As successful athletes know, to perform well at any venture, you must learn to be awake and aware. Mirroring is designed to help you cultivate the self-awareness that forms the foundation for focused and effective leadership.
All awareness begins with acceptance. If you do not accept what is, you can neither accurately perceive the truth nor respond constructively to problems. Like a clear mirror, acceptance allows you to see yourself and others without distortion, prejudice, inflation, or exaggeration. Acceptance does not mean that you approve or disapprove of what you see. Instead, you simply take it in on every level of awareness.
Mirroring, or reflecting back the truth, is one of the most important tools for effective communication. It involves listening and observing without rushing quickly to judgment. Though it aims toward accuracy, reflective consciousness is not the same as scientific objectivity. Unlike scientific perception, reflective consciousness involves empathy. Like acceptance, empathy does not imply approval or full agreement with another’s point of view. Rather it is a way of knowing more thoroughly. When you empathize with another, you get inside their point of view and begin to experience how and why they act and think as they do.
Since empathetic mirroring is an ingredient to all aspects of good leadership, it is important to grasp how this works. The introduction of empathy can have a catalytic effect on a group. When members of a group feel that they have been heard in an empathetic way, they become more willing to listen to the ideas of others. Feeling respected, they give respect to each other, creating an atmosphere of conviviality. In this way, the whole group becomes more cooperative and works better as a team. And equally important, though it may sound paradoxical, feeling understood and accepted actually helps members of a team become better at critical self-awareness and problem solving.
The process begins before the group meets when, in order to encourage mirroring within a group, the leader learns self-acceptance. (Most often, those who fail at listening empathically have not learned to do this inside themselves.) Giving yourself empathy does not mean that you justify or even approve of everything you do. It only means that you are present and responsive to your own feelings. Without giving yourself empathy, you may not even perceive accurately what you do or why you do it. (Learning to be present to yourself in this way is also the first step toward what we call emotional integrity, a process we will talk more about later.)
As with group process, when you give yourself empathy, you are more able to accept the truth of any problems within your own behavior or ideas. To help you understand how this works, think of a problem you are facing. Perhaps you have difficulty being on time, or get angry too easily. While you focus on this problem and accept the truth of its existence, be aware of whatever feelings you may have. Don’t try to analyze your emotions. Just be present to them in a sympathetic way. Can you feel yourself relaxing? In this state of mind, you do not have to defend yourself. Simply feeling this self-acceptance creates a positive atmosphere.
This atmosphere makes it safer for you and others to evaluate habits and ideas and make beneficial changes.
Both in your own development and while guiding a group, the awareness of solar or lunar imbalances facilitates the process of mirroring. When the solar side of consciousness dominates, a leader may seem insensitive to the feelings of others. This is caused by a retreat from feelings of vulnerability altogether. Though dominating people often appear harsh and arrogant, they are usually as critical of themselves as they are of others and thus, not surprisingly, they are also afraid of their own feelings. In the other direction, the lunar side when out of balance tends to abandon the self, in favor of the feelings of others. On the surface, this may seem to be giving. Yet those who are not centered in their own experiences cannot achieve clarity in their perceptions of others. They lack discernment. And as is often so with an overprotective parent, in the process of trying to help others, they often undermine the abilities others have to help themselves.
In both cases, the quality that will helps all of us regain balance is self- acceptance. One effective way to achieve this is by balancing solar perceptiveness with lunar sensitivity. Though in some circumstances these abilities can appear to be in conflict, in the proper equilibrium, they work very well together.