Learning Lab

Communication skills…is your amygdala working for you

By Amy Brann

Social Media, networking, face to face meetings…they all involve you being sociable right? And they are all big players in business.

Your ability to connect with people and build relationships, both personal and professional, is important in life. A recent study has shown that if you have a larger amygdala then you are likely to have more friends and more complex social networks. Are you wondering how big your amygdala is?

Firstly, lets look at what exactly your amygdala is. It is best known for its role in emotions, long term memory and conditioning (anchoring). So this little almond shaped component of your brain is responsible for some pretty important stuff.

Evolutionarily when we got into situations with other people that posed a perceived threat to us we would respond in one of a couple of ways. The incoming data gets sent to your amygdala via neural pathways and it determines how we need to respond from a fight or flight perspective. The response has an impact on the chemicals that are sent around your body (the emotional response) and then how you feel.

The fear response is just one that the amygdala is responsible for. Professor Lisa Barrett, a psychologist at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, reports that the latest study is consistent with the social brain theory. Part of this theory is that our amygdalas are evolving to deal with our increasingly complex social world.

The study asked volunteers aged between 19 to 83 to complete a questionnaire, which measured how many regular social contacts they maintained, and in how many different groups. They were then scanned using MRI scans. The results were similar for men and women, old and young.

So do you have fabulous communication skills? Are you a natural networker? Do you have so many social media contacts that most people would struggle to keep connected with them, any yet you seem to manage fine? Could mean you have a larger amygdala!

The question you may now be asking is which came first…the network or the amygdala? Officially we don’t yet know, but based on everything we do know about the brain my guess is you can increase the size of your amygdala by improving your communication & social skills.

So, how could you improve your skills to increase the number of social contacts you have? Well the first point is to decide whether you really want to. Without a strong motivation to start doing things differently you are unlikely to stick to it long enough for it to become a new habit. Once you’ve decided on the benefits for you look strategically at what you are currently doing and what results that is getting you. This is your starting point.

Enjoying the process of getting to know new people is vital and finding the way you work best to maintain ongoing relationships will make everything seem easier. It’s no good going to lots of networking events if you hate going up to people in big groups, equally silly is trying to connect with people on linked in if you despise computers! There is the perfect strategy for you, just preserve to identify it, and seek help from experts!

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