Using good conversational tools you can literally get on someone’s wavelength and form a solid relationship. According to new research from Princeton, when two people talk and listen to each other respectfully new research their brains literally synch up. You can master this process to enhance problem-solving, influencing and leadership.
Saying you were “on someone’s wavelength” was popular a few years ago. It meant that you understood them and, to some extent, that you agreed with each other. People who’ve worked together or lived together for a long time often find themselves finishing each other’s sentences. Psychologists call this closely connected state a “mind meld” and high performing teams often find that this group think brings out more creative solutions than individuals could working separately. Mind melding is also a key aspect of influencing others and gaining peoples’ commitment to a leader’s goals and vision.
Recently some Scottish psychologists got together with scientists at the Princeton University to use powerful brain imaging techniques to test whether there was some neurological basis to this phenomenon. What they found was quite extraordinary.
It’s always been thought that speaking and listening were quite separate activities and carried out by quite different areas of the brain. It was assumed that the listener would passively receive what the speaker was saying. What they found was that as people became more connected and interested in each other, the same areas that were active in the speaker’s brain became active in the listener’s.
According to the researchers, mind melding probably has something to do with mirror cells. These neurons are the basis of empathy. They cause us to yawn when we see someone yawn, gasp when we see someone fall, feel happy when someone smiles, or cry along with a movie heroine. Mirror cells are one of the neurological foundations of Daniel Goleman’s theories of Emotional (EQ) and Social Intelligence (SQ).
So is there a way that you can short circuit years of living and working together to quickly get on someone’s wavelength? Well, yes there is. Essentially it’s by mastering the art of good dialogue: asking questions to show genuine interest in the other person; listening without interrupting and asking follow-up questions, and pausing after the other person has finished to consider what you’re going to say rather than rushing right in with your next bright idea or piece of advice. Masters of dialogue such as respected leaders and trusted advisors actually give less advice. They don’t put down or dismiss someone’s ideas outright, no matter how outlandish they find them at first. Instead they use respectful enquiry to uncover underlying concerns or areas of agreement.
The Princeton research on mind melding underscores the power of planning conversations from an EQ and SQ perspective and remembering to use effective dialogue techniques to drive success.