“Behaviour is a mirror in which everyone displays his own image” –Goethe. Not that we always see it, but we do tend to wear our hearts on our sleeves, whether we like it or not.
Our external responses tend to mirror our perceptions of things--that sounds obvious. It’s when we want to hide our actual opinions and perceptions that our behaviour becomes most interesting. We give ourselves away in this; what we at times accuse and judge others of, is ironically probably what we most actually have to deal with--within ourselves.
One of my most favourite Proverbs speaks of how implicitly human behaviour and responses mirror that of our fellow humans beings. “Just as water reflects the face, so one human heart reflects another” –Proverbs 27:19 (NRSV). This is a deep verse, and depending on how it’s translated from the original text, it can mean several things. Just for example, the Greek translation runs like this: “As faces are not like other faces, so neither are the thoughts of men” (LXX). Both quoted translations are roundly congruent but come from opposing sides.
What they’re saying is this. What we show on our faces (and through our overt behaviour) is basically a mirror of what we’re at times trying to hide (covertly) within our thoughts; our hearts. This is why picking up a liar is easier than we’d normally think. Their body language and demeanour gives them away as it’s incongruent with what they’re saying.
And there’s more. Research has shown that when we actually attend to others’ body language and mirror them in this we can actually build a stronger, more genuine rapport with them. If we choose to position ourselves like the other person, chances are we’ll both see things from a more similar viewpoint.
We also get from people what they’re chiefly thinking about, within themselves. If someone is interacting with us angrily chances are they’re not happy with themselves, or within themselves. Given this, it’s easier to empathise.
We, ourselves, give ourselves up! We all do this in the way we relate with our worlds. This is one very good reason why honesty is always the very best policy. I think it was Mark Twain who said the less we lie the fewer stories we have to remember.
Food for thought?
Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
 Allan & Barbara Pease, The Definitive Book of Body Language: How to Read Others’ Thoughts by Their Gestures (Buderim, Australia: Pease International, 2006), p. 263. This advice is correct provided we don’t mirror negative body language.