Mirror neurons, first reported in 1996, respond comparably whether an individual performs a particular action or watches someone else carry it out. Studies since then have suggested that these neurons, which coordinate imitation, participate in a network in the brain’s outer layer, or cortex. Collaboration between this network and emotion-regulating parts of the brain fosters empathy which can be defined as “the discernment of others’ thoughts and feelings”.
Phew! Now that’s the science out of the way, what does it mean for us as communicators? Perhaps an example might help. Spend a few minutes talking to someone who complains a lot and is mightily miserable, then you will come away feeling equally miserable. On the other hand, someone who is upbeat and positive – in both their verbal and non-verbal communication – is much more likely to send you on your way feeling cheerful too. Smile – and the world really does smile with you.
So don’t be a Scrooge this Christmas. Enjoy the festive season and let your enjoyment be reflected in your words as well as your body-language. Don’t be surprised if you end up being surrounded by happy people!
Principles of influence and how to apply them form part of our Focus Area “Interpersonal Communication”.