Friday, 6 February 2015

The Neuroscience of Communication

I’m often intrigued why we naturally click with some people and be on the same page and yet with others we just don’t see eye to eye and may as well be on planet Mars. Achieving effective and good communication can be frustrating and at times incredibly challenging.  I have seen many misunderstandings give rise to an environment that is conflict-ridden, aggressive or even passive-aggressive behaviours resulting in breakdown of relationships which if not addressed can damage morale and overall team performance.

New understandings in neuroscience indicate our thinking and behaviours are a combination of both our genetic wiring and learnt from our environment – both nurture and nature. This when applied to personality psychometric profiling is providing more accurate information to help us understand the differences and the dynamics at play in how we communicate and how we are perceived by others, both good and bad.

Left brain thinkers prefer to work with evidence and logic and will therefore make decisions based on fact and process.  They always think they’re right, after all their thinking is based on the evidence and data to hand. In contrast compare this to right brain thinkers who prefer intuition and making decisions on how they feel in the moment, on instinct or just on the concept of a great idea.  You can probably start to see why misunderstandings arise.

Then add into the mix behavioural preferences such as ‘Expressiveness’ where some people prefer to reflect before action, think internally and will appear quiet. Compare this to the opposite end of this spectrum where the behaviour will be gregarious, talkative, extravert, thinking out loud.  The quieter people wish the noisy ones would just zip it, and the gregarious types being uncomfortable with silence are frustrated with the quiet ones, wrongly, judging they have nothing to say!

How then do we go about working within a team that is able to debate and respectfully criticise ideas in a taking into account individual needs and deliver on team and organisational goals?

Instead of blaming the boss or other team members or even customers we should stop and ask, is the way I communicate and my behaviours part of the problem?

We need to be self-aware of our own communication preferences and understand the impact this has of how we’re perceived both positive and negative; to become adaptable and change our style of communicating and not automatically default to our preferences.