The way you speak and move shows how you agree to interact with others. These simple gestures signal lots about you – the influence you each have in a social interaction on each other’s speaking patterns, how you mimic each other’s behaviors, how interested and excited you are by the level of your activity, and the consistency of emphasis and timing in your speech and movement. From these four mostly unconscious signals (influence, mimicry, activity, consistency), researchers are able to predict to a very high degree all kinds of things about you and the group – from outcomes in interviews and first dates, to power dynamics, team success, and organizational decision making.
Alex (Sandy) Pentland of the MIT Media Lab describes this research in his book Honest Signals: How They Shape Our World (2008 MIT Press). Using a sociometer, like a small badge you wear around your neck, his team measures the time you spend interacting with someone else face-to-face, changes in your speech, movement of your body, and where you are relative to other people. That’s it. These simple biological signals tell a lot about what we value and how we interact – two key lenses into the ecosynomics of abundance. “The sociometer..reveals that there is more going on than just individuals engaging in conscious interaction. It shows that our minds are also substantially governed by the unconscious signaling within the social fabric that surrounds us. Across a broad range of studies, human honest signals play an unexpectedly central role in the decision making of individuals, groups, and even entire organizations.” And, “it is startling how unaware people are of their pattern of influence.”
The “honest signals” approach both assesses the current state of implicit agreements in any given group – how they actually work – and it shows the behaviors of groups achieving higher levels of harmonic vibrancy – teams with high levels of interest, engagement, and trust.