Communication 2020-10-11T21:41:24+00:00

Scientific lessons to improve your communication skills

learn actionable and science backed techniques that help you improve your verbal, nonverbal and overall communication skills

Like any mental or physical ability, you can improve your baseline communication through effective habit training. The lessons below will help you do just that. They offer a structured and easy-to-follow guide that includes a host of different tools, methods, and tactics that are backed by decades of research in psychology, cognitive science, management science, behavioral economics, and neuroscience.

You’ll get the fullest exposure into the leading science of communication, distilled down into key takeaways that you can monitor in your ongoing behaviors and interactions. With as little as 10 minutes a day, you can become an expert communicator in a matter of weeks. A snapshot of some of the expected benefits include: becoming more persuasive, convincing, trustworthy, likable, and competent, in addition to improving your ability to negotiate, motivate others, command an audience, be more impactful, and become a more effective leader.

With such a range of positive gains, improving communication will make you not only a better entrepreneur and founder, but a better person overall.

What is communication?

Very simply, we can think of it as:

A process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior.

At its most basic level, communication is the sharing of ideas and knowledge between people. The “common system” by which this occurs can either be spoken language (verbal communication) or unspoken language  (nonverbal communication).

Though both systems appear very different on the surface, they involve the same underlying psychological and brain processes. Whether it’s a sentence spoken or a tone of voice, or whether it’s an emotional expression on a face or a posture being held in the body, to the brain it’s all the same. The brain takes these bits of information and processes them in a way that allows us to effectively navigate the world around us and to engage with the people in it.

Another basic feature of communication is that it involves a speaker/deliverer and listener/recipient. What this means then is that to be a better communicator, you need to understand both perspectives, as two sides working together. We present this nuanced view in the study, and by doing so, provide a more holistic and complete understanding of the art (and science) of communication.

Communication and the brain

Communication is complex, and so too are the brain systems that underlie it. As you’ll learn in the research and explanations of the drills, there are many different brain networks that are involved during the act of communication. But there are three general themes for you to remember as you work through the Study.

  1. The brain’s outer neocortex is heavily involved in communication. The temporal (side) regions are responsible for processing sound information, while the frontal regions are responsible for attaching complex meaning to those sounds. These outer cortical regions are part of the more “modern” human brain that evolved most recently. It’s the part that makes human communication complex and different from our animal cousins.

  2. The brain’s deep limbic subcortex is also involved in communication. Areas like the amygdala and hippocampus are responsible for the rapid and unconscious processing of emotions during social situations. This is the area of the brain that we share with many other animal species, often referred to as the “ancient lizard brain.” It’s the part that generates the instinctual, emotional responses that arise during an interaction.

  3. Brains tend to sync up with one another during communication. Communication is most effective when both the speaker and listener’s brains fire together in unison. It isn’t just the sharing of ideas. It’s the sharing of actual brain states.

Let’s imagine we could watch two people’s brainwaves in real time on separate computer screens. Before the conversation begins, you would see a series of rising and falling lines – the brain’s electrical activity. The squiggly lines are the noisy brain signals of both people, showing no consistent pattern.

But then the conversation begins.

The rhythm of verbal and nonverbal communication entrains the two people – they (and their brains) begin to synchronize. The rising and falling of the lines would begin to pulse and move across the screens at precisely timed intervals. Eventually, both brain signals would be the same. Looking at the two monitors, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the patterns generated by the two people’s brains. It’s as if they’re the same brain.

communication visualization

When this happens, the communication feels effortless – it flows naturally. The reason is because the brain “knows” when this syncing occurs. It sends strong signals throughout the body that tells the person that things are going well. The end result is an impression formed by your listener: they (and their brain) will come away from the conversation seeing you (the person they’re communicating with) as more effective, persuasive, motivating, likable, competent, and impactful. In short, this brain syncing state is what you should strive for in your communication.

The drills and habits in this study will help you in meeting this goal. They offer a total immersion into the foray of communication, giving you tools that cover all aspects of communication – from style and word use, to emotional tone and physical posture. And much, much more. It’s all here.

Access our premium module on enhancing your communication skills

Debunking the myths of communication

We believe for self-growth, knowing what NOT to do is just as important. To that aim, we carefully sift through hundreds of research papers, assessing their credibility based on factors of scientific/methodological rigor and statistical accuracy. Certain lines of research get flagged, which we then share with you.

