Welcome to the the first neuroscience and business podcast!

My name is Matthew Dahlitz and we are your experts in how your brain works, and human behavour, and we are here to help you get the best performance in business and life. And I’m here with my colleague and good mate Richard Hill…

So we started with what will likely be the main question that underpins all our shows – “What are the top ideas to make a successful business?”
So we did a bit of a Google search for that exact question and as you can imagine, many sites came up with articles trying to answer this question. I’ll put one of them below that was very typical of many articles:
https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/83764 Entrepreneur.com – from a 2006 article that addresses the question of what makes a good business. This article suggests that successful companies have the following things in common…
  1. A company culture that attracts the right people for that particular job
  2. Great customer service
  3. Understanding that business is all about people
  4. Well thought out and executed business strategy
  5. Discipline – staying focused and on course
  6. A sound financial plan
  7. Solid business processes
  8. Use of effective technology
  9. Effective marketing and sales – i.e. knowing how to communicate to people
  10. Training and support for staff
  11. Trusted advisors
  12. Work/life balance for workers
The top thing across the board is COMMUNICATION
But what is “communication”? It’s the sharing of information. It occurs between all kinds of things, but we’re looking at people. Communication is the greatest miracle of being human. We are able to convey, across space, in the form of words and accompanying actions, a representation of what is in one persons mind so that it is then able to be formed within the mind of the other. Dan siegel calls it Mindsight – to see the mind of another.
So why is the average communication in companies fraught with confusion, disagreement, offense and error?

David Grice, the English philosopher suggested that successful and effective conversation had 4 main aspects:

  1. is adequately but not overly informative (quantity maxim)
  2. the speaker does not believe to be false and for which adequate evidence is had (quality maxim)
  3. is relevant (maxim of relation or relevance), and
  4. is clear, unambiguous, brief, and orderly (maxim of manner).
So, we begin to see the difficulty we have in communication in the business context – let alone a lot of other contexts i can imagine.
The reality is:
  1. we limit information in order to control what is shared compared to what the other can be made to reveal
  2. lies and misrepresentations are common and false evidence is rife
  3. relevance is manipulated by the dominant speaker
  4. clarity, ambiguity, brevity and orderly process is directly related to who is winning the debate
And that is the problem. All too often communication is about debate, control and manipulation. Opening your mouth is the beginning of trouble.
What interferes with open communication? – Where one person is doing their best to say what they mean and the other person is doing their best to understand what it is the other person is trying to say? Here’s some ideas…
  1. Listener bias – personal agenda
  2. Poor language skill
  3. Distrust of the other
  4. Fear of criticism, ridicule and punitive reactions (self-censorship when communicating)
  5. Bullying
  6. Hierarchy – authority over / hire and fire power
  7. Lack of insight or awareness
  8. Cultural/worldview perspectives
  9. Judgments, biases, Assumptions – all the “mental models” we have that may not be the same as the other person nor helpful for listening or being heard
  10. Errors in interpreting messages (verbal, non-verbal, emotional) – much communication is non-verbal – processed primarily through the right hemisphere – and needs to be integrated with the actual words we are hearing.
  11. Selective attention, distraction, boredom, fatigue, preoccupation with other issues
  12. Planning how to respond rather than hearing the other person (we find it difficult to pay attention to 2 things at the same time – inability to multitask – and one task will suffer)
  13. interrupting or finishing the other’s sentences
  14. Resistance (for any number of reasons, including subconscious ones)
What can break the communication impasse or at least confusion and misinterpretation:
There can be some generalities, which we will show here, but often the specific reasons for this problem is specific to the particular workplace and requires an onsite assessment and specially tailored strategies. Having said that, these are things that can be helpful.
  1. Listen – encourage and also have management model the act of listening carefully to the speaker. (active listening)
  2. Considering what the speaker is trying to say. A Curiosity approach will shift many of the problems i.e. assume the person is interesting, try to understand more than just what the words are saying and try to be creative in response, rather than critical or derogatory.
  3. Repeat back to the speaker what you think you heard.
  4. Ask the speaker if they feel they need to say more before you respond
  5. Ask the speaker to rephrase if the meaning is not clear.
  6. Ask for a third person to assist if there is a failure to understand or be understood.
Takeaway: – Here are some tips we offer for effective listening (not just hearing what you want or expect to hear but getting as much of the message as possible – it’s active and requires skill)….
Listening Tips
  1. Show Empathy: Show that you care simply by focusing on the other person, not yourself or what you are wanting to say.
  2. Don’t Interrogate: Keep your questioning to a minimum while you are listening and use open-ended questions for clarification of what they are saying, not demands for reasons or justifications from the other person.
  3. Tune Into The Non-Verbal Message: Be attentive to the message behind the words – the feelings, joys, fears, concerns, questions, and so on.
  4. Feedback: Summarise and clarify to ensure you have got the right message and demonstrate that you were listening.
Listening Techniques
  1. Curiosity: Show interest by honestly being curious about the other person and what they have to say and this can be done by encouraging the other person to “tell me more” without judgment, and with an honestly caring inquisitive mindset. For example, “I’m really interested to know how you are feeling about this new project and how it’s fitting in with the rest of your work.”
  2. Clarification: Ask clarifying questions and ask for the speaker to explain again if there’s misinterpretation. For example, “So do you mean you are under-resourced or the team is under-resourced?”
  3. Restating: Restate the message that you think you have heard to demonstrate your understanding. For example, “Ah, so you are spending most of your time on this and have little room for anything else.”
  4. Reflecting: Reflect the speaker’s basic feelings, for example, “Being stretched so thin sounds like it has been stressful in more ways than one.”
  5. Summarising: Restating the main idea being communicated in a succinct manner. For example, “So as interesting as the project is you feel it will have a negative impact on what you are doing right now and you don’t feel you have the energy to do both – and I understand that.”
  6. Validation: Show appreciation for the other person and their worth and the issues they may be going through. For example, “I really appreciate you opening up about how this new project makes you feel, and I certainly don’t want to add another burden on you. Thanks for clarifying where you stand on this.”
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