When Trust is Absent

trust-fear

By Judith E. Glaser | stada.org.sg
Published: July 1, 2014

trust-fearA decade ago, I had a coaching client, Jack, who had been hired as the new president of a global publishing company, poised to transform its offerings from print to digital. Some even saw Jack as the next CEO. However, when Jack interacted with me, he came across as a tough, arrogant executive who lived inside his head and didn’t share his feelings. In retrospect, I know we were caught in our biases about each other, trapped in a dance of distrust.

In conversation with others, perhaps even before we open our mouths, we size them up and determine whether we trust or distrust them; our brains are ready to either open up or close down. In good conversations, we know where we stand with others—we feel safe, connected, trusted.  Bad conversations trigger our fear and distrust.

What made my conversations with Jack so bad? When what we say, what we hear, and what we mean are not in agreement, we retreat into our heads and make up stories that help us reconcile the discrepancies.

My inability to have an open and trusting conversation with Jack led me to start making “movies” about him in my head, being critical of his ways, his style, and his intentions. I left empathy behind and put judgment first. He, too, was composing, directing, and starring in a “movie in his mind” about who he was, what he needed to do to be successful, and why I was wrong and he was right.

I realize now that my fear of failure made me push Jack harder. We were both caught up in being right, wanting to win, trying to persuade each other to our point of view, operating out of the part of the primitive brain called the amygdale—hardwired with the well-developed instincts of fight, flight, freeze, or appease. When our brains lock down, we are no longer open to influence.

I was caught in the Tell–Sell–Yell Syndrome—tell them once, try to sell them, and then yell to gain power over others. But the more I pushed, the less he listened. His mind was closed to new ways of seeing the situation.

Jack and I never built trust—the foundation for open, candid, caring conversations. When we experience gaps between what we feel in the moment, what we think, and what we mean, then what we “hear” is altered toward distrust.

Jack and I soon fired each other, and, within six months he was asked to leave the company. While he failed to connect in ways that would help him meet his challenges, I failed to help him open up his mind and see the world through others’ eyes.

Brain Drain: No Brain, No Gain

When we look through the eyes of Conversational intelligence™ (C-IQ), we can better understand what happens in our brains when we are fearful and distrustful. Fear resides in our lower brain. When we feel like we are excluded, minimized, disconnected or rejected, our brain produces more cortisol that closes down our ability to see reality in healthy ways; in fact, we move in to a state of distrust. 

When trust is absent, we see REALITY with threatened eyes, and we:

  •  Reveal less than what we know or what is helpful to move forward
  •  Expect more than what is possible
  •  Assume the worst in others
  •  Look at situations with caution
  •  Interpret communications with fear
  •  Tell secrets we promised not to tell
  •  Yes people to avoid confronting truth

When we are in a state of distrust, the world feels threatening. Threats make us retreat. They make us feel we need to protect. We are more sensitive to feeling wrong, or feeling embarrassed, and we behave differently.

Hijack: Hit the Road, Jack

Neuroscientists say that high levels of threat give us an “Amygdala Hijack,” which is when fear networks are activated in our brains and we “fight, flee, freeze, or appease others.”

Here are Seven Universal Threats that give us an Amygdala Hijack:

  • Tone threat—judgmental or angry tone is felt as a threat to our ego
  • Hurt threat—threat to our physical safety
  • Risk and punishment threat—taking risks, fear of failure or making mistakes
  • Exclusion threat—looking stupid in front of others and being ostracized
  • Anger threat—fear of someone’s anger toward us, and not knowing how to respond
  • Territory threat—having our territory limited or diminished, or encroached
  • Status threat—challenge to our status, or making us feel small.

Sadly, many people and organizations operate in a perpetual state of distrust and fear—feeling they can’t speak their truth to each other. For example, a Golin-Harris survey found that 69 percent of respondents agreed with the statement, “I just don’t know who to trust anymore.” A fearful state of mind alters how we see and experience reality, how we interact with others, and how much we engage, innovate, and speak our mind.

When we feel we judged, criticized, rejected—when we feel we don’t fit in or are embarrassed in front of others—we often choose to go into “radio silence” rather than openly and honestly address those feelings with high C-IQ.

Neuroscience of Trust: Two Tips

Our level of trust is often changed by the way we share information in conversations. Conversations trigger physical and emotional changes in our brains and bodies by altering the amounts of two powerful hormones that affect social interaction: oxytocin, which enables bonding and collaboration, and testosterone, which triggers aggressive behaviors.

Jack and I were victims of an Amygdala hijack. However, you can experience a Limbic high and have rewarding conversations by practicing these two powerful C-IQ tips.  