Here are the top 3 myths in communication that we think you should know about:

Myth #1:

active listening is critical for effective communication

Originating from Carl Rogers and the humanistic traditions of psychotherapy during the ‘50s and ‘60s, active listening has become one of the biggest pieces of advice for effective communication, especially in the business and entrepreneurial worlds. But the original idea has failed to find scientific backing. It remains mere speculation.

Research suggests that active listening training shows no evidence of improving communication outcomes. (1) In another longitudinal study across 6 years of close relationships, researchers found no evidence that active listening was associated with any positive outcomes. (2)

In short, there is no direct evidence supporting the claim that active listening is a critical part of communication. Any time you come across someone telling you the importance of “active listening,” be highly critical and question their assumptions.

Myth #2:

93% of all communication is nonverbal

Findings from two studies in the ‘60s by Albert Mehrabian suggested that when it comes to interacting effectively, non-verbal is more important than verbal communication. However, the original findings were over-generalized and misconstrued as the following rule-of-thumb: “Communication is 7% verbal versus 93% nonverbal.”

However, these studies were about one specific form of communication that was very unique to the context at hand. Mehrabian himself was careful in his conclusions about the relative importance of verbal vs. nonverbal, cautioning readers to consider that the context matters for determining the correct weighting of verbal vs. nonverbal communication.

Despite there being evidence showing that nonverbal communication is important, the 93% heuristic fails to find direct empirical support in any line of research. Furthermore, there may be certain contexts in which verbal communication is more important than non-verbal. (3)

Myth #3:

power posing makes you a more confident communicator through hormonal changes

A recent paper (4) purported that engaging in an expansive, powerful posture – “power posing” – makes people feel more powerful and more likely to take risks, as explained by an increase in testosterone and a decrease in cortisol. This original paper had a lot of things wrong with it from a scientific quality standpoint. For one, its studies suffered from very small sample sizes – what’s called “insufficient statistical power” (excuse the pun!). Small sample sizes in science are  an automatic red flag and should make the reader question the associated findings.

A more statistically robust replication with a much larger sample size of 200 participants (compared to the original study’s sample of 45) was done by a group of independent researchers in order to see if the “power posing” theory held any water. (5) This team of researchers were in a much better position to test the power posing theory because of their sufficiently large sample size. They found zero evidence of the initial power posing effects. In addition, this failure to find an effect was once again demonstrated in a follow-up study that used a series of advanced analytics/statistical tools. (6)

Therefore, power posing does not appear to be a real phenomenon. The original findings (as illustrated in Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk, the 2nd most watched one at 45 million plus views) can be chalked up to a series of statistical inaccuracies and scientific missteps. For this reason then, we do not recommend it as a communication or self-help tool. There are plenty of other tools and tactics (many included in this study) that are scientifically supported and backed. These are the ones that actually work, and so they should be the ones you focus your time and energy on.

The evidence

  1. Halford, W. K., Markman, H. J., Kline, G. H., & Stanley, S. M. (2003).
    Best practice in couple relationship education.
    Journal of Marital Family Therapy, 29, 385-406.

  2. Gottman, J. M., Coan, J., Carrere, S., & Swanson, C. (1998).
    Predicting marital happiness and stability from newlywed interactions.
    Journal of Marriage and the Family, 60, 5-22.

  3. Hsee, C., Hatfield, E., & Chemtob, C. (1992).
    Assessments of emotional states of others: Conscious judgments versus emotional contagion.
    Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 11, 119-128.

  4. Carney, D. R., Cuddy, A. J., & Yap, A. J. (2010).
    Power posing: Brief nonverbal displays affect neuroendocrine levels and risk tolerance.
    Psychological Science, 21, 1363-1368.

  5. Ranehill, E., Dreber, A., Johannesson, M., Leiberg, S., Sul, S., & Weber, R. A. (2015).
    Assessing the robustness of power posing: No effect on hormones and risk tolerance in a large sample of men and women.
    Psychological Science, 26, 653-656.

  6. Simmons, J. P., & Simonsohn, U. (2017).
    Power posing: P-curving the evidence.
    Psychological Science, 28, 687-693.

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