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Are you winning or losing?

By | David Klaasen | Helping You Create Clarity, Inspire Your People & Drive Performance | Retain your best people | Changing Management Mindsets and Behaviour | Practical Behaviour Analytics

Do you ever feel people aren’t listening to you – especially when you know you are right? Well consider this; when you decide you are right the other person must be wrong, which means you are probably not listening to them! It’s interesting to see that whenever a contentious issue is being discussed, people seem to put more effort into being ‘right’ than finding a solution that will benefit the business. In their determination to be heard and to score points they don’t listen to one another; it becomes a battle for status. Unconsciously they are actually seeing each other as a dangerous threat, so vital insights and possible solutions are missed and by trying to win, both lose. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Accidental connections

Recent studies show that if situations like the one above aren’t managed, a cocktail of neurochemicals like adrenalin and norepinephrine are released by the brain and the limbic system is activated. The limbic system is a region of the brain that triggers emotions and memories that may be many years – if not decades – old. Once aroused it thinks very pessimistically and makes accidental connections. This creates a strong ‘fight or flight’ response because it is looking for problems and remembering painful emotions.

In his fascinating book “Your Brain at Work” David Rock explains that the balance of how we feel amongst others is actually dictated by our perception of Status. Your brain maintains and continuously updates complex maps of the “Pecking Order” of the people around you.  The studies he mentions in the book show that you create a representation of your own and someone else’s status in the brain whenever you communicate and this influences how you react with others.  Changes in status (your perception of the pecking order) bring about changes in how millions of neurons are connected. This is powerful stuff because it’s one of the primary rewards or threats in human beings.

Rock mentions that “If you have ever been in a relationship where one partner starts earning more money than the other you will have perceived these wide-scale changes in brain circuitry taking place and which can bring some interesting challenges”.

Uppers and downers

When we have a sense of increased status we feel wonderful because the brain releases a dose of dopamine and serotonin, the hormones that make us happier. Cortisol levels, a marker of stress, go down and Testosterone levels go up, helping you to feel strong and confident and even improving your sex drive. According to the latest research this positive combination of happy neurochemicals provides us with an increase in the number of new connections made per hour in the brain. This means better awareness of others and better access to the subtle neural connections that can make us more intelligent and helps us live longer.

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