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Successful Leaders Use This 1 Brain Trick to Master Persuasion

The idea that you can influence someone’s thoughts with your brainwaves has suddenly become less unbelievable.

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BY Mithu Storoni - 04 Apr 2018

Successful Leaders Use This 1 Brain Trick to Master Persuasion

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Entrepreneurial brilliance may be rooted in a genius idea, but entrepreneurial success often comes down to the art of persuasion. At every step of the way, you have to convince someone -- your investor, your collaborator or your employee -- to believe in your story.

You want their mind to think what your mind thinks, but the mind remains the final frontier of control. It's near impossible to choreograph a thought inside someone else's mind.

Mind manipulation for political gain has historically been achieved by the power of crowds and large-scale propaganda.

Is it possible to also achieve it, one on one, in a quiet board room?

The power of the tribe.

We have evolved as tribes.

To belong in a tribe and enjoy tribal protection, you must fit in and conform to a common idea. The trade-off for feeling safe within a tribe is being open to persuasion.

This willingness to be persuaded to agree on one common idea makes large-scale cooperation possible and likely contributed to our evolution as human beings.

As a result of this, our brains are wired to loosen our hold on strongly held opinions when we think we're safe and among people we trust.

At least part of this effect might be down to synchronizing brain waves with those around us. People who show a degree of synchrony in their brain waves are more likely to trust each other and become open to persuasion.

What is brain wave coupling?

Your brain cells propagate information across extensive neural networks through oscillating electrical signals like "waves" across the brain. Different networks oscillate at different frequencies, depending on the context of information transfer.

As you align your thinking, your actions or your emotion with another person, some features of your brain waves become synchronized. This is known as inter-cortical synchronization or "coupling" and is actually visible on a scanner.

Can coupling brain waves influence another person's opinion?

When this coupling happens in a specific context, your brain processes information in that context in a more similar way to the other person's brain, so you share their perspective and they in turn share yours.

The language you speak is now closer to theirs. Empathy is amplified. The logic that compels you to adopt an idea is now more likely to be compelling to them, so they become easier to persuade.

Taking action.

At this stage we don't know if coupling actually "causes" alignment or simply reflects the presence of alignment. Some scientists believe the latter to be true.

We do know, however, that individuals who show some degree of brain coupling, process information (in a given context) in a similar way and if you're able to increase synchrony with another person, you're more likely to be able to persuade that person to agree on your idea.

At least three routes to doing this have been identified so far:

1. Emotion: Emotions color your perspective. If you share the emotional state of the other person, you're more likely to see their perspective. An emotionally moving speech can persuade millions of people to believe in the same idea.

  • Preceding a meeting with an emotionally powerful story or attending an emotionally moving experience are some ways to implement this.

2. Entrainment: We tend to phase-lock or "latch on" to the rhythm generated by elements of our environment -- those elements can be objects or people.

Moving in rhythm with someone also increases synchrony, as does mirroring the other person's movements.

  • A walking meeting where you're walking in step will enable more synchrony than an imposing meeting in a sterile board room.

3. Engagement: Where you direct your attention, reflects your intention. When your brains are coupled, your intentions are synchronized. So, aligning your attention can help you align your intention and increase synchrony.

Sharing an experience that engages your attention in a coordinated way, so you're both captured by the same cue at the same time and in the same way, can increase synchrony between your brains.

  • Watching a gripping action movie or playing a two person sport before a meeting, may provide good platforms for this kind of engagement.

Science fiction once offered the idea that you can control another person's mind with your own brain waves. Scoffed at by scientists, this idea stayed well outside the realms of scientific fact.

Although still not a scientific fact, the idea has suddenly become a little less unbelievable.

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