Exercise Your Social Muscle

by Matt Mattson

The Talent CodeA number of us on the Phired Up team have been reading THE TALENT CODE by Daniel Coyle this month (I had mentioned this back in the summer reading list).  Honestly, this book has invaded my mind and I can’t get it out.  The applications of the principles in this book to what we do at Phired Up are innumerable, and it has really been a fun read.  I’m sure we’ll have more to say about the principles in this book and how they apply to Dynamic Recruitment education and Social Excellence Training, but let me start with this…

Think of your current level of Social Excellence (your social aptitude).  Your social aptitude can be strengthened just like a muscle. All it needs is the right kind of exercise. 

Coyle goes into significant detail about the brain chemistry surrounding building “skills.” Particularly he focuses on a sort of brain circuit insulation called “myelin” which essentially wraps the wiring for certain skills/behaviors/thoughts in protective layers.  These layers get thicker the more times you practice those skills/behaviors/thoughts in the right way.  Early in the book he describes the “myelination process,”

“(1) Every human movement, thought, or feeling is a precisely timed electrical signal traveling through a chain of neurons – a circuit of nerve fibers. (2) Myelin is the insulation that wraps these nerve fibers and increases signal strength, speed, and accuracy. (3) The more we fire a particular circuit, the more myelin optimizes that circuit, an the stronger, faster, and more fluent our movements and thoughts become.”

I’m guessing I’ve lost some readers at this point, and I can understand that.  This content is a bit outside of this blog’s normal range, however, this concept is a huge breakthrough of knowledge for me personally.  It tells me that ANY skill/behavior/thought can be learned (and taught), and there are examples in the book of elements of Social Excellence being mastered over time! So for even the most timid, shy, scared people we work with, if they have the right stimulation and the right kind of practice, they can become Socially Excellent!

I already knew that, but the fact that fancy brain scientists agree with me… well, that’s cool.

When exercised in the right way, your social muscle (or brain circuitry) can truly be strengthened (or myelinated) so that you can be Socially Excellent all the time.

This is why we’re building more and more curriculum that challenges people to learn through experiences that sometimes cause them to (1) fail, (2) learn from their mistake, and (3) keep trying until they get it right.  Sounds simple, we know, but this basic process, is something that has been shied away from in many educational settings — especially with regard to social skills. 

As Josh said in a recent post, “For many, becoming Socially Excellent depends very much on your willingness to first feel the pain of social discomfort.  You’ll feel awkward, clumsy, and scared the first few times you try to adopt an attitude of Social Excellence.  But that’s just the feeling of growing as a person.  Think of the person you want to become, think of the organization you want to create — the only difference between right now and that vision is a small amount of growing pains.”