What Is Narcissistic Mirroring (What Makes It So Distinct)

For poets, mirroring is a dreamlike, wistful, fond reflection.

Her eyes are gloriously dark and deep, like midnight lakes mirroring the stars of heaven. — Lucy Maud Montgomery

In psychology, mirroring is when someone imitates you by acting like your reflection in a mirror.

And imitation is the best form of flattery, as they say.

A narcissist understands this all too well: they use mirroring as a highly effective tool to flatter you without you realizing it. That is the crux of the disturbing narcissistic mirroring behavior.

But there is more to a narcissist mirroring you than simply that. Let’s dive in.

What is narcissism?

Narcissism is a personality disorder named after the mythical Greek hunter Narcissus. Narcissists have an inflated sense of self-importance, and preoccupation with fantasies of success, power, or beauty.

The following are some signs that someone might be narcissistic:

  • They’re preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, or beauty.
  • They believe they’re special and unique.
  • They need to be admired all the time.
  • They take advantage of others to get what they want.
  • They have a sense of entitlement and exploit others without remorse.

However, mirroring behavior is not a core sign to single out a narcissist.

Check out the 20 Hallmark Signs of A Narcissist.

What is the mirroring in psychology?

In psychology, mirroring is a behavior pattern in which a person unconsciously imitates the gestures, facial expressions, speech style, or attitude of another person.

Video by HIP.

Frequently, our close friends or relatives who like us and agree with us tend to mirror us, and we mirror them. Social mirroring occurs as a sign of mutual empathy.

However, most social mirroring is unconscious and none of the people in the conversation is aware of it happening.

Mirroring is frequent in social situations as a display of empathy.

In fact, we learn the ways of this world by mirroring the expressions of our parents. An infant learns to smile by mirroring their parent’s smile.

Soon they learn the art of “social smile” — smiling because they see a certain person’s face who makes them happy.

“Children are constantly focused on their parents and will mirror them. Therefore, what they experience in the home will be crucial for their empathy development. Parents have a big responsibility because they are the primary example of empathy and must practice being empathic themselves.”

― Iben Dissing Sandahl, The Danish Way of Parenting: What the Happiest People in the World Know About Raising Confident, Capable Kids
What Is Narcissistic Mirroring

Most mirroring behavior that occurs in social situations occurs unconsciously. Keep this in mind as we move on.

What is narcissistic mirroring?

Narcissistic mirroring is a mirroring behavior that narcissists use consciously to manipulate others.

It is a calculated and intentional act of mimicking another person’s body language, gestures, and speech patterns so as to make them empathize and feel connected to the narcissist.

Mirroring allows a narcissist to persuade the other person to become a fan of theirs, allowing them to get their narcissistic supply from that person.

Narcissists purposefully employ mirroring to create empathy in the other person for themselves.


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When narcissists mirror, they cleverly act as if they are so taken with you that they have no choice but to become a mirror image of you.

This mirroring narcissistic behavior makes you lift your psychological boundaries with them. You do so because they have unconsciously made you feel that you like them.

Who doesn’t like someone who nods and smiles and speaks a lot like us?

These are the basics from the go-to resource book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini.

Narcissists often employ this type of behavior while trying to win over someone from whom they want something or when they want someone to side with them in an argument.

Narcissists are irresistibly drawn to people who are similar to them. To seduce them, they reverse engineer their social signals as intentional mirroring.

Narcissists may be drawn to people like them, such as those who are physically attractive since this gives them a sense of second-hand security or superiority.

They are also drawn to people with high social status and power as it reinforces their grandiose self-image.

They love making friends with small talkers, extroverts, and those who share their interest in money.

They typically love to drop names (“You know who my friends are?”).

Why do narcissists use mirroring or mimicking?

Narcissistic mirroring is to make you fall for them.

Narcissists consciously use mirroring to bond with people, build empathy and rapport, and reach mutual understanding more quickly.

They do this because they want to be likable and they are looking for your approval and validation.

They are fully aware that they are mirroring you to get you to notice them, see them as likable people, and fall under their spell.

“Mirroring and matching works at the sub-conscious level and serves to make the other person feel more “comfortable” and connected to you. These subliminal actions can create a subconscious feeling of unison and connection that demonstrate how much you have in common.”

― Susan C. Young, The Art of Body Language: 8 Ways to Optimize Non-Verbal Communication for Positive Impact

Narcissists mirror you to make you see them as part of yourself.

Narcissists are known for their ability to make close friends, admirers, and even their romantic partners feel good about themselves.

This is because they are constantly mirroring others in order to elevate themselves. in interaction.

When do narcissists stop mirroring you?

Narcissists stop to mirror your social gestures if they judge you to be useless to them in the long run.

If they were mirroring you, and then realized you were not a good match for them, they will lose interest and will distance themselves from you, no longer bothering to mirror you.

They can sometimes take this behavior to the extreme and engage with you in a pattern of admiration at the expense of their own self-esteem.

So, what happens after a narcissist has been dating a normal person for a while?

They gradually stop praising and mirroring them.

Do they finally get validation that they are indeed worthy?

Not necessarily.

When narcissists date less narcissistic people, they often become the target of their partners’ resentment.

Once the other person discovers the withdrawal of narcissistic admiration and mirroring, they detest the narcissist for who they truly are.

On their part, instead of mirroring their partners, narcissists begin to criticize them once they have formed a close connection with them.

They also start to show more self-interest and selfishness, finally removing their mask and revealing their toxic side in the relationship.

Who, other than narcissists, uses mirroring to manipulate?

