Building better communities through neuroscience

Originally published on the IABC Calgary website on July 6, 2014.

Building better communities through neuroscience

photo courtesy

photo courtesy

Can neuroscience and neuroplasticity make us better communicators? Can we go beyond the strategic plan and the tactics, and get our audiences to really hear what we want them to hear? According to Wendi Meyer, one of the brains behind Noesis Learning and the keynote speaker at the IABC Calgary year-end mixer, understanding how the brain works can help us get the message to our audience, make them understand it, and make us better communicators overall.

According to Wendi, neuroscience and neuroleadership can give communicators and leaders a better insight into our audiences, and can help us understand them and perhaps question them in a different way. “What is going on in the brains of our audience at a fundamental level will leave them open to new ideas, change and collaboration opportunities,” said Wendi.

There are five key things to consider if we want to communicate to engage, and it’s as simple as remembering the word “SAFETY.”

S = Status

Status refers to our perception of our own place or ranking in the social group we are operating in. For communicators, this is how we communicate with people—our tone, the message, etc. Raising someone’s status can be as simple as using the first name of the person you are talking to.

A = Assurance

Our audiences will be more comfortable with us when they know that what we are doing is right and that we aren’t bullshitting them (pardon my French). Our brain needs transparency, consistency, simple directions and only the information that is useful to us at that time.

F = Fairness

Everyone wants to be treated equally, and even if it may not be fair, if you’re transparent about the message and your audience understands it’s best for all parties involved, they will respect you and your message.

E = Empathy

Empathy refers to our base human need to connect; we want to feel a sense of empathy for and with the people around us. For communicators, this refers to the messages we are sending to our different audiences, the in-group and the out-groups.

T = Thinking

Everyone wants to have their opinions heard and to provide input. We all want to be creative and to be involved. In terms of neuroleadership, it’s key to remember to listen to and consider all ideas, and not to micro-manage because it will kill creative thought.

Y = You

Ok, Y actually stands for “your mindset,” and giving people the opportunity for growth through learning and collaboration possibilities.

How can we use SAFETY to become better communicators and better leaders? It’s about applying the concepts to help our audiences enter a growth-mindset—a place where we can all learn and grow; where failure is an opportunity for more learning and practice is a good thing; we see the possibilities and are open to new ideas, and are not threatened by the good ideas of others. Ensuring that we are always in a growth-mindset will help us to create communications plans that will benefit not only ourselves, but the people around us. By communicating with the brain in mind, we can build strategies, engage in change management and community consultation, coach our leaders and lead our teams more effectively and with more positive outcomes.

More information about Wendi’s presentation can be found here.

IABC Calgary volunteer recognition

The year-end mixer was not just about networking and learning about neuroscience. It was also a chance to recognize and thank all of the volunteers of the Calgary chapter, who worked so hard over the past year to give all of the members and great IABC experience. As one of IABC’s largest chapters, IABC Calgary hosted 32 events in 2013-2014, and with volunteer numbers almost doubling from 40 at the beginning of the year to almost 80 at the end, 1 in 10 IABC Calgary members are helping out the chapter in some way.

The New Volunteer of the Year award is presented to someone who has been volunteering for less than two years. This year’s award went to Jolene Ondrik, who organized and facilitated the new monthly IABC meet-up.

“It was a surprise and honour to receive new volunteer of the year from IABC,” said Jolene. “I am excited I can help add value for our members. We have so many awesome volunteers in the Calgary chapter and they deserve huge thanks for keeping our organization going.”

Two volunteers were awarded the Volunteer of the Year award for 2013-2014—Amber Kalyn and Gail Conway. Amber has been organizing the new member breakfast events for the past two years, giving new members a warm welcome to IABC Calgary. Gail took on the huge task of preparing and executing our membership survey for the year, which will ultimately help IABC Calgary better meet the needs of its members.

“I was a member of IABC Calgary for several years before deciding to volunteer,” said Amber. “Since volunteering, I’ve been fortunate to meet and work with a lot of fantastic Calgary members. Volunteering really enhanced my experience with IABC and allowed me to get a lot out of my membership.”

Thanks to all of the volunteers who help make the IABC Calgary chapter one of the best in Canada. Your hard work and dedication to the chapter and our profession is amazing.


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