How to Use Labeling, Mirroring & Paraphrasing to Engage, Influence & Negotiate
This is a continuation of the series of communication fundamentals, where I teach you basic communication techniques and strategies. If you use these strategies, you will shine with your communication, I promise you that.
So we started by discussing an awesome and super simple strategy, which is YES AND. By using Yes and, you are open in your communication and foster the creation of new ideas.
Then last time, we learned about questions. Questions are amazing. They are super flexible. You can use them in any situation. They are engaging, and they help you discover your partner's views. Questions are also crucial for active listening.
And today, we will talk about 3 other amazing tools for active listening and communication in general. These tools help us build empathy in our communication. And you know that empathy is key for charming communication. These empathy tools are paraphrasing, labeling, and mirroring. The reason these tools are so amazing is that they help you build instant rapport and trust. If you want another person to say 'yes' to your idea, you must first gain their trust. Once they trust you, you'll be far more influential.
When you use these techniques effectively, people will feel like you’re really listening to them. They will be nudged to talk about themselves.
So let’s start with paraphrasing. Paraphrasing allows you to get clarity and check your understanding. If you paraphrase something that's not along the lines of their message, hopefully, the speaker will communicate it again and give you a different example.
Paraphrasing can sound like this: What I’m hearing is…
So Paraphrasing is the first empathy technique that I want you to remember and use. Now let’s move to the next one.
Labeling - What is labeling?
Labeling is a verbal acknowledgment of the other side's feelings or positions.
Labeling always starts with the words
it sounds like or
it seems like
and finishes by naming your conversation partner's dominant feelings, interests, or perspective. Why is this technique so effective? Because it allows you to acknowledge other person's feelings or needs. Once they feel that their needs are acknowledged you will get them on your side, you will build trust and they will open to you. From there you can move to solutions and expand the conversation. Labeling can also be used to neutralize negative emotions or reinforce positive ones.
So remember, when you want to influence, use labeling and sentences: It seems like, it sounds like… Let me offer an example.
Let’s say, you created a proposal for a marketing campaign which you presented to your boss. Now you’re done presenting and your boss says: "So we will not advertise on print? Only social media?"
Now, because you’re a fantastic listener, you hear in his voice a concern so you label his feeling to discover more: "It seems like this is surprising to you."
And he says: "Yes, you know because in the past print was quite a successful channel for our campaigns."
Now you can label again, so you can say something like: "It sounds like print is an important channel to use."
And he might say: "I just want the campaign to be profitable."
Now, we are at the core of what’s in his mind and what are his wants.
You can reply something like: "We’ve done market research, and the campaign on social media offers higher impact for half of the cost of a print campaign."
So this way you addressed their concern of profitability. Also what you did is you acknowledged their feeling. This will make them feel like their concerns are resolved. Now you can go ahead and reframe your proposal. You can offer a new solution: "So what if we test it on this campaign and if we see that it doesn’t work, we can always include print too."
So now you suggested new options which they will accept.
In what situations is labeling a great strategy to use? Absolutely amazing is labeling when negotiating. Especially if you combine it with open questions and the yes and strategy to offer new ideas.
Let's see another example of labeling. Let's say you are pitching your consulting services to a potential business partner.
The partner says: "I don’t know, we are quite satisfied with our current provider. I don’t know if it’s the right time to be changing the provider now."
If you react immediately your reaction could be something like “Well our offer is much better than your current provider.”
Now, here this might be the end of your pitching because they might feel pressed and they might feel like you’re not really listening. So a better strategy would be to use our empathy techniques.
So as we did before, you need to first discover what their needs and wants are. So, you could ask an open-ended question, such as:
“What’s on your mind?”
To which they might respond:
“We have been with this provider for many years and we’re satisfied.”
Now you can use labeling.
“It seems that you are concerned about maintaining good relationships with them.”
Now they might respond: “Yes, they are a trusted vendor."
Now, you really discovered what their needs are. They need trust. So what this allows you to do is to address their need and reframe your offer, and you can reframe it using the What if question we spoke about last time.
“So what if you don’t end your current contract for the moment. Instead, we will provide you our services for 30 days for half the price so you can compare and decide. What are your thoughts on that?”
