Let’s take a moment to consider what is actually happening during a conversation; we’ll take a few passes at it striping away the layers of narrative to reveal something wonderful.
Two people are talking, exchanging ideas and information.
The ideas and information are created, stored and processed by the brain. The ears and mouth are the tools the brain uses to transmit and receive information.
The sound waves are manufactured by the vocal chords based on the nerve impulses that represent the information the brain is trying to transmit. The sound waves are received and shake the ear drum of the other creating nerve impulses that are channeled into the brain for processing.
The brain is the center of all information processing, the body is a tool that the brain uses to give-out and take in information.
During a conversation, two brains are interfacing to trade information. Any other distinction we add serves only to complicate what our understanding of what is happening.
This simplifies things. The fact that you are talking to the other persons brain, and that it is actually your brain talking to it, opens-up the ability to alter the way the other persons brain processes the information. The brain does not do the same thing with all the information that comes in. First off, different parts of the brain do different things with information. These parts are all interconnected so the combination of possible routes through the brain is limitless. Next, not all parts of the brain are active all of the time – the ramifications of this are that certain types of information / information processing services may not be available all of the time. This can be due to lack of fuel, chemical inhibition, or the conscious by-passing of processes.
It also complicates things. After all the narrative stuff has been stripped away we’re left with two of the most powerful information and pattern matching machines interfacing to exchange ideas. But how often does one really consider this fact during a conversation? Rarely. For most of us, there are two people, separate from each other and their environment. They are talking, exchanging stories, facts and feelings. They likely believe that what they are talking about is important and of significance in their lives. The impact of these narrative layers is powerful and it can bias the way the information is received, twisting the way one perceives facts. Imagine, for example, the impact a volatile relationship can have on the stories one tells their brain about what the other person is doing.
What does this mean?
Well, if you have the self-awareness to realize that there’s a lot going on in your brain and that you are only aware of a small portion of what it’s doing, you’ll see that there is a big difference between knowing this to be a fact and not knowing that it is a possibility. Those that know gain insight and control over their thinking simply because they accept that the brain is a machine and that consciousness and spontaneous thought are just consequences to it being a brain. Emotions are other consequences and they reflect a match of a pattern that is significant for some reason. Pattern matching isn’t perfect, and miss pairings are very simple given the amount of sensory input flowing into the brain while something is happening. Realizing that you are your brain is liberating. We can learn new patterns / pairings, we can stop thoughts at will and direct our mind onto the things we want, we can accept that some of our automatic behaviors are based on poor information collected years ago and we can replace them by doing the things that work for us.
Those that know that they are their brain are at a distinct advantage when they engage other people because they know how the other person can approach the world – as self-aware or not. This distinction is very important when communicating effectively with others. If a person doesn’t have much self-awareness, you are talking to their mind, their understanding of the world, all the assumptions and lessons they hold. With a self aware person, you are talking to someone who realizes that their mind can add or remove the different levels of narrative (those mentioned above when describing what is happening during a conversation) so you are able to engage the each other in the most effective way – your brain talking to their brain.