Evolution is great: opposable thumbs; walking erect; corn chips. But when it comes to getting along at work, evolution has kind of failed us. Find out how in this video. And be prepared for the lion…
TranscriptIt’s Not REALLY A Jungle Out There
Not reacting, pausing, is arguably the most important conflict resolution move.
But how do you improve your ability to pause?
Well, it turns out, not very easily.
To pause when we are upset and in conflict requires us to manage very powerful, involuntary impulses.
Deep in our emotional brain there are two almond shaped masses of cells called the amygdala.
One of the amygdala’s main roles is to determine whether something in our environment threatens our survival. Particularly things like lions or tigers or bears…
If the amygdala decides we are threatened, it initiates a cascade of physiological processes: It expands the bronchi so we can get more oxygen, reduces the blood flow to our thinking brain, and floods our system with adrenalin for quick action. All to prepare us to fight, or to flee.
This reaction is virtually instantaneous and largely out of our control.
And it’s that way by design. If our fate had depended upon the slower, more deliberate parts of our brain, well…let’s just say it wouldn’t have been pretty.
Now while this sensitivity is perfect for the jungle — and has been essential to our success as a species — it isn’t a good fit for the office. The amygdala doesn’t do a good job, for instance, of distinguishing between a threat to our lives and threats to our career or feelings or sense of identity.
An angry or even a disappointed co-worker can trigger a similar, “fight or flight” reaction.
The bottom line is this: When we have difficult conversations or conflicts at work, we have to manage the inevitable fact that, physiologically at least, we are going to be primed to fight or flee.
And that makes pausing difficult.
Fortunately, though there are no quick fixes, there are effective things we can do to strengthen our pause muscle. Many involve getting our thinking brain into the mix.
More to come…