I recently attended a three day conference which looked at attachment, neuroscience and the effects of stress and trauma on a person’s ability to communicate.
One of the key messages of the conference reminded me a lot about the role of a good mediator.
The first speaker, a psychologist and neuroscience researcher called Louis Cozolino told us about the neuroscience of interpersonal relationships.
Louis drew our attention to the gaps between neurons called synapses. These gaps are not empty spaces. They are filled with a variety of chemical gasses which are busy carrying out complicated interactions which result in ’synaptic transmission’. This synaptic transmission stimulates neurons to grow, to survive and to be effected by that experience.
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Louis then said that social communication is the same. It takes place in the gaps between us; the social synapses: a smile, a wave, eye contact, body language. These all transmit messages via the gap between people. These messages are received by our senses and translated into electrical and chemical signals within our nervous system. Causing us to be able to engage, converse, think, work things through. Or alternatively to panic, shut down, retreat.
So, you can start feeling really terrible really quickly if the social interaction is not good.
A good mediator can ‘rescue the dynamic’ by communicating across the synapses to regulate the behaviour of the other person. By modelling a certain behaviour and letting the mirror neurons do the rest, the mediator can become an ‘amygdala whisperer’, bringing an element of calm to fraught people and situations.
A good mediator will be aware of the effect of the social communication that he or she models and brings into the room. Where the people in the room are on a high state of alert, prepared to wrestle over children/finances, the mediator can be steady, balanced and they can listen in a consistent and assured way, letting the people in the room know ‘ it is OK. You will be heard.’
Try it at home. When you partner, daughter, friend turns up enraged, anxious, stressed out, try using the social synapses to bounce some positive messages through. Really listen to what they say. Reflect back what they have said calmly and in a balanced and measured way. You may be surprised at the change as you become the amygdala whisperer. Soothing and helping them to regain their balance.
Another speaker quoted, an evolutionary biologist and genetesist called Theodosius Dobzhansky who said: ’the fittest may also be the gentlest because survival often requires mutual help and cooperation.‘
Food for neuro-thought!