One Little Idea – Mirroring

When you get stuck replying to an email, use the mirroring technique. And when you get stuck writing anything, just reply

Have you ever gotten an email that represents an enormous opportunity, in which a same or next-day response is pretty much required?

Take these three scenarios:

  1. Maybe you hear back, unexpectedly, from a dream investor. They’ll hear your pitch, but first, they have an odd and pressing request for info you don’t have
  2. Maybe you’re about to launch a project, but your lead developer describes a complex problem and exclaims: “I’m not gonna go live with it
  3. Your lawyer writes you a critical email and says she needs a response today, but you can spare just 10 minutes

Emails like this paralyze me. If you take too long to reply, you miss an opportunity; go too fast, you make a mistake. 

But even if you have all the time in the world, where do you start and what are the rules of engagement – did your parents teach you them? Your highschool English teacher? Your first boss? No.

So what people typically do in this situation is to write too much. And write for too long. And rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.

What some bosses do is write too little, as in the proverbial “one-worder”. Makes you look important, sure. But is it effective? Probably not.

I took those three problem scenarios above from a guide I wrote last years, “The World’s Shortest Guide to Replying to any Business Email”.

However, some people still have difficulties in this area, so I have just now published the second edition of the guide.

A guide to writing business reply emails mirroring

As a special thank you for being my email subscriber, I am linking you to the guide down below.

But first, let me answer some questions about it – these questions come from the intro page to the guide.

Who is this guide for?
Business owners who face a high volume of critical business emails daily – and who want guidance on how to write effective replies

What problem does it solve?
Not knowing how to confidently and quickly respond to important business emails from customers, partners, vendors, or employees

How long will it take to read the guide?
5 minutes 

Can I start using the guide today, to respond to important emails quickly?

Well if that sounds like something that can help you, get your copy here (to download as a PDF, go to File > Save as”).

And if you’re reading this on the web archive, simply subscribe to this newsletter using this link and I’ll send you a copy too.

But more than giving out a free guide, the little idea I wanted to get out there today is this: mirror.

Mirror the ideas, feelings, tone, formality, and communications style of whoever it is you engage with.

There’s a debate as to whether this is manipulative; whether it actually creates goodwill or genuine rapport. [1] Whether it’s nobler to “be yourself”. That’s outside the scope of this conversation, though.

Here the question is how to get ideas for composing the right words – fast.

Is this the be-all, end-all? No, it’s for when you are stuck or pressed for time, and the opportunity is too great for you to fashion your own style of response, in your own voice. 

It’s also to keep you from writing too much. 

The other ideation technique baked in here: Reply

The guide to mirroring feasts on the absence of a white screen, which always makes it easier to write something. This is the essence of Socratic Dialogue, right? Or the book I mentioned in the last letter I wrote you, A More Beautiful Question.

Reply if you’re writing the first email. Or writing anything – your slogan, your About Us copy, your LinkedIn profile.

Pretend that the apparently empty white screen is not actually empty by actually copying on to the screen what you want to speak to.

Tip: transcribe spoken words verbatim from the audience you address – that way you avoid replying to your interpretation of what others have said.

I wish you success in your mirroring and replying… let me know if the guide helps.

Have a pleasant evening,



[1] The Wikipedia page on mirroring has an excellent definition: “Mirroring is the behaviour in which one person unconsciously imitates the gesture, speech pattern, or attitude of another.” Unfortunately, it’s impossible to quickly tell from the edit history who contributed the most to this definition.