C-IQ Tip 1: See all conversations as potentially rewarding.  

If the interaction feels good, we have more oxytocin and relax. Trust is enhanced by oxytocin, which gets us to be socially interactive and engage in mutually rewarding conversations. If we sense that the interaction will be punishing, we feel more aggressive and distrustful and move into protect behaviors.” Under stress, testosterone levels are increased. Testosterone works against oxytocin, as does cortisol, another powerful hormone increased by stress. The balance between these hormones and the neural systems they interact with give us the feelings of trust or distrust.

C-IQ Tip 2: Learn the Conversational Agility – Reframe, Refocus and Redirect

Since distrust takes place in the lower brain (Amygdala and Limbic areas) and trust takes place in the higher brain (Prefrontal Cortex), we need to learn how to move to higher ground when we sense an impending hijack. Remember you have the ability to ‘move the conversation’ forward into more productive and insightful directions. For example, Reframing a challenging and distrustful conversation as – an opportunity to build a more trusting relationship – signals our brains that ‘we are open to learn’ ‘open to connect’, and ‘open to discuss how to make the relationship better.’ This is called Conversational Agility and it is one of the most powerful skill sets in the universe. It actually redirects our brain to our higher brain centers – opening the door and opening new pathways for success.

View From the Window

lookback-move-forward

By Judith E. Glaser | psychologytoday.com
Published: June 26, 2014

look-back-move-forwardOn July 6, 2014, I sat in a plane parked off a runway at the San Francisco airport, our flight delayed after it was ready to take off. The pilot announced we would need to be patient as engineers worked on the air conditioning system. So, we sat patiently awaiting our departure at 11 a.m.

After about 10 minutes, the captain gave another announcement: “We are seeing some problems on the tarmac, very serious problems. We are not sure if we can take off at this moment. Please take a look out the left windows of the plane. A large plane has crashed—the tail is missing, and it’s on fire.”

We were on the tarmac right next to Flight 214. My husband and I had a view from the window. We also turned on our cells phones, went right to Google, and could see close-up photos of the smoke billowing out of the top of the plane.

From the reports, we learned that South Korean Asiana Flight 214 crashed because the pilots relied on automatic equipment to maintain airspeed and did not realize the plane was flying too slowly until it was just 200 feet above the ground.

The crash killed two passengers instantly—one later died in the hosptial—and injured about 180 other people. Four flight attendants were ejected from the plane after its tail hit a seawall in front of the runway. They were found injured but alive on the side of the runway.

 

The buzz in our plane was rising as people sat glued to their windows, asking questions: Was it terrorists? Who was hurt? Would the plane explode? Would we die?

View From the Window
We each have our personal views from the window—profoundly emotional events that we either experience or observe firsthand. These moments become the movies of our mind that we visit, re-experience and re-interpret over and over again. Some are painfully horrible to remember as this one was, and we can’t let go of them. We become voyeurs of our own minds, trying to make sense of what we’ve seen.

Our movies become our reality. They become the foundation upon which we base our interpretations. From these remembered experiences, we harvest new realities that we share with others. Powerful experiences do not lie dormant in our minds—they stir us to think more, interpret more, and pass along our thoughts to others—thus influencing their view from the window.

Neuroscience of Conversations
When we have frightening experiences, our fear network located in the primitive part of the brain, is activated, as cortisol and adrenalin bathe the brain, chemically alerting us to move cautiously through a possibly hazardous environment.

Once this fear pattern is initiated, we draw on stored memories located in the primitive brain and the hippocampus to help us interpret what is happening in front of our eyes. Our memories of fearful experiences and the reality we are currently experiencing become connected and entwined. While this mechanism helps us make meaning of what is going on in the present, it also causes us to make up stuff or embellish the observable, objective story.

Emotional Events at Work
We also experience emotionally charged events at work: conflicts, financial losses, team disagreements, failures, two division leaders having a fall-out. These are the fires we see out of our view from the window at work. We recall other memories of such clashes and crashes to help us understand what we are currently experiencing, and as we talk through our feelings with colleagues, our interpretations may ignite a fire of fear and distrust that can explode through entire departments.

Conversational Intelligence Tips

Here are some Conversational Intelligence neuro-tips for leaders to help you when fires and crashes occur at your workplace. The key is to step into a leadership role that reduces fear to contain the fires before they spread.

1. Be present and available.
Your people spend an inordinate amount of time watching everything you do, especially during conflicts. Negativity and fear are contagious, and you set and carry the tone. If you often hide behind closed doors, don’t seem to be listening during conversations, spend a lot of time reminiscing about the past, or talk about a future that seems unconnected to the present, people will read things into your actions and words and start imagining negative stuff. So, be present, available and open to talk about the truth of what is actually happening so that others do not interpret incorrectly.

