Photo Credit: Jordon Conner,

“She listened with rapt attention to the story being shared by her business coach. She experienced a sense of really getting what her coach was feeling and thinking as the events unfolded in her mind’s eye. This story was definitely reflecting something she herself had been seeking to understand. The energy of feeling connected deepened her interest and held her attention. In fact, she had an inkling of what was to come next at the moment just prior to the climax of the story. As her coach related the details of the story’s finale, a sense of ‘yes, that feels right!’ echoed in her mind and body.”

Brain Syncing

Researchers at Princeton University discovered brain syncing while recording the brain activity of a storyteller and listeners.

First, they mapped the teller’s brain during the telling of a story using a Functional MRI machine. This technique enabled the researchers to track where and when different areas of the teller’s brain became active. Then, the researchers tracked the brain activity of listeners as they listened to a recording of that same storyteller. When the story or information was relevant and meaningful to the listener, their brains lit up in the same pattern the teller’s had, with only about a one-second lag. The two brains were ‘in sync’ with one another.

It appeared that this syncing of brains was an absolutely essential ingredient for successful communication. Furthermore, it seemed that the absence of brain coupling acted as a primary sign of a lack of successful communication. The researchers’ conclusion is probably not a surprise to you. As a speaker, you’ve experienced how it feels to have your listener completely tuned in. You also know how it feels when they’re tuned out.

Syncing Up

The research showed that in the most connected exchanges, an area of the listener’s prefrontal cortex became activated before the presenter’s. Her brain could predict what came next before the words were actually spoken. Imagine how powerful it can be for a listener to hear an affirmation of what they were already thinking. It’s an incredible, intimate experience that results in a significant connection.

Knowledge of brain syncing and its role in communication supports you, the speaker, in choosing your material. Knowing what’s relevant and meaningful to your listeners and presenting it in a narrative form creates the conditions for this key element of connection.

Who’s your audience? What need are you meeting with your presentation? How will your solution improve their lives?

You maximize your impact if you can thoroughly, and in writing, answer these questions before creating and delivering your presentation.

Mirror Neurons

“Laugh and the world laughs with you.”

Ella Wilcox

Motor neurons fire every time we engage in an activity or movement–they tell our muscles what to do. When you witness another’s behavior or emotions, a subset of those motor neurons fires. These mirror neurons activate in response to physical information. This is because our brains are programmed to mimic what we see. Your brain echoes what you’re witnessing and it feels very much like it’s happening to you. For example, when someone begins to laugh, you begin to laugh.

Scientists measured mirror neuron behavior and found some surprising results. Pictures of faces were flashed at a speed that ensured they couldn’t be consciously recognized by participants. Universally, the participants’ facial muscles were activated in a way that mirrored what they had been shown. For example, if it was an image of a smiling face, the muscles involved in smiling experienced an increase in electrical activity.

The same was true for the facial muscles involved in other emotions. More amazingly, after being shown an image of a hand in icy cold water–again, at high speed–the observer’s hand experienced an actual physical drop in temperature.

Making Mirror Neurons Work For You

The role of mirror neurons is to transmit, via direct experience, what the other person is doing, feeling, or intending. While your audience will most likely be unaware of the effect their mirror neurons are having on them, you’d be wise to spend time thinking about your relationship with the material you intend to share.

  • Is the message you’re presenting in alignment with your values?
  • Is it accurate and honest?
  • Do you fully understand and endorse the material you’re delivering?

If the answers to these questions are yes, then your audience’s mirror neurons will sense that. On a subconscious level, your listener will be more on board with what you have to say.

Read More

Making an Impact (Part One)

The Roots of Connection (Part Two)

Oxytocin Effect (Part Four)

About Zette

Zette Harbour is an iPEC certified life and leadership coach, and an award-winning professional storyteller, who helps women get free from what’s not working in order to live the life their hearts desire.

Book a Discovery Conversation

Then read more of her column, Successful Awakenings and explore the limitless power of awakening to the brilliant and beautiful story of who you truly are.

Photo Credit: Jordon Conner,