Read Words Can Change Your Brain Online

Authors: Andrew Newberg

Words Can Change Your Brain


Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street,

New York, New York 10014, USA

USA | Canada | UK | Ireland | Australia | New Zealand | India | South Africa | China

Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

For more information about the Penguin Group visit

First published in the United States of America by Hudson Street Press, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2012

First Plume Printing 2013

Copyright © Andrew B. Newberg and Mark Robert Waldman, 2012

All rights reserved. No part of this product may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

Illustration credits:
Here (left to right)
: Photograph by M. Zacha. By permission of; courtesy of Public Domain Clip Art; courtesy of Open Clip Art Library.
(all): Permission granted by Alexander Todorov and the Social Cognition and Social Neuroscience Lab, Princeton University. The software used for face generation is FaceGen 3.1. Oosterhof, N. N., & Todorov, A. (2008). The functional basis of face evaluation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, 105, 11087–11092.
Photograph by Griet Cornille. By permission of and Griet Cornille.
© Mark Waldman (This derivative illustration has been digitally enhanced and modified).


The Library of Congress has catalogued the Hudson Street Press edition as follows:

Newberg, Andrew B., 1966–

Words can change your brain : 12 conversation strategies to build trust, resolve conflict, and increase intimacy / Andrew Newberg and Mark Robert Waldman.

p. cm.

Includes bibliographical references and index.

ISBN 978-1-101-58570-2

1. Interpersonal communication. 2. Language and emotions. 3. Psycholinguistics. 4. Neuropsychology. I. Waldman, Mark Robert. II. Title.

BF637.C45N454 2012

153.6—dc23 2012005650


While the authors have made every effort to provide accurate telephone numbers, Internet addresses, and other contact information at the time of publication, neither the publisher nor the authors assume any responsibility for errors or for changes that occur after publication. Further, publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content.


Title Page


Authors’ Note


Part 1

The Evidence: The Neuroscience of Communication, Consciousness, Cooperation, and Trust

Chapter 1: A New Way to Converse

Chapter 2: The Power of Words

Chapter 3: The Many Languages of the Brain

Chapter 4: The Language of Consciousness

Chapter 5: The Language of Cooperation

Chapter 6: The Language of Trust

Part 2

The Strategies: Developing New Communication Skills

Chapter 7: Inner Values: The Foundation of Conscious Living

Chapter 8: Twelve Steps to Intimacy, Cooperation, and Trust

Chapter 9: Compassionate Communication: Retraining Your Social Brain

Part 3

The Application: Practicing Effective Communication with Others

Chapter 10: Compassionate Communication with Loved Ones

Chapter 11: Compassionate Communication in the Workplace

Chapter 12: Compassionate Communication with Kids



Appendix A: Compassionate Communication Training: CDs, Mp3s, Workbooks, Webinars, and Workshops

Appendix B: Compassionate Communication Training Protocol for Couples

Appendix C: Compassionate Communication Research Study




he communication strategies we’ve developed and presented in this book have grown out of years of evidence-based research conducted by hundreds of neuroscientists and psychologists throughout the world. This book represents a new model for how the brain creates unique language systems that are designed to convey complex information to others. But neuroscience is often difficult to convey in simple language. Sometimes important information can be left out, and sometimes a hypothesis may read as though it were a fact. Furthermore, when it comes to the brain, a single millimeter of tissue can control many processes in addition to the ones we describe in this book. To counter these problems, and to provide the necessary substantiation for this new approach to communicating effectively with others, we’ve included extensive endnotes, which will also help guide you if you choose to delve more deeply into the neuroscience of empathy, cooperation, and trust.


The Evidence

The Neuroscience of Communication, Consciousness, Cooperation, and Trust


A New Way to Converse

ithout language, we would find ourselves living in a state of emotional chaos. Our brain has given us the potential to communicate in extraordinary ways, and the ways we choose to use our words can improve the neural functioning of the brain. In fact, a single word has the power to influence the expression of genes that regulate physical and emotional stress.

