click here for the benefits.

Click here for one major problem that Mirroring involves. 

Click on the tag Mirroring for lots more.


Mirroring: The Skill — 2 Comments

  1. I think it is so much easier to show what Mirroring and Validation and PreValidation and Pulling are. These are skills and are not theories – tho many theories support their application. I suggest you try the Class on Mirroring or any of the articles I've written on Communication. Mirroring is a skill teaching tool and the skill taught is “how to smoothly and easily make other people feel heard.”
    Validation and PreValidation are specific skills all there own.
    On thing you might consider is connecting to an Imago Therapist or an Imago workshop.

  2. Hi Al,
    I have been reading about mirroring, prevalidation, and pulling…I think I havent quite grasp the theory yet. does mirroring means repeating of being said? and when to use validation? phrases like “I understand how u feel”, “I know”, “I understand” wouldn't those a a bit ambiguous because no one really understand how others feel right? or could you give some examples of appropriate validation phrases?

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