How Yawning Can Help You Succeed In Life

Do not misinterpret it as a sign of drowsiness or even boredom

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It's easy to misinterpret a yawn as lazy, a sign of drowsiness or even boredom, but delve deeper and you will see it means so much more.

Interpreting the nuances behind this simple act could actually accelerate your success. Here’s how:

It subconsciously helps you bond as a community

It’s generally thought that yawning is a primal response to a stimulus—that stimulus either being a spontaneous need to cool your brain down (letting out warm air and breathing in the cold to make you feel more alert) or another person (the contagious yawn).

Research has concluded that a contagious yawn shows us to whom we pay the most attention. We’re more likely to catch a yawn from a family member than a friend, a friend than an acquaintance, and an acquaintance than a stranger.

Essentially, yawning together is an act of subconscious bonding, and having a community is essential for any business owner or entrepreneur. By building your like-minded community, you can foster genuine relationships, network better, and scale your brand faster.

It is the ability to model the state of others

Why is a yawn contagious? It all comes down an ability to put yourself in the same mental state as others. You see, we all have mirror neurons. They map the physical pathways of the people around you. Because of them, you might subconsciously copy a person you’re chatting too. If they cross their legs, so do you, if they touch their hair, you mimic them.

Some scientists believe this is a reason we catch a yawn. The more sensitive you are to these mirror neurons the more you will imitate others. The power of mimicking has been proven repeatedly. Studies have found that waitresses gained higher tips (Van Barren et al., 2003), sales clerks achieved higher sales and more positive evaluations (Jacob et al., 2011), more students agreed to write an essay for another student (Gueguen, Martin, and Meineri, 2011) and men evaluated women more favourably in speed dating (Gueguen, 2009).

To know what a customer is thinking or feeling is business gold dust. If you have this information you can predict decisions they will make next and always be one step ahead.

It is about self-awareness

Although contagious yawning is common in adults, children only develop it at the age of 4-5. It’s around this same time that children begin to exhibit what psychologists call the theory of mind, which is essentially the skill of perceiving what others may be thinking or feeling. A yawn is an external sign of something internal—be it our boredom, anxiety, or fatigue—and these are times that we need a helping hand. So, yawning is the opposite of what we think; not so much a signal that you’re tired but reaching out to people around you to act.

Researchers at New York State University’s department of psychology have found that the faster a respondent was at recognizing their own face, the more likely they were to correctly guess another’s mental state and the more likely they were to “catch" a yawn.

Having a strong sense of self-awareness and theory of mind will help you understand cues from your customer base. Batman didn’t spend all night on the streets of Gotham City looking for people to lock up. He waited for Commissioner Gordon to light up the bat signal. You can only become as indispensable to your customer base as Batman is to Gotham City if you respond to the signals they give you. A well-practiced response will help you to develop strategies on how to improve your return on investment or increase your average order value. It can even help you know how to outmanoeuvre your competitors.

Engender Empathy

Ivan Norscia of the Natural History Museum in Italy suggests that contagious yawning has developed as an act of empathy. That by “reenacting the mechanism” of the yawn “your response is higher because you mirrored each other's emotions.” In recent years, scientists have discovered a subset of mirror neurons that actually allows us to empathize with others. Psychologist Steven Platek conducted a study where students were asked to watch videos of other people yawning. Those who scored higher on empathic personality traits yawned more watching the video than those who scored lower on the scale.

To be truly successful you need to be in tune with your customers. Empathy is just the tool for this. To understand what they're going through can help you model your business to solve their problems. Solving a real problem for real people is the cornerstone of every successful business model, and yawning could just be the key.




Isabel Nicole Wong

Written By


Isabel Nicole Wong is a digital marketing expert from Singapore. She is the creator of YAWN, a framework that helps entrepreneurs systematically build a six-seven figure Internet business. Isabel believes in using game-changing techniques to help entrepreneurs differentiate themselves from their competitors.