If we do not continually exercise the brain’s language centers, we cripple our neurological ability to deal with the problems we encounter with each other. Language shapes our behavior, and each word we use is imbued with multitudes of personal meaning. The right words, spoken in the right way, can bring us love, money, and respect, while the wrong words—or even the right words spoken in the wrong way—can lead a country to war. We must carefully orchestrate our speech if we want to achieve our goals and bring our dreams to fruition.

Although we are born with the gift of language, research shows that we are surprisingly unskilled when it comes to communicating with others. We often choose our words without thought, oblivious of the emotional effects they can have on others. We talk more than we need to. We listen poorly, without realizing it, and we often fail to pay attention to the subtle meanings conveyed by facial expressions, body gestures, and the tone and cadence of our voice—elements of communication that are often more important than the words we actually say.

These conversational shortcomings are not caused by poor education. Rather they are largely related to an underdeveloped brain, for the areas that govern social awareness, empathy, and related language skills are not fully operational until we’re about thirty years old. Despite this neurological handicap, scientific research shows that anyone—young or old—can exercise the language and social-awareness centers of the brain in ways that will enhance their capacity to communicate more effectively with others.

To date we’ve identified and documented twelve strategies that will enhance the dynamics of any conversation, even with strangers. They can stimulate deep empathy and trust in the listener’s brain, and they can be used to interrupt negative thought patterns that, if left unchecked, can actually damage your brain’s emotional-regulation circuits.

The Twelve Strategies of Compassionate Communication
1. Relax
2. Stay present
3. Cultivate inner silence
4. Increase positivity
5. Reflect on your deepest values
6. Access a pleasant memory
7. Observe nonverbal cues
8. Express appreciation
9. Speak warmly
10. Speak slowly
11. Speak briefly
12. Listen deeply

In this book, we’ll show you how to use these strategies to rapidly develop deep, long-lasting relationships at home and at work. You’ll learn how to interrupt unconscious inner speech that generates anxiety, fear, and doubt. You’ll build more intimate relationships in your personal life, and you’ll build more successful relationships with your clients, employees, and colleagues. You’ll create fun, productive collaborations at work; you’ll enhance your management skills; and this will translate into more income and sales.

You’ll learn how to recognize when another person is lying, and you’ll discover how to use your intuition to know what others are thinking before they even speak. You’ll even discover how silence can strengthen the power of your communication skills.

We’ll also show you a little secret that will change your facial expression in ways that will inspire trust in others. You can change the rate of your speech to influence how the other person feels, and you’ll be able to use your body language to convey more meaning than words can ever capture.

If you practice these strategies for just a few minutes each day, you’ll think more clearly, you’ll enhance your creativity, and you’ll generate more authentic dialogues with others. You can even eliminate conflicts before they begin.

Our brain-scan studies, when combined with the latest research in the fields of language, communication, and mindfulness, demonstrate that these strategies can improve memory and cognition while simultaneously lowering stress, anxiety, and irritability—factors that are known to undermine the effectiveness of any conversation or social interaction. As you practice these strategies on a daily basis, your self-confidence and satisfaction in life will grow in ways that can be measured in the laboratory and felt at home.

We call this strategy “Compassionate Communication,” and when you use them in your conversations, something quite surprising occurs: both of your brains begin to align themselves with each other. This special bond is a phenomenon referred to as “neural resonance,” and in this enhanced state of mutual attunement two people can accomplish remarkable things together. Why? Because it eliminates the natural defensiveness that normally exists when people casually converse.

Other books

A Warrior's Promise by Donna Fletcher
Monsoon Diary by Shoba Narayan
The Horror in the Museum by H. P. Lovecraft
Dinosaur Breakout by Judith Silverthorne
Family Secrets by Moon Lightwood Copyright 2016 - 2020