One of my favorite science/interests stories in the news recently was a report published in late July by Science Magazine about how researchers have found that the brain of speakers and listeners become synchronized as they talk. The study called this “neural coupling” and claimed that the process is key to effective communication. The essence of the study is that as partners in a conversation interact, their brain patterns for both listening and speaking mirror one another causing a number of observable side effects such as imitating one another, body posture, grammar structure, and accents. The researchers claim that one of the most important take aways from this study is that “listeners are active players and not only passive receivers.”
Maybe that’s the part that enthralled me so much about this study too? Later when I was sharing the story with some friends, someone made the comment that this study proves why in person communication is better than online interactions. That it would be impossible to observe this kind of “mind-meld” between two individuals communicating online. Really, I thought? Over the last several years some of my most engaging conversations have been online. Some have been over Skype where voices can be heard, some have been on IM where the conversations have been live but with text only, and some have even been asynchronous using email or an online forum. I’m sure the researchers did not intend to include these types of interactions, but the study itself was conducted using audio recordings. So must these types be excluded from consideration?
Regardless of what you think, it’s worth the challenge to consider how you can better mind meld with your constituents in every communication with them. How can your stories allow listeners to adopt them as their own and relate them to personal experiences? What messages can reinforce relationships that have already been established with your organization through events or other correspondences? When will people share what they read, watch, or hear with others through relaying the encounter on to others?
Measuring Online Engagement is a hot topic in our sector and profession. You can find a lot of ways to record and compare engagement between your organization and individuals (Just searching measuring online engagement is a great place to start). These metrics also allow you to measure change and progress over time. There is value to these tactics so don’t neglect them, but also keep in mind the brain of the person on the other end of your message. If you can get in sync with that, the rest of the goals that you have online will also fall inline.