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The Neuroscience of Relating to others

By | David Klaasen | Helping You Create Clarity, Inspire Your People & Drive Performance | Retain your best people | Changing Management Mindsets and Behaviour | Practical Behaviour Analytics

The current pandemic is wreaking havoc with everyone’s emotions. However, it is worth noting that as a leader your emotions are setting the standards of behaviour in your business and the performance of your people is a mirror of your mindset. If you want to change their behaviour and performance, you need to change the way you are thinking about it.

In normal times the way you feel is scrutinised on a day to day basis, if not on an hour by hour basis by your people because their brains are hyper-sensitive to it. It is not personal; it’s just the way human brains are wired. However, during the unprecedented lockdowns of the Covid19 outbreak, everyone is even more sensitised and volatile.

It was only as recently as 1995 that the Italian Neuroscientist Giacomo Rizzolatti at the University of Parma discovered ‘mirror neurons’ and they have opened up a rich understanding of how human beings connect with others.

Understanding intent

One of the surprising things about mirror neurons is that they only light up if we see someone perform an “intentional action”; that is an action with a specific intent behind it. Rizzolatti discovered that when we see someone do something with ‘intent’ like pick up a glass of water to drink from it, mirror neurons throughout the brain light up. The same mirror neurons will light up again when we take a drink of water ourselves. You can observe this at meetings; if one person takes a sip of water a number of others will do likewise and it can be very interesting to notice who is following whom.

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