Ask participants to pick a partner for the game. If there is an odd number have one group of three. Each group should find an area to work in with enough space for both participants to move freely
Have participants face each other in a neutral position. Instruct them to pay very close attention to their partner and then count to 3. On 3, participants should exaggerate any movements they notice in their partner. The keyword here is "exaggerate". If they only duplicate what they observe the exercise will stall out.
After the exercise has been running for a few minutes, instruct participants to also exaggerate any noises, emotions, and facial expressions they notice. If they notice something they believe was a mistake, instruct them to amplify this as well.
As the exercise continues, instruct participants not to lead their partner by injecting out-of-left-field actions. Instead, remind them to focus on exaggerating what they notice n their partner.
Conduct the exercise 2-4 with feedback after each iteration, until the group is reasonably good at it. Point out pairs who have done well and perhaps ask them to repeat moments of their work for all to appreciate. If numbers allow, switch partners once or twice.
For more insight into improv's application to professional development, visit RA's corporate workshop page.
The Mirror Exercise illustrates in equal parts the power and difficulty of collaboration, listening, and agreement. Often used to address:
Presentational Skills (Confidence)
Trust & Support
Getting Out Of Your Head
Number of Participants:
Minimum: 2 participants / Maximum: 16 participants
Minimum: 10 minutes / Maximum: 20 minutes
You might try the below adjustments when leading this exercise:
Play music during the exercise
Read a poem or a famous speech during the exercise
Ask participants to suddenly switch partners in the middle of the exercise
Conduct this same exercise in a large circle with everyone mirroring each other simultaneously (this is often called Follow The Follower)
Play music during the exercise and switch between two or three very different songs
Instructor Talking Points
Discuss how hard it can be to truly listen. We may think we know how others feel or what they are trying to communicate, but when we pay closer attention we are often surprised by the simple things we missed. Maybe it is because it is so simple, we think there is no need to pay closer attention. Encourage students who find this exercise difficult to pay even closer attention, take their focus off of their own discomfort and focus on their partner. If they say they cant find anything in their partner to mirror, that means they are not paying close enough attention - they are not listening as hard as they could.
Be certain to note abrupt amplifications which may not be amplifications at all, but instead inorganic insertions. Leaders do not need to control a project or to “do it the best”. Instead, encourage participants to lead by choosing what to amplify and how much. A statue is limited by the material it is created with, you cannot carve what is not there. But there is so much there already! Choosing to lead by enhancing existing strengths is a tremendous act of respect and an easier way to gain buy-in than wholesale invention. Once we follow deeply we may suddenly find we are leading.
Applied Mantra: Remember, Don't Invent
It is important we are always aware of where we are and not where we would prefer to be. You may have a brilliant idea you conceived of on your own one Sunday. But if you suggest it after your teammate is already moving in another direction you risk deflating their momentum or seeming out of touch. Good teams adjust and build on each other, no one puts on a cape and saves the day by themselves.
Applied Mantra: Yes And...
The Mirror Exercise can be used to hone the very specific sales skill of "cushioning a client" -- ie navigating the awkwardness a client may feel when they say no. Practicing the Mirror Exercise works the muscle that allows a salesperson to agree with their client a proposal has been rejected. A cushioned client is one who can be reapproached later. On the other hand, a client who is made to feel awkward or guilty when saying no may choose not to reengage with a sales professional they blame for those feelings.