In this post we explain what mirror neurons are and how they work, and the importance of acting in one way or another to influence the behavior of others.
Mirror neurons

You have probably heard of mirror neurons. The mirror neuron system makes humans have a high tendency to imitate the behavior of others from a young age. In this sense, if we want to influence the behavior of our children, students, coworkers … surely what we do is much more important than what we say or write.

Mirror neurons are a group of cells that were discovered in 1996 by the Italian neurobiologist at the University of Parma Giacomo Rizzolatti. After conducting several studies, he discovered that there is a group of cells that are activated in the brain when an animal or human being performs an activity and when others are observed to perform a certain action. That is why they are called mirror neurons.

Therefore, these neurons are nerve cells that are only activated in two situations: when performing an action and when watching someone perform an action. In this second type of neuronal activation, the neuron reproduces the same neural activity corresponding to the perceived action, but without performing the behavior in the same way (corresponding to a mental representation of the action). To understand more practically how these types of neurons work, I usually use a fairly common example: many times, when you are with a person who yawns, it is very likely that you too will end up yawning in a short space of time.

This discovery sheds light on and is closely related to empathic, social, and imitative behaviors. Build a life-enhancing reality and destroy two important myths.

  • The first thing is that we usually think that change is from the inside out, when this discovery affirms that MANY OF THE CHANGES ARE PRODUCED IN REVERSE, FROM OUTSIDE (OF OUR ENVIRONMENT) INWARDS.
  • The second, many people think that they are always the same; it is on the contrary, WE ARE IN ONE WAY OR ANOTHER DEPENDING ON HOW AND WITH WHOM WE ARE SURROUNDED.

In other words, who we surround ourselves with is very important because, as a result of the functioning of mirror neurons, we have many possibilities that the behavior of the people around us will end up infecting ourselves and vice versa. In this sense, we must bear in mind that humans are sociological beings and that we are genetically coded to live in a herd, to live in a group. Emotions, attitudes, feelings spread quickly (more than the flu).

Albert Einstein said years ago that “the example is not the main way of influencing others; it is the only one”. Well, perhaps it takes this theory to an extreme but it is true that our behavior very decisively affects the behavior of the people around us and at the same time, the behavior of those close to us notably conditions our behavior.

It should also be noted that these types of cells are closely related to empathy, that is, the ability that people have to perceive what others may feel. So you can already pay close attention to which people you surround with since they will significantly condition your emotions, attitudes and behavior. Without a doubt, a good understanding of how mirror neurons work is vitally important to working well in teams and developing good leadership.

Finally, I recommend that you reflect on what your behavior is, what emotions and attitudes you will activate in the people you are close to, be it your family, co-workers and friends. And think about the positive or negative influence you will bring to those around you. Also think in the opposite direction: those who are close to you, do they affect you positively or negatively? You must be clear about who you are with. Because as the well-known saying used to say “he who leans against a big tree will always find shade”.

Xavi Roca

I am Talentist, I help organizations, managers and professionals to achieve high performance through enhancing their leadership and personal brand. I am passionate about leadership, high performance team management and Personal Branding, and I have dedicated my professional career to helping companies and professionals develop and enhance their talents and strengths to achieve their maximum development and performance.

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