Speaking so people listen.

Talking to instinctual, emotional and logical minds, and neuroscience of communication with Simon Lancaster.

Angela Shurina
6 min readJan 9, 2023

I’m learning it the hard way.

All content creation is a waste of time. Even when I have the most brilliant ideas.

Unless I learn how to communicate with the brain so it listens. Unless I start applying neuroscience of communication, which, unfortunately, didn’t come naturally to me. Unless I start speaking like a leader.

There’s a right way to say things to make people listen, and there’s a wrong way.

And just like with nutrition — just because we all eat, it doesn’t mean we all know how to eat well, and just because we all speak, it doesn’t mean we all know how to speak well.

Maybe there are some truly gifted people for whom the sentences just come out right to instantly sink right into people’s minds, drawing attention, producing impact and action. I’m not one of those people, and from what I learned from many successful authors, entrepreneurs and leaders — neither are most of us.

Communicating like a leader, so everyone listens — it’s a skill most of us never learn, staying stuck in the blind spot of the world, having all the brilliant ideas, that are known to no one.

2023 is the year that I decided to dedicate myself to becoming a great communicator. Books by Simon Lancaster and the podcast we did together were just the tools I needed to make this goal a reality.

Here, I’ll share some of the foundational tools I learned from Simon to start communicating to win minds, to lead, to produce change in people.


Different functions of our brains evolved at different stages of human/life evolution.

First, survival was taken care of and our instincts developed. Second, a more complex evaluation of the environment and emotions developed to help us thrive and adapt. Third, our prefrontal cortex grew, allowing us to make complex decisions.

The instinctual brain is the most powerful and the fastest. The emotional brain is the second fastest and most powerful. The logical brain is the slowest to react and is always influenced by instincts and emotions, and it depends on them to make decisions.

Attention. Emotional hook. Strong-sounding arguments.

This is what winning the whole mind is all about.

Metaphors, stories and rhetorical devices (linguistic tools used to persuade) blended together help us to get the whole brain on board, ready to learn, be changed, and primed for action.


The instinctual brain speaks in pictures.

That’s why using powerful metaphors that create vivid imagery in our minds is absolutely crucial to tell the instinctive brain “this is important” — it might be a threat or it might unlock opportunities to thrive.

Metaphors are pictures in words. Metaphors are a way of saying one thing while communicating a visual concept. Metaphors are how we speak already — just not very well.

Simon says that we use metaphors on average every 16 words and our language is littered with metaphors. But not all metaphors are equally good for communication, just like not all colors are equally good to paint the moods of our minds.

There are 5 metaphors that all people understand and can relate to: our body, a journey, weather, food and relationships.

Let’s come up with a metaphor to illustrate what I mean here.

🌱“The mind is like a garden. The seeds you plant, the nourishment and care you provide, the soil you plant the seeds into will determine the crop you reap”

🚣“The change of self is like crossing a sea. Sometimes it shines, sometimes it rains but to make the journey, however rough, you have to keep sailing”

🏎️“Good nutrition for high performance is like choosing the best parts when building a formula one car — the better the building materials are, the better the performance”

Metaphors are great to communicate complex concepts to the most ancient part of the brain to make it pay attention.

Besides metaphors, other great ways to communicate with the instinctive, the fastest, the most influential mind are humor, the way we breathe, our looks/style/posture.

(You can learn more about these in Simon Lancaster’s books “Winning Minds: Secrets from the Language of Leadership” and “Connect!: How to Inspire, Influence and Energise Anyone, Anywhere, Anytime”)


In every piece of communication, we want to build an emotional connection with our audience, the minds we want to speak to.

And the best way to do so is through telling stories.

Telling stories that have a specific structure. The structure, that stimulates the release of neurotransmitters (molecules that neurons use to talk to each other) which sets the stage for learning and rewards, for trust, for “you are just like me and we are in it together” kind of feelings.

How do we tell such a story?

It’s actually very simple and grounded in neuroscience.

First, we bring in the character that people can connect with (ourselves or someone else) to start oxytocin flowing which opens up the window of neuroplasticity, the opportunity to change minds. Second, we create a challenge, drama, a conflict, which creates tension, releases adrenaline, makes us pay attention and remember. Third, we bring our character to the happily-ever-after land, we resolve the conflict which boosts dopamine, which makes us learn and feel rewarded, hooked and happy.

And when we are able to communicate our “pitch” through this kind of story, people remember it, people are changed by it, people are more likely to take action on it.

Stories are the most ancient and most powerful way to teach and drive action.

Without stories, any message will fall on deaf ears.

It’s definitely something I need to work on.

Besides stories, you can use repetition and exaggeration to create an even stronger emotional response.

(These are also covered in detail in Simon’s books and on our podcast)


We still have a BS detector in our logical minds to deal with even with the most powerful stories and picturesque metaphors.

But winning the logical mind isn’t about coming up with numerous facts and statistics.

It’s more about HOW we say it than about WHAT we actually say.

It’s about using 3s — 3 sentences that start in the same way, it’s about using rhyme, it’s about balance in the way we construct our sentences.

See what I did there?

In my own words, it’s about the music of the language we use. It’s about sounding beautiful. It’s about sounding “right”. (Not necessarily being right)

“No pain — no gain”

“In it to win it”

“Easy choices — hard life. Hard choices — easy life.”

Can you think of a few of your own? — Start collecting them.

Numbers and statistics, all kinds of precise data also help but not in a “dry” way.

We have to help people envision numbers by comparing them to things people can relate to easily like, “We have 50 trillion organisms in our gut. Approximately one per each human cell”.

And then numbers truly speak to us.

THE CONCLUSION. Leading with words and my personal challenge of 2023.

I used to think, “Why doesn’t everyone just learn from “dry facts” I tell them? Like I do.”

And then I realized that the books I never finished were exactly that — no matter how useful they were, if they lacked stories, metaphors, all the musical linguistic beauty, if they didn’t make my instincts perk up, my emotions flow and my logical mind believe — it wouldn’t land. And I would quit and forget about it.

It’s definitely gonna be a challenge for me to change my ways. It’s definitely gonna take time and effort. It’s definitely gonna be a journey with its peaks and valleys.

But if my destination is to get better at helping people change — it’s the journey I’m signing up for.

How about you?

Things to do next to start speaking so people listen:

▶️Check out our podcast episode with Simon LancasterHow to speak like a leader: influence, inspire, educate to create change. Neuroscience of public speaking.” to make it all sink in so much better. Simon is a much greater communicator than myself and you’ll get to learn a lot more.

▶️Check out Simon’s books that will teach you everything you need to start speaking like a leaderWinning Minds: Secrets from the Language of Leadership” and “Connect!: How to Inspire, Influence and Energise Anyone, Anywhere, Anytime”

▶️Put one concept a week in practice — mine is stories this week. What’s yours❓ Share to commit!

😃Thank you for reading!

Brought to you by your brain’s coach — Angela Shurina, committed to sustainable productivity and human potential.


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