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How to communicate using your brain


Understanding how our brain works when we communicate can help us improve the way we communicate with others. Amy Brann provides some tips.

Communication training is one of those tricky things. There are lots and lots of different models out there telling us which words are good to create this effect and which words we need to avoid to not create that effect. There are courses that teach you how to move your body to communicate certain things, and programs that tell you what your overall strategy should be to reach a specific outcome.

We’re are going to focus here on authenticity. Why? Authenticity is the easiest way to sum up three key things we know about how the brain works when it comes to communication. Let’s dive right into why that is so, and then leave you with a couple of bonus brain tips relating to communication training.

"Thinking you can say one thing when you really mean another depletes your effectiveness and will have a knock on effect to the person you are communicating with."

1 Mirror neurons

Mirror neurons exist in our brain, and to avoid going into the full science of them here, check out an overview on Wikipedia or in the book Rizzolatti, G, Sinigaglia, C. Mirrors in the Brain. Basically what we have discovered is that other people’s brains mirror our intentions. So if you are communicating something, like “I really want your help on this project” but really you are hoping they won’t say yes because you can’t stand working with them, it’s likely their brain is picking this up. 

If at this time you were feeling tense and apprehensive then the person to whom you were talking would likely mirror these emotions and it has been found that some people do this more than others. So what does this mean practically? If you want someone to get a message, be as clear as possible when communicating it. Whether you want to or not, you are activating mirror neurons in other people. Thinking you can say one thing when you really mean another depletes your effectiveness and will have a knock on effect to the person you are communicating with.

2 High expectations

Having high expectations of people, genuinely, and communicating these to people does two things. Firstly, it causes you and others to behave differently. Many experiments have proven this, including the classic school children one. Two groups of children were given two different teachers, one teacher told she had above average children, the other below average. After a year both groups performed as their teachers had been told they were, but to start with both groups had been average.

The second thing it does is creates high productivity. Providing the expectations and boundaries are clear this increases predictability for people and decreases their stress levels.

3 Intention

This key is a little out there, so bear with me if it is new to you. It is very possible your brain works on a quantum level. This means that the processes that occur within it aren’t random and can be influenced by your intention. Henry Stapp makes a great case that our intentions can affect our results, and communication is an important tool in this process.

Communication bonus tips


1 Use emotion

In our brain’s the hippocampus is next to amygdala. The hippocampus is heavily involved in storing long term memories. It normally checks new information against any existing patterns (stored information) in the brain. When information comes with an emotional component to it we find it easier to remember. So if you want someone to remember something then using an emotional state when communicating the information to them can make this far more likely.

2 Avoid ambiguity

Ambiguity can cause the brain stress, when it doesn’t understand something it will do one of a couple of things. Either it will try to fit the information to an existing understanding that could be plausible, or it will become stressed. If it becomes stressed then it won’t function well at all, so if you don’t want to gamble then it may be best to be authentically clear on your message.

3 Attention men

When you want to get a man’s attention, perhaps to ask him a question or make a comment directly to him, it can really help to get his attention first. The male ear has a longer cochlea that slows the brain’s recognition of sounds. It is quite possible he will miss a chunk of what you say unless he is tuned in before you start.

Amy Brann is the head researcher at the training company Synaptic Potential. She is passionate about helping professionals achieve more by understanding how their brain and mind actually works. Keep in touch with Amy on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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