Have you ever had the experience of meeting someone and you felt like there was something odd about them? Perhaps you felt uncomfortable and you kept your guard up. Something just didn’t feel right to you. Or perhaps you have had a situation where someone was trying to sell you something and you felt repelled by them even though their behavior seemed to be kind and helpful
These are all experiences that involve subconscious communication. Communication that our brain detects, yet we don’t perceive consciously.
Neuroscience has shed light on how we communicate subconsciously and beyond verbal and body language. It’s a complex mechanism of communication derived from the area called “The Social Brain.”
The Social Brain refers to the interconnected neural networks responsible for processing and interpreting social information. It comprises various regions, including the prefrontal cortex, amygdala, mirror neuron system, and the anterior cingulate cortex, which work in tandem to navigate social interactions. These areas collectively enable us to perceive and understand emotions, intentions, and non-verbal cues, forming the mechanism of understanding social interaction. This is the mechanism for how we communicate subconsciously.
In a workplace setting, non-verbal cues play a significant role in conveying information and shaping communication. Subconscious signals such as body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, and even proxemics (personal space) communicate a wealth of information beyond the spoken words. The most recent research is giving us insights into how we respond to communication cues that are hormonal and electrical in nature.
Hormonal Communication: Hormones are the chemical messengers of our body. They play a significant role in social communication. These powerful substances, secreted by various glands throughout the body, influence our emotions, behaviors, and social interactions. For example, oxytocin, often called the “bonding hormone” or “love hormone,” is released during bonding experiences such as hugging, physical contact, or acts of kindness. It enhances feelings of trust, empathy, and connection, thereby facilitating communication and nurturing relationships. Testosterone is another high-impact hormone. It is more commonly associated with masculinity and can influence assertiveness, dominance, and competitiveness, affecting the way individuals express themselves and interact in social contexts. By modulating our physiological and emotional states, hormones provide a foundation for interpersonal communication, shaping our relationships and interactions with others.
Electrical Communication: The intricate dance of electrical brain pulses, known as neural activity, forms the basis of our communication within the brain and with the external world. These electrical signals, generated by the firing of neurons, carry information and facilitate the transmission of thoughts, perceptions, and intentions. As we engage in communication, specific brain regions become activated, triggering a series of electrical pulses that travel through neural pathways. This complex interplay of electrical brain pulses serves as the foundation for our ability to communicate, allowing us to share ideas, emotions, and experiences with others. Many studies have been conducted verifying how communication is conducted electrically from brain to brain.
How to Use Your Social Brain: So how can you optimize your Social Brain to enhance your leadership and performance? First, it’s important to understand that you communicate through your neurochemistry, hormone release, and your brain’s electrical emission. In fact, you will communicate what you think, believe, and what your true intentions are in an interaction through these methods. So, your intention is a key component of your communication.
Why is this so important? Because people naturally sense your intention. We all have a natural threat detector. It is wired within us. Neuroscientists refer to this brain mechanism as Neuroception. It’s our ability to determine if another person is safe and wants to help us or is a threat and wants to harm us.
Intention: I define intention as our influence on others through our internal desires. Our intentions play a pivotal role in shaping our communication, as they can either support or hinder effective interaction. When our intentions align with open-mindedness, empathy, and a genuine desire to understand and connect, our communication tends to be more successful. When we approach interactions with positive intentions, we are more likely to listen actively, consider different perspectives, and communicate in a respectful and inclusive manner.
On the other hand, if our intentions are driven by ego or self-interest, our communication can become strained, leading to miscommunication, misunderstanding, and conflict. Our intentions act as a guiding force, influencing the tone, content, and delivery of our messages. By fostering intentions that prioritize collaboration, understanding, and mutual respect, we can create a communication environment that promotes meaningful connections and effective exchanges of ideas.
Emotional Contagion: One fascinating aspect of subconscious communication in the workplace is emotional contagion. Humans have an innate ability to pick up on the emotional states of others, even without explicit verbal cues. This phenomenon occurs due to the activation of mirror neurons, which simulate the observed emotional experiences within ourselves.
Consider a scenario where a team leader enters a meeting room with an air of confidence and enthusiasm. The positive emotions exuded by the leader can spread to the team members, influencing their motivation and overall mood. Conversely, if an individual expresses frustration or negativity, it can impact the emotional climate of the workplace.
Overcoming Subconscious Communication Challenges: While subconscious communication in the workplace has its benefits, it can also present challenges. Misinterpretation of non-verbal cues, cultural differences, and unconscious biases can hinder effective communication and lead to misunderstandings. Setting your intention is an overarching technique you can use to enhance your communication and leverage the research of the Social Brain.
Set Your Intention. Setting your intention is an essential step in fostering effective communication and meaningful interactions with others. To set your intention, begin by reflecting on your desired outcome and the values you want to embody during the interaction. Ask yourself what you hope to achieve, whether it’s building rapport, resolving conflicts, or fostering understanding. Next, cultivate a mindset of openness, curiosity, and empathy. Consider the perspectives of others and aim to create a safe and inclusive space for communication. Visualize the positive impact you want your words and actions to have on the other person or the overall conversation. Finally, remind yourself of your intention before entering the interaction and throughout the communication process, allowing it to guide your choice of words, tone, and non-verbal cues. By setting a conscious and positive intention, you can enhance your ability to communicate authentically, connect genuinely, and achieve mutually beneficial outcomes.
The social brain’s intricate mechanisms enable us to communicate subconsciously, decoding non-verbal cues and shaping our interactions. In the workplace, understanding and using positive and authentic intention can create subconscious signals that enhance communication, reduces threats and fears, builds stronger relationships, and contributes to a harmonious work environment. By recognizing the power of the social brain and investing time in setting intention, individuals and organizations can foster greater collaboration, teamwork, and productivity.
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