Cool when science catches up with what we already know.
That occurs to me as I flip through the latest article by Sue Shellenbarger, my favorite Wall Street Journal columnist (It’s Not Copying, It’s Connecting, We’re Networking. WSJ 9/21/16). In it, Shellenbarger quotes my favorite neuroscientist du jour, Uri Hasson of Princeton. Using MRIs to study how brains react to the signals exchanged between a speaker and listener, Hasson describes the process of neural coupling that occurs in such moments. Think of neural coupling as a powerful Bluetooth connection. Instant brain synching. And nonverbal cues measurably enhance the rate and quality of this coupling.
Wanna connect better, faster, more deeply? Get in sync.
It’s commonly called mirroring. The term mirroring is fraught with copycat allusions. I prefer the notion of getting in sync. You know, the Bluetooth sync. Invaluable in any 1-1 business meeting, team gathering, sales setting. Heck, any situation with any other human anywhere in life.
Here are the subtle stages of getting in sync. Moving from the surface to the profound, the minute to the soul sync:
- Attending Behaviors
That’s the small stuff that trained psychologists do. The nodding. The leaning in. The hushed uhuh that shows we are fully attentive to the other person. Signals that invite. Like all synching, best only when not forced, faked, or over-the-top. Such small inviting signals have the added bonus of inviting the other person to match our signals, as well. Double-synching. Heavenly.
- Cadence Catching
Note the vocal tone with which the other person speaks. The pace, the rhythm. Start matching it. Even if the conversation is discordant, when we catch the cadence we create a powerful sense that we are actually in the same conversation. Add to it our use of a few key words uttered by the other person, and whoa, synching accelerates.
- Posture Aligning
We’re not talking about going to a chiropractor here. No, start to align your posture and gestures with those of your conversation partner. Match upright with upright. Loungey with loungey. Expressive gestures with expressive gestures. Formal with formal. This requires us to fully tune into two sets of body languages – theirs and ours. And a personal ease with our own body that allows us to easily shift how our body expresses. Not all of us have this ease. Don’t have it? Don’t force posture alignment. It will create discomfort instead of flow.
- Spirit Dancing
I do not wish to get overly mystical. Cadence – which we match via tone and rhythm – is usually an expression of a deeper spirit. A playful spirit. A fiery spirit. A combative spirit. A contemplative one. A hesitant spirit. Catch the spirit, and you catch the essential energy of the other person. Deep, powerful synching ensues. It takes the energetic connection to a truly primal plane.
Two warnings when you play with synching. It’s powerful stuff – so please take these warnings to heart:
Warning 1: Sincere Intent only
Sync with sincere intent to better connect, understand, flow. If your synching behaviors are an attempt to force, control, manipulate a conversation, be forewarned. You will be found out. Very quickly. You will be perceived as slick and inauthentic. Don’t do it. You become an instant un-syncher.
Warning 2: Don’t sync with their dark side
Talking to an angry person? A distraught one? Don’t sync with their dark side. Sync with the opposite qualities of those the person is exhibiting. An angry person would rather be at peace, an unhinged person would rather be centered. Offer them that gift. Get in sync with the state they desire. This state is their highest self. It’s your highest self, as well.
When we sync, we practice a richly intuitive way of accelerating our connection with others. That’s the zen of it all. At its finest, synching unfolds with ease, a sense of playfulness and delight in the other, without deliberation. And that’s a fine way to be, don’t you think?