2. Tell people where they stand.
When disagreements and conflict fill your organizational terrain, remember that fear sends our thoughts to the worst-case scenario movies of our minds. We obsess: What will happen to me? Leaders need to tell people where they stand; yet many leaders resist doing so because they fear it will lead to unmet expectations or broken promises. When leaders speak truth, their employees often discover that their imagined fears were much worse than reality.

3. Provide context in every communication.
A picture with a frame becomes a different picture. Without a framework of understanding, fear can be elevated by confusion and uncertainty. For example, I work with a technology company that is growing rapidly. The chief financial officer, who came from a large company, told his staff when he first arrived: “Go out and hire your replacement.”

He thought his message was clear: “I want you to hire someone capable of filling your shoes because given all this growth and how wonderful you all are, I anticipate promoting each and every one of you.”

His staff heard: “Hire your replacement because none of you are good enough and you all will be fired soon.”

Not surprisingly, his employees grew anxious. A fire erupted in this workplace. Morale and performance suffered. When I explained to the CFO what his people had heard, he instantly understood what he had done. He called a meeting to explain that he wanted his people to go out and search for their own replacements as part of planning for the future and to make it easier for him to promote them when the time was right.

Context is critical. In this case, adding proper context to the conversation made people feel good about themselves and the company—their fear receded and performance improved.

Putting Out Fires
After my brush with Asiana Flight 214, I found myself haunted by images of the burning plane. This may happen with fires at work. Indeed, it is hard for us to let go of fear when we’ve been burned in the past. However, by practicing these three powerful Conversational Intelligence Neuro-tips, you can extinguish potential office conflagrations and keep fear out of the pilot’s seat and passengers’ minds.

 

Getting Past the Barriers to Collaboration

glaser-innovation-excellence-panel

By Doug Williams | ideaslaboratory.com
Published: June 23, 2014

glaser-innovation-excellence-panelThe following is an article excerpt – See more at: http://www.ideaslaboratory.com/2014/06/23/getting-past-the-barriers-to-collaboration/#sthash.AXUNJ6Ls.dpuf

‘Not-invented-here’ syndrome is a rallying call for some who cling to the notion that innovation must come from within the company to have any value….

There may be more at play here than agreeing on a common definition for a specific term like collaboration. A different term altogether may be required in order to find a new way of working and innovating. At an Innovation Excellence hosted panel discussion earlier this year, Judith Glaser, CEO and founder of Benchmark Communications, made the point that human beings need to change the brain to accept a new way of looking at the world. The context of the discussion at that moment was related to the disruption occurring today in religion, but as you’ll see, Ms. Glaser’s specific comment is apropos to our topic:

The word collaboration, in the dictionary, is ‘cohorting with the enemy,’… The word you use every day… in our brain, to collaborate, is to cohort with the enemy. So you are always questioning whether the person you are interacting with is someone you can trust.

The word co-creation is not. It’s about creating the same picture of reality together. Instead of you and I having different realities and then fighting over whose reality is right, which is what we do most of the time when we defend our point of view, this all of a sudden changes the meaning of how human beings can engage with one another.

(You can access the video here; Ms. Glaser’s comments occur at the 20:29 mark.)

– See more at: http://www.ideaslaboratory.com/2014/06/23/getting-past-the-barriers-to-collaboration/#sthash.AXUNJ6Ls.dpuf

 

Conversational Neurochemistry

Neurochemistry-of-conversations

By Judith E. Glaser | psychologytoday.com
Published: June 23, 2014

Neurochemistry-of-conversationsPractice “mind opening” psychology in your teams and organizations

Why do negative and judgmental comments and conversations—especially from people in positions of authority—stick with us so much longer than positive ones?

Once I coached a senior executive from Verizon, Rob, who thought of himself as a “best practices” leader who told people what to do, set clear goals, and challenged his team to produce quality results. But when one of his direct reports had a heart attack and three others asked HR to be transferred off his team, Rob realized there was a problem.

After observing Rob’s conversational patterns for a few weeks, I saw clearly that his negative behaviors (which produce cortisol) easily outweighed his positive behaviors (which produce oxytocin). Instead of asking questions to stimulate discussion, showing concern for others, and painting a compelling picture of shared success, he tended to tell and sell his ideas, entering most discussions with a fixed opinion, determined to convince others he was right. He was not open to others’ influence; he failed to listen to connect.

