To really connect you must actually meet
I love it! A social network that combines face-to-face meetings and food. GetLunched.com is the creation of a London-based start-up that believes that connections are best made in person – and over a great meal.
First of all, I’m a California “foodie,” with a passion for pasta.
Face to face works best
Secondly, I’m a communication coach who knows the kinds of crucial cues that are only exchanged when we meet personally.
In face-to-face meetings, our brains process the continual cascade of nonverbal cues that we use as the basis for building trust and professional intimacy. Face-to-face interaction is information-rich. We interpret what people say to us only partially from the words they use. We get most of the message (and all of the emotional nuance behind the words) from vocal tone, pacing, facial expressions and body language. And we rely on immediate feedback – the instantaneous responses of others – to help us gauge how well our ideas are being accepted.
So potent is the nonverbal link between individuals that, when we are in genuine rapport with someone, we subconsciously match our body positions, movements, and even our breathing rhythms with theirs. Most interesting, in face-to-face encounters the brain’s ”mirror neurons” mimic not just behaviors, but sensations and feelings as well.
The original research came from Italy, where scientists were studying the brain cells of macaque monkeys. Researchers had confirmed that when a monkey performs a single highly specific hand action, neurons in the motor cortex are very active. For example, every time a monkey reached for a peanut, certain cells on either side of its brain “fired,” creating a buzzing sound that was detectable by highly sophisticated monitoring equipment.
One day a monkey wired up for such an experiment happened to see a human grab a peanut. Much to the researchers’ surprise, the same neurons fired in the same way. Because the cells reflected the actions that the monkey observed in others, the neuroscientists named them “mirror neurons.”
Later experiments confirmed the existence of mirror neurons in humans. But the research revealed another surprise: for human beings, in addition to mirroring actions, the cells reflected sensations and feelings.
The term empathy describes the human ability to internalize the emotional state of others by simply observing their body language. Empathizing with someone, whether in grief or joy, activates the very same circuits in your own brain as in your companion’s. For this reason mirror neurons are sometimes referred to as Dalai Lama neurons, because they provide a biological basis for compassion.
In his book, On Becoming a Person, psychologist Carl Rogers wrote, “Real communication occurs when we listen with understanding – to see the idea and attitude from the other person’s point of view, to sense how it feels to them, to achieve their frame of reference in regard to the thing they are talking about.”
Reaching that goal of understanding, of empathy, can mean a big difference in the business world. Which is why nonverbal cues are so important to our professional relationships and such a crucial part of business communication.
The power of touch
Another nonverbal component that comes solely with face-to-face encounters is touch. Usually considered to be the most primitive and essential form of communication, touch is so powerful and effective that clinical studies at Mayo Clinic show that premature babies who are stroked grow 40 per cent faster than those who do not receive the same amount of touching.
And touch retains its power – even with adults in business settings. A study on handshakes by the Income Center for Trade Shows showed that people are twice as likely to remember you if you shake hands with them.
So, I’m all in favor of meeting you at lunch.
I’ll have the spaghetti vongole.
Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D. is a leadership communications coach and international keynote speaker at corporate, government, and association events. As well as being a columnist with Troy Media, she’s a panellist for The Washington Post’s “On Leadership” column, a blogger on Forbes.com, a columnist for “the Market” magazine, and the author of “THE SILENT LANGUAGE OF LEADERS: How Body Language Can help – or Hurt – How You Lead.”
Category: Business Strategy