Communication and Brain Science – Part 2
We humans are much more communal than we realize. It’s something we’ve forgotten, as we tune in separately to our thousand channels of entertainment and news using devices that isolate us even as they offer pseudo-connections to the group through the music or the headlines or the games. We remember our communality when we get together as a group to hear a speech or attend a concert or root for a sports franchise.
But when we get together in groups, we become a tribe again, and we instinctively want to have a leader. That’s someone’s chance to take control, consciously using the power of everyone’s unconscious mind.
That’s why an audience is so eager for a speaker to succeed, for example, and so disappointed when one fails. We create a leader to make us feel safe, and to give us a group purpose, or direction. The unconscious signals that the speaker sends out to the audience must create trust and credibility or else the audience gives up, disappointed, and looks elsewhere for another leader.
These group activities satisfy deep cravings that developed during our early evolution in the cave. In our pre-linguistic, less individualistic childhood as a species, we depended on one another for survival, and leadership was both essential and instinctive.
When we lived in the cave, we humans were a relatively frail, weak species, below some formidable foes in the food chain – woolly mammoths, sabre-tooth tigers, and the rest of the menagerie. So we learned to respond instantly to one another in order to stay alive. We could read each other’s emotions, and we could tell who was in charge – without a word being spoken.
Now most of the dangers to which we were ready to respond then have gone away. Where once we needed to react instantly to physical danger, now most of us face long-term tensions associated with jobs, relationships, and communities. Where once we needed to be ready to act quickly as a tribe to stand united against dangers, now our individual opinions matter more than our tribal loyalties. Where once we found comfort in group rituals around a smoky, dim fire in a cave, now many of us put on earbuds to connect emotionally through recorded music with our fellow humans.
How can we communicate most effectively with our ancient tools in the modern era? How can we harness the power of the unconscious connection we’re hard-wired to need with other humans? How can we consciously take control of our communications and leadership? The latest brain research is pointing the way. I’ll explore these questions and talk about the brain research in subsequent blog posts.