Top Ten Things Every Presenter Needs To Know About People: #10 – People Imitate Your Emotions And Feelings

Man looking mad

Your facial expressions and body language communicate information and affect how people react to you and your message. They can also cause other people to start feeling a certain way.

People imitate what they see — If you are smiling, they will tend to smile; if you are energetic yet relaxed, then your audience will tend to be energetic and relaxed too. Which means YOU have to make sure you are rested, prepared, relaxed, and passionate about your topic. When you are, those feelings are communicated through your words, tone of voice, and body language and are picked up and felt by your audience.

Mirror neurons firing — Let’s say you are watching your friend who is holding an ice cream cone that is starting to drip. Your friend lifts her arm to lick the dripping cone. Mirror neurons in your brain will fire as though you are lifting your arm (even though you aren’t).

Mirror neurons are the starting point of empathy — The latest theory is that mirror neurons are also the way we empathize with others. We are literally experiencing what others are experiencing through these mirror neurons, and that allows us to deeply understand how another person feels.

(V.S. Ramachandran has a great Ted talk on mirror neurons.)

When you are passionate about your topic your audience will be passionate — People like to watch and listen to someone who is animated and excited about what they are talking about. If your topic does get you excited, don’t hold back. Show how you feel. That feeling will be contagious. If you aren’t excited about what you are talking about, then reconsider the topic or your approach to it. You need to find an angle on the topic at hand that will get you excited.

This post concludes the series: Top Ten Things Every Presenter Needs to Know About People. Besides this post here are the other 9 (links below) or check out my book – 100 Things Every Presenter Needs to Know About People (link is in the sidebar to the right):

#9: If You Want People To Act You Have to Call Them To Action

#8: People Are Energized When The Room Is Full

#7: People Assign Meaning To Your Hand Gestures

#6: People Need To Feel Safe To Participate

#5: People Assign Meaning To Your Tone Of Voice

#4: People Read Your Body Positions Instantly & Unconsciously

#3: Multiple Sensory Channels Compete

#2: Writing By Hand Can Increase Commitment

#1: People Learn Best In 20 Minute Chunks

 

100 Things You Should Know About People: #23 — You Are Hard-Wired For Imitation and Empathy

Baby sticking out tongueIf you put your face right in front of a young baby and stick out your tongue, the baby will stick out his or her tongue too. This happens from a very young age (even as young as a one month old). So? What does this have to do with anything? It’s an example of the built-in, wired-into-our-brain capacity we have for imitation. Recent research on the brain shows how our imitative behavior happens.

Mirror neurons firing— In the front of the brain there is a section called the premotor cortex; motor as in movement. This is the part of the brain where you make plans to move. (It talks to the primary motor cortex which is the part of the brain that sends out the signals that actually make you move). So if you are holding an ice cream cone and you think about moving your arm to bring the ice cream cone up to your mouth, and then you do it, you can see first the premotor cortex lighting up and then the primary motor cortex lighting up. Neurons in the premotor cortex are firing — nothing surprising there. But here is where it gets interesting. If you watch someone else lift their arm and eat the ice cream cone a subset of the same neurons also fire. Just watching other people take an action causes some of the same neurons to fire as if you were actually moving. This subset of neurons have been dubbed, “mirror neurons”. We share these mirror neurons with other primates as well.

Who is taking action? — How does your brain know when you are taking the action vs. watching someone else take the action? After your mirror neurons fire from watching your friend take a lick of the ice cream cone, there is a feedback loop. Your brain registers that no ice cream was tasted, and therefore you know that you are watching someone eat ice cream, not that you just ate ice cream. Continue reading “100 Things You Should Know About People: #23 — You Are Hard-Wired For Imitation and Empathy”