When I explained this to Rob and told him about the chemical impact of his behavior on his employees, he vowed to change, and it worked. A few weeks later, a member of his team even asked me: “What did you give my boss to drink?”

 

The Job of Rob (and all Managers)

A critique from a boss, a disagreement with a colleague, a fight with a friend—the sting from any of these can make you forget a month’s worth of praise or accord. If you have been called lazy, careless, or a disappointment, you’re likely to remember and internalize it. It’s somehow easier to forget or discount all the times people have said you’re talented or conscientious or that you make them proud.

Chemistry plays a big role in our conversational interactions. When we face criticism, rejection or fear, or when we feel marginalized or minimized, our bodies produce higher levels of cortisol, a hormone that shuts down the thinking center of our brains and activates conflict aversion and protection behaviors. We become more reactive and sensitive. We often perceive even greater judgment and negativity than actually exists. And these effects can last for 26 hours or more, imprinting the interaction on our memories and magnifying the impact it has on our future behavior. Cortisol functions like a sustained-release tablet—the more we ruminate about our fear, the longer the impact.

Positive comments and conversations produce a chemical reaction, too. They spur the production of oxytocin, a feel-good hormone that elevates our ability to communicate, collaborate, and trust others by activating networks in our prefrontal cortex. But oxytocin metabolizes more quickly than cortisol, so its effects are less dramatic and less long-lasting.

Chemical Cocktails

This chemistry of conversations is linked to a whole new science of what opens up and closes down our minds, hearts, and brains to other human beings and to the world around us. When our minds are triggered by fear we close down and move into protect behavior. Trigging can take place in a nanosecond, which we now know can be a fast as .07 seconds. When our lower brain—or amygdala—is threatened, the levels of cortisol rise, which creates an immediate “shut down” of our prefrontal cortex— our “executive brain” that enables strategic thinking, empathy, connectivity with others, innovative thing, and most of all, trust. When we are in an “extreme trigger,” we get what is called an “amygdala hijack.”

Seven Universal Threats That Give Us an Amygdala Hijack:

  • Tone threat—judgmental or angry tone is felt as a threat to our ego
  • Hurt threat—threat to our physical safety and to our ego
  • Risk of rejection threat—fear of failure or making mistakes and being rejected
  • Exclusion threat—looking stupid in front of others and being ostracized
  • Anger threat—fear of someone’s anger toward us and not knowing how to respond
  • Territory threat—having our territory limited or diminished, or encroached
  • Status threat—challenge to our status or making us feel small

That’s why it’s so critical for all of us—especially managers and leaders—to be more mindful about our interactions and more conscious about our conversations and behaviors. In a fraction of a second, we can activate an extreme trigger (ET) and when we do, we cannot act intelligently—we are in a state of protection—or access our higher-thinking powers. Those behaviors that increase cortisol levels also reduce our conversational intelligence (C-IQ), our ability to connect and think innovatively, empathetically, creatively, and strategically with others. Behaviors that enable us to connect, collaborate, and co-create will spark oxytocin and boost C-IQ.

 Amplifying Insight Through the Lens of Research

To amplify and explain what opens and what closes down our brains during conversations, my consultancy, The Creating WE Institute, partnered with Ryan Smith, CEO of Qualtrics, the world’s largest online survey software company, to analyze the frequency of negative (cortisol-producing) versus positive (oxytocin-producing) interactions in today’s workplaces. My goal was to find a way to examine and further understand the impact of conversations that enables companies to thrive or limits their growth. Over the past 30 years, I’ve helped leaders at companies including Boehringer Ingelheim, Clairol, Donna Karen, Exide Technologies, Burberry, and Coach learn to boost performance with better C-IQ during their most challenging business transformations. With the power of quantitative analytics, we added another dimension to bring insights to the conversations about conversations.

For our research, we asked managers how often they engaged in several behaviors—some which open our brain and others which close down our brain—on a scale of 0 through 5, where 0 was “never” and 5 was “always.”

Implications: Certainty and Uncertainty in Relationships and Conversations

Our research with 2,000 executives shows, that in general, people more frequently favor behaviors that produce more oxytocin than cortisol. Questions in blue open people up to trust and connect with each other, while questions in red close people down and cause distrust. Survey respondents said that they exhibited all five positive behaviors (e.g., showing concern for others) more frequently than all five negative ones (e.g., pretending to be listening). However, most respondents—about 85 percent—also admitted to “sometimes” acting in ways that could derail not only specific interactions but also future relationships. In fact, the breakdown of respondents’ answers shows that some people exhibit the “cortisol producing behaviors” very frequently. Unfortunately, when leaders exhibit both types of behaviors, it creates dissonance or uncertainty in others’ brains, spurring higher levels of cortisol production and reducing CI-Q.

