How singing together strengthens community and builds trust in business.
Learning to sing together provides an instant opportunity for connection and commonality. It is a socially just learning tool and a highly effective ‘icebreaker’ activity which bypasses the need for personal knowledge of group members typically gained through more prolonged interaction.
Studies have also shown that members of choirs report a greater level of meaningful group connectivity compared to members of sports team. The shared experience of learning and mood lift facilitates further synchronisation, meaning participants in group singing are better coordinated than their non-singing counterparts.
Singing is a universal human behavioural capacity that has been practised the world over by the vast majority of civilisations since the dawn of our species. Theories as to why music evolved include being a mechanism for parent-infant attachment, and a display to attract mates. However, one important theory that we will explore in this article is that music evolved as a mechanism for social bonding, a way to quickly connect large groups of relative strangers and encouraging willingness to coordinate energies.
In a modern context, singing is shown to be a highly effective ‘icebreaker’ activity, which bypasses the need for personal knowledge of group members typically gained through more prolonged interaction. In a business context where time is short and one-on-one interactions are not always possible, singing can emotionally connect many unknown individuals simultaneously. Furthermore, as singing stretches individual comfort zones in different ways, a workplace choir has been shown to temporarily flatten hierarchy, suspend workplace personas and unfreeze identities, promoting positive organisational culture.
Music is a key part of individual, group and national identity, from the personal to the political, and singing provides a highly inclusive access point to music that offers virtually no barriers to participation. For groups, learning to sing together thus provides an instant opportunity for connection and commonality, and it is a socially equitable learning tool.
Numerous studies have shown group singing to score the highest in terms of building trust and cooperation when compared to other group activity, exemplifying many of the typical traits which characterise positive group dynamics. Studies have also shown that members of choirs report a greater level of meaningful group connectivity than members of sports teams, and an alignment of goals creates a general feeling of positivity towards everyone present; a fantastic bonding mechanism which implies less need to get to know other members individually.
Individuals often report feelings of connectedness during musical experiences, with common phrases for the experiences being ‘lost in the music’, feeling ‘in the zone’, or ‘finding the groove.’ These colloquial phrases are all aligned with the theoretical concept of flow, a mental state of operation in which one is wholly absorbed in the task at hand (try thinking about your to-do list whilst simultaneously juggling pitch, tempo, rhythm, dynamics and lyrics!). Research on flow has shown that it not only facilitates peak performance on an individual level, but when experienced in group settings it facilitate a optimal social connection with others. There has been a positive correlation demonstrated between the frequency of social flow, and the quality of social relationships. Quality and quantity.
There is much research into the positive impact singing has on mood, with singers reporting a lift in spirits after singing. The shared experience of mood lift facilitates further forms of synchronisation, preparing performers for further coordinated activity vital for the business environment. The workplace choir can thus be seen to create positive overspill into other areas of the workplace.
The major reason we experience this mood lift after singing is thanks to the release of neuropeptides such as endorphins and oxytocin, which increase positive emotional states, increase trust and bonding, mediate social behaviour, and reduce anxiety and stress. Indeed, the word oxytocin is derived from the Greek word meaning ‘quick birth’, relating to maternal behaviours such as mother infant bonding, and fundamentally linked to all human bonding.
Singing is the great leveller and the great unifier, and nowhere is this more vital than in a workplace context. With the increasing pressures of workplaces in the 21st century, it is increasingly relevant to look to this most ancient of practices to bring modern teams together in the most primal of ways.