Empathy and money don’t go together

Mirroring behaviour may not be the benefit that NLP suggestsPeople who love the concept of “Neuro-Linguistic Programming” (NLP) will often try to empathise with you by “mirroring” your body language. There is plenty of research which shows that when people are attracted to each other they tend to adopt similar body positions, make the same gestures and so on. As one person changes position, the other moves a fraction of a second later. The problem for fans of NLP is that they spend so much time paying attention to the other person’s body language and trying to mirror it, that they don’t actually really communicate…! Your subconscious will do it for you…you don’t have to worry about mirroring or concentrate on it.

Sales staff have been told for years to mirror the body language of their prospects. But the problem is the prospect becomes aware of the unnatural attempts and therefore fails to truly connect with the sales person.

Now, some new research from the University of Groningen has put a spanner in the works. It turns out that mirroring only works when people do not have their autonomy threatened in any way. If something happens in the mimicry which suggests any kind of lack of control, the individual feels threatened and less attracted to the person doing the mirroring behaviour. In other words, some kinds of mirroring make it LESS likely that the person will be attracted to you.

And guess what the researchers used to reduce feelings of autonomy? Money. Cash. Spondoolicks.

When people were “mirrored” whilst they had been made aware of money, with images of cash for instance, they showed negative feelings towards the person mirroring their body language. But when the money wasn’t present – hey presto – they liked the other individual.

It’s all about context – mirroring the behaviour of someone else only works if the context is right.

And therein lies the problem for websites.

When you show empathy online for your website visitors, when you focus your web page on their world, on their interests and you talk directly to them, you increase the feelings of warmth and empathy.

But, this new research suggests that if you remind people of money on your website, that feeling of empathy could subside.

In essence, if you are trying to create relationships with your customers and want to show you are on their side, having reminders of money on your site, such as a PayPal logo or a credit card image, could work against you. In fact, don’t talk about money at all. Simply talk about them, their problems and the solutions you can provide.

Hang on a minute – that’s what all the best sales trainers say anyway…! Only mention money at the last possible moment, once you have “closed the sale”. Online, that could well mean way, way down inside the depths of your website.


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Graham Jones
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+
Graham Jones


Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist, professional speaker and author of 32 books who helps businesses understand the online behaviour of their customers
RT @SteveHeadSpeaks: Thanks to @GuidesForBrides for having @ChrisHeadMagic at #ukwedconf @MiltonHillhotel learning from the best @grahamjon - 23 hours ago
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