Hacking Mead

The Meadian concept of oneself (and how we model others goes a long way towards explaining conversational strategies. The two that most obviously lend themselves towards this analysis are mirroring and “assuming agreement”.

Mirroring – that is, assuming the same breathing pattern, posture, and body movements as the other person – is a well-proven way to build a sense of rapport. This seems facepalm obvious from a Meadian perspective. Mirroring the other’s body language sends cues that you *are* just a different skin on another instance of them. We rely a lot on nonverbal communication, so these cues shortcut past the bits of our brain that are concerrned with speech, and hit all the “just like us” buttons.

Assuming agreement is a somewhat longer leap – but it holds consistent. The tactic is to simply not pause for feedback – to keep acting as if the other person is in complete agreement with you. Frequently, this can result in the other person being more favorable towards your statements. This can also be explained if we take the Meadian approach of the I and me, where we are constantly updating our models of each other – AND OURSELVES – based on observable data.. When things don’t add up, we re-evaluate our assumptions. (This is the basis of every “I was a bigot until they saved my life” story, ,FWIW). An internal monologue might be: “Why, Bob’s still acting as if I agree. Huh. How strange. Maybe I *do* agree! That would explain his actions! So I agree with Bob!”

There are several collections of conversation (or people) hacks – all of which make sense from a Meadian view of people.

This also provides an odd bit of support for Meadian concepts – from sociobiology. It appears that part of what we call “consciousness” and “self-awareness” is a pattern-recognition algorhythm recognizing its own patterns. This bit also can be woefully – up to ten seconds – behind the body in responding to stimuli. It’s even possible (hearkening back to William James) that our emotions are an after-the-fact response to our endocrine system.

Don’t despair, though. Sociobiology tends to be very deterministic, but forgets that our bodies are dialectic between external and internal forces. Our thoughts *literally change our brain structure*, thus making a simple deterministic model unweildy if not outright impossible.

This, by the way, also means that self-affirmations not only do work (which they do), but why they work. Don’t get me wrong; they tend to be cheesy as anything, but this means, for example, having your children tell themselves they’re beautiful will have a positive effect against the negativity of the world.

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