Chemicals of Communication

Our job as a communicator is to take people from where they are and bring them to where they need to be. This is true for the teacher in a middle school classroom, the manager in a conference room, or the pastor in a pulpit.

There is a chemical reaction happening in your audience with everything you say. These chemicals can work for you or against you. Being aware of these chemicals and applying the right one at the right time will help you get the right result you are looking for. Here are the 3 chemicals you need to be aware of and master as a communicator.


Have you ever binge watched a full season series on Netflix? You find the show that makes your mouth drop at the end of every episode and frustration wells up when the black screen abruptly appears with the end credits? Are you kidding me Matty J? You have 8 more roses left to give and the episode it just going to end?

This tension and suspense that is being used in every TV series is releasing a rush of dopamine. Dopamine is the chemical that forces you to lean in and give your undivided attention. If you have tension, you have their attention.

Dopamine will increase your audiences focus, memory and retention. Here is a video showing how I used this chemical when I tell a story about a tiger and leave it unfinished until the end of the message:

Tension = Dopamine = Attention


The second chemical you need to be aware of is oxytocin. Oxytocin is the chemical we are trying to tap into when we introduce ourselves. It creates a bond between you and the audience. This is most easily done with empathy.

A little note on empathy. Empathy is the ability to share a feeling with someone. Sympathy is feeling sorrow for someone’s misfortune. While we often connect empathy with sympathy, empathy can be shared with joy as well.

Here is an example with how I use oxytocin in an introduction of a message:


Here are a few things I want you to catch. I am trying to find the common ground with a large number of my audience. Yes, I am an orator, an author, and an artist – these are all fairly unique traits of me, but I am also a Netflix subscriber, something we have common ground on.

Find the common ground with your audience, and claim that space with them. It will create trust that will pay you dividends for the rest of your message.

Empathy = Oxytocin = Trust


The final chemical you need to know and master is endorphins. Endorphins are released when you laugh. This can be done through a joke, a funny story, or an impromptu moment with your audience.

Endorphins can operator as a balance to dopamine. Creating tension is great, it gets their attention, but sitting in tension for too long is tiresome and heavy. Interjecting humor to give your audience a breathe of fresh air will help them track with you longer and keep the tone up in your message.

Endorphins are more useful than a simple counterweight to tension. They help your audience relax, the increase their ability to problem solve, and they allow your audience to think more creatively. Endorphins are a really great tool if you want your listeners to take on a big or complex problem.

Laughter = Endorphins = Relaxation / Creative & Critical Thinking


Our job as a communicator is to take people from where they are and bring them to where they need to be. This is true for the teacher in a middle school classroom, the manager in a conference room, or the pastor in a pulpit. Being aware of these chemicals and using the correct ones will greatly increase your ability as a communicator to captivate your audience.

Here is my challenge to you to put this into action. Take your next lesson plan, business plan, or sermon outline, and write out the parts on the front of a notecard and on the back of the notecard, write down what you want your listener to feel at that time.

Go back through our list of chemicals, and write down which chemical you should be creating to make your audience feel this way.

Then ask yourself this question – Am I using all of the chemicals in my presentation?

It is common for me when coaching communicators to see them default to one chemical for their entire message. If you do not see a balance of chemicals and a rhythm, look back to see which ones you can change.

Learning to use chemicals, and how to use them appropriately, is a simple concept to grasp but a hard one to master. This is why I touch on this constantly throughout our communication coaching curriculum and webinars over at the Axe Academy. I highly recommend you creating an account and checking it out for yourself.

Sometimes though, it’s nice to just have another set of eyes on your message. I have a few available slots open right now for communication coaching where I can walk you through this process and help you apply it to your specific context.