Hello, how are you? Hope all is well in your world today. It’s a bit dreary here at the moment, weather-wise, but I’m looking forward to a busy day. Later on, I’m off to the BBC for a live interview about the psychology of too much online choice. Anyway, enough about me – what’s been happening in your world? I hope you are enjoying the start of the holiday season. Are you going away? Will you post all your snaps on Flickr? And are you wondering why I’m asking all these questions?
Already your mind has gone into “conversation” mode. You should have felt – even if only briefly – that I was talking directly to you, that we were somehow connected. Of course, we aren’t really. I’m sitting here at my computer typing, perhaps several hours, days or even weeks before you are reading this. Yet, to you it feels that we are briefly connected. Have you ever read a book and felt the writer was talking directly to you – and you alone? Those kind of books are brilliant, aren’t they? They really “get to you” and you empathise a great deal with the writer.
New research from Princeton University gives us a clue as to how all this might work. And it shows the way ahead for bloggers and online businesses. This study wanted to know what was going on in the human brain when it was in conversational mode. Traditionally it has been thought – indeed known – that different parts of our brain are used when we speak and listen. But this new research shows something extra. It demonstrates that when we are listening to stories, when our brain is engaged in conversational activity, the parts of the brain that really work are the same in the speaker and the listener. In other words, when I say something my brain cells are working (hopefully…!) in certain areas of my brain. And as you listen to what I am saying, the same sets of brains cells in your brain fire up. This suggests that conversation is more than just speaking and/or listening. There is a shared mental activity happening, which the Princeton researches have named “mind melding”. When we converse our brains are in sync.
Although this research was only about speaking and then listening, it does give us a clue as to why social networking has become so popular online. The fact that you are able to hold conversations online, to chat to people, means much more neurological empathy, which could well mean conversations are easier to understand. If our brains are “melded” and I understand what I am saying, it suggests you would also understand as a listener. Consider all those business people who talk about “pushing the envelope” taking things “out of the box” and then ” running it up the flagpole”. Sometimes we don’t understand what they are on about. But I’m guessing they might not understand either…! They are just coming out with a stream of nonsense which they don’t truly engage with. That means we won’t understand it either because our brains are not “melded”.
So, how can you gain from this in your online business? The answer is simple. Write your website as though you were talking to an individual. Don’t write for “an audience”, write for “a person”. That will force your writing into conversational mode, meaning your readers minds could well be “in sync” with yours, creating greater empathy and thereby a more solid connection. Speak directly to your readers, rather than merely writing objective content – it will boost your online presence and power no end.
Or you could just talk to them on audio so they really do listen to you and get their mind truly melded with yours.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+