As the digital age has advanced, so too has the world of fitness. Telecommunicative training, or remote personal training sessions via video calls, has gained significant traction, especially in times when physical presence isn’t always feasible. While this method of training offers many conveniences, it also brings forth questions about the efficacy of non-verbal communication cues, such as emotional mirroring, in such a setting.
What is Emotional Mirroring?
Emotional mirroring refers to the subconscious replication of another person’s non-verbal behaviours, such as gestures, postures, and facial expressions. In the context of personal training, when trainers and clients mirror each other’s non-verbal cues, it’s a sign of rapport, trust, and effective communication.
The Vartanov et al. Study
A recent study by Vartanov et al. (2023) delved deep into the phenomenon of emotional mirroring using remotely diagnosed parameters of facial expressions. The researchers aimed to investigate whether mirroring can be detected in telecommunication dialogues, where non-verbal cues might be limited compared to in-person interactions.
Using sophisticated tools, including a VGG16-based artificial neural network, the researchers analysed video data of participants during dialogues. The results were enlightening:
- Facial Expressions Correlate with Emotions: Parameters of facial expressions between the participant and the experimenter (in this context, a psychologist) showed strong correlations with emotions such as happiness, sadness, and surprise. For instance, there was a direct relationship between the sadness of a participant and the fear displayed by the psychologist.
- Mirroring Occurs Remotely: The study confirmed that participants have enough visual information for two-way social contact involving mirroring, even when only the face is visible on video. This suggests that the phenomenon of emotional mirroring is not lost in telecommunicative dialogues.
- Complex Nature of Mirroring: The data revealed correlations in emotional manifestations that were both direct (e.g., joy mirrored by joy) and inverse (e.g., disgust mirrored by joy). This indicates the intricate nature of the mirroring phenomenon.
Implications for Fitness Professionals
For fitness trainers who provide remote training:
- Understand the Power of Facial Expressions: Even in remote sessions, clients can pick up on your emotions through facial cues. It’s essential to be aware of your facial expressions and understand that they can impact the client’s emotional state and motivation.
- Building Rapport is Possible Remotely: Just because you’re not in the same physical space doesn’t mean you can’t build a strong emotional connection. The act of mirroring, even remotely, can foster a sense of trust and rapport.
- Use Visual Cues Effectively: Ensure that both you and your client have good camera angles to capture facial expressions. This can aid in better communication and understanding, enhancing the effectiveness of the training session.
The realm of telecommunicative training is still in its nascent stages, and understanding the nuances of non-verbal communication in this space is crucial. The study by Vartanov et al. provides a compelling insight into the world of emotional mirroring in remote settings, suggesting that the bond between trainer and client can remain strong, even through a screen. Fitness professionals must harness the power of these non-verbal cues to deliver effective and impactful training sessions.
- 1. Alexander V. Vartanov, Sofia A. Izbasarova, Yulia M. Neroznikova, Igor M. Artamonov, Yana N. Artamonova, Irine I. Vartanova, The effect of psychological mirroring in telecommunicative dialogue, Cognitive Systems Research, Volume 80, 2023, Click here to review the full research article
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