September 7, 2009


Mirror Instinct Technique
excerpted from the book, Choose Power

by Pammyla Brooks

This technique can help you to rise above a situation or conflict, and also to figure out why you are having difficulty with a certain person.

We tend to attract people that mirror us so that we can learn about ourselves. Although it is often hard to be objective about ourselves, we can usually be objective about other people and see them more critically. That is why other people’s faults appear very obvious to us, and we often have blind spots about our own faults.

Here is how the Mirror Instinct Technique works: if I have a specific criticism of someone else, it is because I have the same criticism about myself. If I stop and ask myself how this criticism applies to me, sometimes, it is like a curtain being pulled back and I can see it from a completely new perspective.

For example, I have been secretly amused when I have witnessed disagreements between people, and Person A is accusing Person B of something that Person A does frequently. Of course I can see it, because it is not my blind spot. Although I can see other people’s blind spots, I cannot see it when I am accusing someone else of doing something that I also do.

Here is a great visual explanation. Perhaps you have heard the saying, “When you point a finger at someone, there are three fingers pointing back at you.”

Test it out right now. Look at your hand when you point at someone as if you are scolding him or her. Notice the other three fingers are curled back towards you.

Tone of Voice Example

Here is an example of how I used this. One of my biggest issues with a former supervisor was the tone of voice she used with me. It really bothered me. I would describe it to others that she talked to me like I was a dog.

Her tone of voice seemed to imply that she was frustrated with me, that I was stupid to be saying what I was saying, or asking what I was asking. It felt like I was bothering her when she could be doing something else that was more interesting or more important.

One day, out of the blue, I got off the phone with a customer service representative who I considered to be inept and inefficient. That night, I kept thinking about the conversation and hearing bits of it played back in my head. I was left with a really bad feeling about the experience. In fact, every time I thought about it, the bad feeling returned. I slowly realized why that conversation bothered me: my tone of voice. It felt as if someone else had used it with me, instead of me using it with someone else.

This was the insight that I needed. Just like my complaints about my supervisor, I realized that sometimes I use a tone of voice on the phone when I am feeling impatient, or like I am wasting my time when I could be doing something more important. (Notice how this is all repeated from above.)

This revelation is an example of how to use the Mirror Instinct Technique to work for us instead of against us. I experience someone else’s behavior as an issue or a “pet peeve” and when I dig deeply, I discover how I do the same thing, and how it secretly bothers me.

Because of this tremendous insight and link back to my own behavior, I am more conscious about the tone of voice that I use. It has also helped me in several other interpersonal situations. Finding out the truth set me free.

Technique – Mirror Instinct or “Pet Peeve” Technique

Purpose: To get to the root of understanding why someone else’s behavior bothers us.

This technique requires some inner work. Pick a time when you know that you will not be disturbed so that you can get to the core and the truth for yourself.

1) Find a quiet place and get into a relaxed state.

2) Think about a pet peeve. Write down what bothers you the most about it. Use these questions to help prompt your mind.

  • Describe the pet peeve in as much detail as you can. What is your experience of it?

  • Use sensory terms. What does it look like, sound like, feel like, smell like, taste like?

  • What bothers you the most about it?

  • Does it bother you in all situations or only during specific times?

  • Does it ever NOT bother you? If so, when?

3) After you are done, remain in your quiet space and ask yourself the following questions.:

  • Has someone else ever said the same thing about me?

  • How can this criticism also apply to me?

The answer might come to you immediately or it might not. If no answer appears, then send out an intention such as, “I want to find out why this bothers me so much so that I can be free of it.” Hold the intention in the back of your mind over the next week. An insight might occur to you. You might see a movie or something else might happen that reveals the answer. Perhaps someone may make a comment that shows how the situation can be applied to you.

Once you discover the answer, forgive yourself for the behavior. Then, congratulate yourself!

When we know how a pet peeve applies to us, it no longer has power over us. Perhaps we are more forgiving about it now, so it bothers us less to notice it in other people. It is as if our blind spot used to have unconscious control over us, and now we are free.

Pammyla Brooks has a BA in Psychology and an MS in Clinical and Health Psychology. She is a Certified Toastmaster (CTM) and is certified in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). She has taught and consulted for over a decade for the University of Texas at Austin, DeVry University, Dell Computers, Dell Financial Services, the Texas Comptroller’s Office and more. In her book, Choose Power: Tools and Techniques for Home and Work, she gathers Power Principles from a variety of traditions, and then clearly explains and applies them to everyday life. Step-by-step exercises are included that can be practiced today and used tomorrow. Visit Pammyla's website,, for more information. You can also reach Pammyla via e-mail, Facebook or Twitter.