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What is Limbic Resonance and How Can Leaders Use It?

Leadership and Limbic Resonance

What is Limbic Resonance and How Can Leaders Use It?

A number of years ago, Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini and Richard Lannon wrote a detailed and insightful book on human emotion called A General Theory of Love (2000) using brain research at the University of California, San Francisco and reference to earlier work.

In this book, they introduce and explain the term Limbic Resonance, which they describe as “a symphony of mutual and internal adaptation whereby two mammals become attuned to each other’s inner states.” This is an unconscious and internal process, which they say is “the door to communal connection.”

According to their research, limbic resonance is vital to personal interaction and relationships. It is the physical and mental process that provides individuals with a sense of compatibility when with one person or emotional hijacking when with another.

According to the authors, emotions are contagious; we catch them, and we spread them. This means that when we are with other people, physical measures such as heart rate, respiration and blood pressure change to correspond to those of the other person, particularly when looking into their eyes.

The practical implication of this information is that by learning to monitor our own emotions and sense emotional changes in other people, it becomes possible to recognize what people are feeling; and, by learning to navigate and manage our own emotions, we influence the emotions of others. This information is critical for leaders who want to strengthen emotional connections, a key to Affective Leadership℠.

The following leadership practices help leaders develop stronger emotional connections and make positive use of limbic resonance. They are skills you can use as you work to influence others.

  • Monitor emotions- Learn to monitor your own emotions when with others. What are you experiencing? Is it coming from you or from someone else?
  • Be present- Be mentally present and emotionally available so that others feel emotionally connected to you.
  • Conduct emotional scans- Do an emotional scan before, during and after events that can trigger emotional reactions to prevent your own emotional hijacking and to convey the emotional attitude you want to convey.
  • Choose which emotions to convey- Before presenting important or possibly emotion-laden topics, consider what emotions you want to communicate and practice getting into the body that will convey them.
  • Listen with and for emotion- To be a better listener, recognize the emotions and body of the speaker, both of which give clues to the speaker’s perspective. What emotions surface? What impressions come to mind?
  • Discuss and promote emotional health- Make people aware of emotions and help them learn positive emotional reactions.
  • Create a healthy emotional climate- Develop a specific plan to foster an emotionally healthy and productive culture. Promote and implement that plan.
  • Practice lightness- Become aware of the importance of lightness in interaction. People enjoy being around lightness because it, like other emotions, is contagious. Daniel Goleman (2006) said, “Laughter may be the shortest distance between two brains, an unstoppable infectious spread that builds an instant social bond.” Use it and enjoy it.

Practicing these skills help leaders make connections with employees, colleagues, friends and even family. What other skills do emotionally intelligent leaders demonstrate?

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This topic is covered in much greater detail in my book, Connect: Affective Leadership℠ for Effective Results. 


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Comments (5)

  1. Hellen Hayes

    Appreciated the share!

  2. Mike Henry Sr.

    Lyn, thanks for the great post. You’ve got to meet Dr. Ellen Weber (@ellenfweber on Twitter). She’s very involved in brain research and if I go into much more detail than that, I’ll probably get it wrong. Introduce yourself to her on Twitter and her website is in her profile. Also, meet Robyn McMaster (@RobynMcMaster) who’s her partner too.

    I find that focusing on the individual activities you mention above make me more conscious about myself. However I feel I’m at my best and do many of those things instinctively when I focus almost exclusively on the other person. It’s like my golf swing, if I think about it too much, I look like a duck. But if I don’t think and just swing, I perform much better (at least most of the time).

    Thanks again for breaking it down and for the online introduction. Mike…

    1. admin

      Mike, Thanks for the comments. I agree, and I think that is a great point. Spending too much time thinking about our own concerns takes away from how “present” we can be with other. Maybe that is where centering, curiosity and genuine caring come in.

    2. admin

      Mike, Thanks for the suggestion. I am now following both researchers you mentioned. I hope to learn more from them.

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