Neuroscience reveals effectiveness of face-to-face communication


We all know that it often feels easier to ‘connect’ with people when talking face-to-face than when we use other channels such as email. But why is this?

It appears that research in the field of neuroscience may now be able to provide us with some very interesting clues.…

A team of neuro-scientists from China conducted an experiment last year in which volunteers were brought together to talk to each other face-to-face and under controlled conditions.

People were divided into pairs, partnered up and given four different activities to perform:

1. Sit facing each other and have a conversation in which each person takes turns to speak

2. Sit facing each other and one person speaks while the other listens

3. Sit back-to-back and have a conversation in which each person takes turns to speak

4. Sit back-to-back and one person speaks while the other listens

While these activities were taking place the scientists monitored the brain activity of the partners within each pairing. Afterwards the scientists compared the results, and produced some unexpected findings.

When the partners sat back-to-back and conversed, or spoke in monologue, almost no similarity in brain activity could be detected.

And when the partners sat face-to-face and only one person spoke still no noticeable pattern in the brain activity of the partners could be discerned.

But when the partners sat opposite each other and took turns to speak, the scans of their brain activity appeared to be extraordinarily similar. They called this ‘neuro-synchronisation’.

The scientists were then able to accurately identify what communication technique was being used based on the brain scans alone. They could also accurately predict which type of response would follow when each of the communication techniques was used.

The experiment seemed to demonstrate the value of actually looking at someone when communicating face-to-face. The findings also suggested that eye contact, facial expressions and gestures all contributed to the overall result.

It showed that having a proper conversation in which people take turns to speak, instead of it all being one-sided, also contributes to effective communication.

Getting on the same wavelength, is, as communicators already know, a prerequisite for building effective rapport. It is also a precursor for a constructive conversation, and for producing a successful communications outcome.

While communicators generally already take these principles of interpersonal communication for granted, it is reassuring to know that science is now able to back up those beliefs with some hard evidence.

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