by Judith E. Glaser
Truth Be Told—About Our Brains and Relationships
The Creating WE Institute has discovered that we have two types of reactions in conversations—one causes us pleasure – and opens our brain, and one causes us pain and closes our brain. Appreciation is pleasure and opens the brain; negative judgment is pain and closes the brain. That’s according to our 3 decades of research with organizations of all sizes.
So, which message are you sending:“You can trust me to have your best interest at heart” or “I want to persuade you to think about things my way?” Think of how you can create the conversational space that affords deeper understanding and engagement rather than fear and avoidance. Be mindful of your conversations and their emotional content—either pain or pleasure.
Being aware of these meta-messages, you create a safe culture for open, candid, caring conversations, allowing all parties to interact at the highest level, sharing perspectives, feelings, and aspirations, while elevating insights and wisdom.
Our brains are designed to be social. Our need for belonging is more powerful than our need for safety. Rejection, on the other hand, brings on the same pain in the brain centers and body as a car crash. But, when we are shown love, respect, and honor, it triggers the same centers in the brain as when we eat chocolate, have sex, or are on drugs. Learning this will change how you lead.
From birth, we learn to avoid physical pain and move toward physical pleasure. Over time, we learn to avoid pain to protect ourselves from ego pain, building habits and patterns of behavior that keep us safe from feeling belittled or embarrassed.
At work this may translate into avoiding a person who competes with you when you speak up, to avoiding a boss who sends you silent signals of disappointment.
Pain can also come from what you anticipate—not from what is real. If you imagine that expressing annoyance to colleagues will lead to an argument, just the thought of having that conversation will produce the social pain of being rejected.
The feared implications of pain become so real for us that we seek avoidance, since confronting a person with a difficult conversation may lead to rejection or embarrassment. Our emotions are tied directly to feelings of pain and pleasure—in fact they are the source of pain and pleasure. But, instead of fleeing and suppressing our emotions, we need to find a way to express our concerns in healthy ways. More on that in my next blog on The Neuroscience of Conversations.
Judith E. Glaser is CEO of Benchmark Communications, Inc. and Chairman of The Creating WE Institute. She is an Organizational Anthropologist, and consults to Fortune 500 Companies. Judith is the author of 4 best-selling business books, including her newest, Conversational Intelligence: How Great Leaders Build Trust and Get Extraordinary Results (Bibliomotion, 2013) Also, visit www.creatingwe.com or contact Judith at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 212-307-4386.