Entrainment – The Conversation Coach for Your Body

Great Conversations and Entrainment

We were sitting on a curb in a bookstore parking lot in suburban Detroit. It was midsummer. The muted orange and yellow of sunrise creeping up over the eastern horizon took both of us by surprise that morning. We’d been talking all night long and it had seemed like only moments. It was a wonderful experience and the most memorable conversation of my life so far. Not because of what we said, I don’t remember much of that. It was how engaged and present we were with each other. It was an experience I will treasure.

The next evening, at work, the conversations I had weren’t anywhere near as rewarding. I was tired because I hadn’t slept at all, and I wasn’t interested in the conversation, or who I was talking with. People would cross their arms, sneak looks at their pagers (yeah, it was that long ago), or struggle to find the words to respond when I was speaking with them. We weren’t engaged in the entraining flow of a good conversation. I was too tired to give them my attention and energy.

Entrainment is the rhythmic syncing of behavior. We do it automatically in conversation when our brains are healthy and we are engaged with the speaker and topic.

Here is an interesting Ted Talk that goes a little more in depth in an interesting way.

Not having access to entrainment is a big deal

In order to entrain in conversation we need to be able to produce rhythmic behavior, perceive the rhythmic behavior of our partner, and modify our behaviors to align more closely with our partner. So there are certain skills and strategies we need to develop, and some people do so better than others. Without rhythm and synchrony to keep us engaged, we often find the experience dissatisfying, so we avoid these situations because they are uncomfortable.

We all tend to avoid people who are difficult to entrain in conversation with, and we all hope we are engaging enough to be a desirable conversation partner. It’s not always someone’s fault they’re undesirable for you to talk to. Sometimes it’s because of cultural differences or because someone has a different first language so conversation isn’t smooth. Other times its because they have a neurological problem like autism or brain trauma.

No matter the reason there is a problem being able to entrain with others, it’s a big deal, and dramatically decreases our quality of life.

What if you’re no good at entraining to yourself?

Communication is  constant in nature. Everything is talking to everything else. Most of these conversations don’t involve words. When an antelope in a herd notices a lion sneaking up and signals all the others to run, it is a conversation. When a cat touches water and runs away, it is a conversation.

Your brain has conversations with your body. The two talk back and forth constantly about everything. If anything interrupts the process, it’s like a Christmas conversation with your deaf grandfather who refuses to wear hearing aids and thinks laughing at anything someone says is the most appropriate solution to not being able to hear it. Your health and performance will suffer.

Conversation Coaches for the Body

What if there were a way to increase the level of engagement and entrainment in the communication between the brain, body, and the outside world? There is, and it’s called chiropractic. Chiropractors are like conversation coaches for your body. They identify interferences to smooth and accurate communication between your brain and body, and remove them so your body can have a good conversation with itself and the environment. They do this through adjustments and entrainments. Both of these services solve a range of problems for people, but they are significantly different in a few key areas.

Adjustments happen when the chiropractor locates dysfunctions in the spine that interfere with smooth conversation between the brain and body and “adjust” the spine to remove the interference. They typically involve higher force.

Entrainments happen when the chiropractor teaches the brain and body new communication strategies that help it learn to adjust itself and communicate at deeper levels over time. They require very little force.

Both are valuable services, but I prefer entrainments. Adjustments are restorative. They take the spine to the level of ability it had before it became dysfunctional. That’s not a bad thing. But entrainments are reorganizational, they’re like a system upgrade for your cell phone or laptop.

If you had the choice between taking in your laptop to get its 125GB disk drive and 4GB RAM repaired, and getting an upgrade to a 1TB SSD and 16GB RAM, which would you prefer? I would prefer the upgrade. That is the difference between restorative chiropractic care and reorganizational chiropractic care.

What does an entrainment look like?

Why all the movement?

Humans process stored stresses or intense experiences the same way as any other mammal: breathing, rhythmic movement, twitching & trembling, laughing, screaming, and crying. In my experience that is the order of prevalence for processing strategies. Kids hyperventilate and throw temper tantrums because they are still learning how to integrate their experiences appropriately. Sometimes we get too good at controlling our reaction to experiences and we don’t properly integrate them. Being a human is a tough balancing act sometimes.

What you see happing in the video of the entrainment is someone integrating stored tension and experience through rhythmic movement as a primary strategy and breathing as a secondary. Other people will respond to chiropractic entrainments differently. Some twitch a lot. Some giggle or yell, though that’s much less common.

The number of sessions someone needs for their body to develop the ability to entrain itself varies tremendously. Some people are naturally skilled at it and develop advanced entrainment strategies in a half dozen sessions. Others take months to get to the same place someone else gets in a week. While I can see how it would be frustrating for those who take 10x the amount of sessions as someone else, I liken it to results in the gym. Some people get in shape faster than others, and there are many variables that contribute to that. No matter if you’re a slow or fast responder, doing the workouts it takes to get in the level of shape you want it is worth it. The same is true for developing entrainment strategies.

Don’t believe me that this is how mammals process intense experiences? (Bear is OK)

Entrainment is so common in nature that it should be no surprise humans can elevate it to the level of art.

Animals entrain to each other for protection while migrating or feeding. This is how birds like starlings and fish in schools can stay together even when they are moving with lightning speed.


Humans entrain to natural cycles

Circadian biology is the study of entrainment within the body. All of our hormones, our sleep wake cycle, our digestion, etc, work in cycles that need to harmonize together along with the outside environment. We need to be awake when it is light, asleep when it is dark, hungry when there is food, digesting when we’ve eaten it, and healing when we are sleeping.

We entrain to our environments to regulate our physiology, so it should come as no surprise that we have ways to fine tune our biology (upgrade our operating systems) through entraining the spine and nerve system.


Little life hack – Coffee before early afternoon can disrupt your circadian rhythm. It’s best to wait till after 10:00am before having caffeine.

Find someone to entrain you!

Have great conversations with special people as often as possible

Photo by Cynthia Magana on Unsplash



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