The Neuroscience of Agreement

To understand why agreement is so powerful, it is helpful to understand the neuroscience behind both agreement and disagreement.

In a January 2021 article released in the Frontiers in Human Neuroscience journal based on the work of a group of researchers led by the Yale School of Medicine, it was found that when two people agree, their brains experience a sense of calmness focusing around the sensory areas. However, when two people are in disagreement, multiple areas of the brain are engaged resulting in higher cognitive loading as each person defends against and attacks the others argument.

In business (and life), we frequently disagree with others, however there is a simple linguistic tool that we can use to disagree agreeably, and that allows us to leverage of the neuroscience of agreement. It’s called the ‘Agreement Frame’ and it works like this;

When we perceive someone to be in agreement with us, we are more receptive to their message and will listen because we are hearing something that supports our view. We should therefore start dialogue with agreement-type openings such as “I agree”, “I respect” and “I appreciate”. At the onset of discussion, these simple openings set the tone for what will follow.

If you actually disagree and are going to follow the opening agreement frame with an alternative opinion, it is critical NOT to use the word “but” immediately following the agreement frame. “But” is a negator, so whatever you say before saying “but”, your recipient thinks they know what is coming next and the neurology of disagreement kicks in.

Just imagine hearing the following opening: “I agree, but…”

That means you don’t agree so I am now firing on all neurons, activating multiple brain sectors to defend myself! Instead of relying on the senses; feelings of mutual respect and trust combined with supporting visual images of positive outcomes, my brains prefrontal cortex is activated to trigger logical and rational thought, the higher order executive functions which protect us!

Instead, we should use the linking word “and”, so it would sound like this: “ I agree, and…”.

We can then disagree, but now in a more agreeable fashion while retaining the other persons attention for longer, increasing the chances that your message is heard.

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