Now, that’s an offer they will not refuse. Because you show that they can trust you and that they have nothing to lose.
Now let’s talk about the third empathy-building technique. And that is mirroring. I love mirroring. Now when we talk about mirroring there two types. One is mirroring the words and the other is mirroring or matching the body language. Both are amazing ways to build rapport.
The body language mirroring includes matching posture, voice, speed of speech, physical gestures. Now, this needs to be subtle, they shouldn’t notice that you’re doing it. And actually this a natural thing when we have a rapport with someone matching mirroring is something we do unconsciously. But we can use it consciously to build that rapport if we don’t have it yet. So, if your gestures are more animated than your partner’s, you can calm down a little. If you’re speaking much more quickly than they are, you can decrease your pace. Then you can begin to subtly match physical posture and gestures and facial expressions like smiling.
So that’s body mirroring. We will definitely talk about body language in future episodes.
Now, mirroring as an empathy-building strategy in a conversation is simply repeating the last few words or critical words of your conversation partner's language. It's designed to show the person that you're listening and that you understand them. What it does is that they will feel nudged to explain more.
Mirroring is useful for positive and negative emotions. So let’s say they say I loved that musical. So you will repeat the last few words, saying You love it? Now, they will feel heard and they will continue and tell you more. But mirroring is also useful when you're confused or triggered. Basically, if you’re caught off guard and don’t know how to react, just repeat the last few words. And you will be charming, it works like magic.
So let’s say, your partner tells you: "You don’t recognize all the hard work I’ve been doing.”
To which you reply: "Hard work.”
They will continue and explain more. This technique puts people at ease, reduces tension, and makes the other person feel like someone is listening. People love to talk to someone who is paying attention to them.
Now I want to give you a conversation example combining these techniques. And this time it will be a normal conversation. We will open with an open-ended question, then we will be labeling and mirroring.
"What are you passionate about?"
"Oh, I’m passionate about yoga."
"What is it about Yoga that makes you passionate?"
"It helps me relax and also I get to meet my friends there."
"Meet your friends?"
"Yeah, we have a group of friends and we go to a yoga class every Wednesday and it’s so much fun."
"It sounds like you love meeting with your friends."
"Yeah you know we’re all so busy and our yoga class is a fantastic opportunity to meet and actually do something that feels good."
"Sounds like Yoga relaxes you."
"It does and I look forward to my yoga class the entire week."
"The entire week."
"Yeah, I go there every week and it’s really a highlight of my week."
All right so as you see I could continue like that endlessly. We could continue labeling with it sounds like and mirroring by repeating a few words. And every time we used one of these techniques we learned a little more. Now how did this person feel? They felt like you were listening and curious. That’s how you built empathy. And that’s what we are looking for here in all these techniques. Because let me repeat: People love to feel like someone is listening and they love to talk to someone who is paying attention to them.
So now you know charming communicator. Now you will be super effective in any negotiation, pitching and you will never run out of conversation ideas, thanks to labeling and mirroring.
And I would encourage you to train yourself in this skill until it becomes automatic for you. And to do that I have a short exercise for you.
I will make a statement and your task will be to react to that statement first using mirroring and then using labeling.
Let’s take an example:
"The new social media strategy is way over our budget."
- Mirroring: "Over budget."
- Labeling: "It sounds like staying on budget is important to you."
So now it's your turn.
"I’m looking forward to my summer vacation."
First mirror and then label.
So you probably mirrored by saying something like “Summer vacation” and labeled by saying: "It sounds like you are excited about your vacation."
Another one: "I don’t have time to prepare the presentation."
You probably mirrored by saying “prepare the presentation” and labeled by saying “It sounds like time is your biggest concern."
And of course, there are other ways to label this sentence so everything is fine so long as you started by "it sounds like" or "it seems like".
And the last one: "Our clients write amazing reviews on the last product we launched."
Mirroring could be “last product we launched” and labeling “It sounds like you’re happy about this success”.
All right amazing charming communicators. These strategies will turn you into an even more charming communicator. Especially if you combine them with the yes and technique and open questions. This will be your communication basis. I’m super thrilled to hear about how you are applying these strategies and to hear about all the awesome results you’re getting.
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