Narcissists are not the only people who use mirroring to achieve their goals.

Intentional mirroring is a common technique used by corporate leaders, political leaders, and salespeople, who mirror their audience and customers to gain trust and rapport.

Intentional mirroring is a manipulative technique used to evoke empathy in the victim.

Non-narcissists may use mirroring to get closer to their audience and make them feel important, much like narcissists.

Mirroring can capture the innocent victim’s attention to such a degree that they are left in awe of the person mirroring them.

The non-narcissists frequently use mirroring o help build rapport with coworkers or customers or voters.

How effective a narcissist salesperson must be is anyone’s guess. They will rob you with a smile while convincing you that you like them so much that you have to buy from them.

– Dr. Sandip Roy

They may use it to sell pricey courses on social media, to provide false reassurance, or to make their pitch more compelling by creating a shared meaning of the product that both the customer and the salesperson wants.

This method can be employed at any level of the sales process, including rapport building, understanding customer demands, and completing the deal.

Intentional mirroring, however, can be a positive way to build a connection with someone. The idea is to not abuse the technique to eventually exploit others.

Is narcissistic mirroring a form of mental abuse?

Narcissistic mirroring is a type of mental abuse. It can turn out to be harmful since it manipulates people into falling for the narcissist.

Recognize that narcissistic mirroring is not just fake flattery.

Narcissistic mirroring should always be interpreted as a behavior with an ulterior motive.

It involves the abuser mimicking what the victim has said or done and then making tweaks to make their methods even more alluring. 

This behavior appears to be flattering, but it is actually a form of mind manipulation to meet their emotional need to get praise from you.

Narcissistic mirroring can be dangerous because it encourages victims to seek validation from their abusers.

The narcissist abuser will use their victim’s dependency on them to perpetuate the cycle of narcissistic abuse and further control them in the relationship.

To be emotionally healthy, a person must have a stable support system. Such a support system can people who love and accept the victim in their totality, not just a part of themselves (which narcissists do).

How do you tell if a narcissist is mirroring you?

Mirroring is not easy to detect when it is a narcissist doing it. They do it so expertly that their conscious mirroring appears as a natural part of the interaction.

Narcissistic mirroring includes mimicking your body language, voice intonation, and speech patterns, repeating your words back to you, and copying facial expressions. It makes you feel a subliminal rapport with them without your knowledge.

Don’t mirror a narcissist. They will detect it immediately and attack you.

Mirroring can have serious consequences if the person you are mirroring is a narcissist.

Narcissists are often hypersensitive to any form of criticism or disagreement, so if you are mirroring them without their knowledge it could lead to an argument and hurt feelings on both ends.

The best way to tell if a narcissist is mirroring you is by paying attention to their reactions when they see themselves in the mirror.

If they react negatively or avoid looking at themselves in the mirror altogether then they are probably not interested in mirroring you.

If they are mirroring your expressions and body language, then they are probably a narcissist.

What to do when a narcissist is mirroring you?

You might not notice a narcissist mirroring your expressions and body language because they are so good at it.

Narcissistic mirroring appears to you as a rather likable sort of flattery, so you do not try to stop it even when you are somewhat aware that it is taking place.

If you do realize that someone narcissistic is mirroring you, then the first thing to do is to break eye contact with them and move away your gaze.

If you notice a narcissist mirroring you, break eye contact and look away.

The best thing to do is smiling ask them to break the meeting. It’s better to get away from a narcissist than to make matters worse by getting angry or trying to fight them.

If you’re feeling particularly brave, then you can ask them if they are mirroring you. You might want to go in for a handshake or pat on the back afterward as well.

Do not ever mirror a narcissist.

Mirroring And Mirror Neurons

Mirror neurons in our brains help us in interpreting how others feel.

Mirror neurons allow us to reflect the emotions of another person.

They are the reason we wince when we see our favorite place getting hurt on the field.

They are why we cry when we watch Marriage Story.

Research has found that elephants, songbirds, dolphins, and primates (that includes us) have mirror neurons in their brains.

These get fired when we observe someone doing the same thing as us, making us feel more empathy for them like we are both having the same experience.

“The mirror neuron system (MNS) is a network of neuron groups that discharge when an individual performs an action and/or observes an action of another agent.”

Hyeonjin Jeon and Seung-Hwan Lee, 2018

FAQs

What is mirroring manipulation?

Mirroring manipulation is when a narcissistic or another person with an aim to influence you within a short time mimicks your body language, gestures, behaviors, and expressions to manipulate you into liking them.

Do narcissists always use mirroring?

Narcissists use mirroring in the early love-bombing phase of a relationship when they want to establish a connection with you quickly.
They also use it when they feel you are not agreeing to their wishes and doing things they would like, to make you serve them.
Finally, a narcissist may use mirroring in the hoovering phase when they want to win you back after you have broken up with them.

What is emotional mirroring?

Emotional mirroring is an unintentional occurrence that occurs when friends have a similar problem and become stuck talking about it in a negative way over and over again, unable to move on or find a solution.

Emotional mirroring often leaves both persons emotionally drained, stressed, and melancholic at the end of each interaction.

Final Words

Narcissistic mirroring works, just like any other instance of mirroring, and even more so since it is managed by people who are experts at it.

• • •

5 Dirty Ways Narcissists Treat Their Ex (How To Handle It)

• • •

Author Bio: Written and reviewed by Sandip Roy — medical doctor, psychology writer, and happiness researcher. Founder and Chief Editor of The Happiness Blog. Writes on mental wellbeing, happiness, positive psychology, and philosophy (especially Stoicism).


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