When we are in a state of uncertainty we begin to move back into fear, creating a cycle of distrust in the organization. Fear trumps trust because cortisol trumps oxytocin. The impact of cortisol is more far-reaching in our brain, an amazing organ that has evolved over the billions of years to protect us from harm.

When trust is absent, we see REALITY with threatened eyes, and we:

  • Reveal less than what we know or what is helpful to move forward
  • Expect more than what is possible
  • Assume the worst in others
  • Look at situations with caution
  • Interpret communications with fear
  • Tell secrets we promised not to tell
  • Yes people to avoid confronting truth

When we are in a state of uncertainty and distrust, the world feels threatening. Threats make us retreat and feel the need to protect. We are more sensitive to feeling wrong or embarrassed, and we behave differently.

I’m not suggesting that we can’t ever demand results or deliver difficult feedback. But we need to do so in a way that is perceived as inclusive and supportive to limit cortisol production and stimulate oxytocin production.

Be mindful of your words, body language, and behaviors that open people up, and those that close people down, in your relationships. To gain greater influence, harness both the chemistry and psychology of conversations.

Neuroscience of Trust:

1. Neuro-Tip #1: Trust is the feeling of “I am safe and I know you have my back.” Trust is associated with the release of the neurotransmitter oxytocin, which is considered to be associated with love, bonding, collaboration, and elevating trust and is viewed, according to neuroscientists, as the expectation of benevolence. Distrust, on the other hand, is associated with the release of cortisol, the fear hormone, and is associated with the expectation of malevolence.

NEURO-INSIGHT: Our brain picks up signals of trust and distrust at the same time and is often in a state of uncertainty.

ACTION: When you want to build a healthy relationship, you can prime a conversation for higher levels of trust by priming for trust.

  • Priming: Walk into a conversation with an open, non-judgmental mindset. That way, you can influence your own brain and that of others to choose to be influenced by the trust signals over the distrust signals.

Richard D. Glaser contributed to this article. He received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry and has worked in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries for his entire professional career. He is a founding member of The CreatingWE Institute.

 

 

Positivity inspires

inspire-positivity

By Judith E. Glaser | economictimes.indiatimes.com
Published: June 21, 2014

inspire-positivityWhy do negative comments and conversations stick with us longer than positive ones? Chemistry plays a big role. When we face criticism, rejection or fear, our bodies produce higher levels of cortisol, a hormone that shuts down the thinking center of our brains and activates conflict aversion and protection behaviours. We become more reactive and sensitive, perceive greater judgement and negativity than exists.

And these effects can last for 26 hours or more, magnifying the impact it has on our future behaviour. Cortisol functions like a sustained-release tablet —the more we ruminate about our fear, the longer the impact. Positive comments and conversations spur the production of oxytocin, a feel-good hormone that elevates our ability to communicate, collaborate and trust others by activating networks in our prefrontal cortex. But oxytocin metabolises quickly than cortisol, so its effects are less dramatic and long-lasting.

This “chemistry of conversations” is why it’s critical for us —especially managers — to be more mindful about our interactions. Behaviours that increase cortisol levels reduce what I call “Conversational Intelligence” or “C-IQ,” or a person’s ability to connect creatively and strategically with others. Behaviours that spark oxytocin, by contrast, raise C-IQ.

Building Trust: The One Skill We Can’t Live Without

trust-faded-yellow

By Judith E. Glaser | huffingtonpost.com
Published: June 17, 2014

trust-faded-yellow

Most of us would acknowledge that building trust is a key part of our lives. We may even think we know how to size up whether to trust someone at that moment of contact when we first meet, or perhaps in whom we choose to hire or work with.

But, if everyone thinks along similar lines, why does it always seem like no one trusts each other? In 75 percent of companies surveyed, employees don’t trust their bosses, bosses don’t trust their employees and when it comes down to it, your customers don’t seem to trust any of you.

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way. We can create healthy environments where trust is the currency and success is the outcome.

At the Moment of Contact

The decision to trust or distrust someone takes just a moment. That moment — whether it be a handshake, a telephone call or an email — locks in a relationship trajectory that may last for weeks, months or even possibly a lifetime. Our brains, having evolved over millions of years, are conditioned to make snap judgments in identifying our friends and foes — those people that we trust to act in our best interest as opposed to those that seek to take advantage of us.
It’s vital to begin building trust once we understand it. Trust begins and maintains a relationship, while distrust in some cases ends it. For simplicity’s sake, let’s define what I mean by trust and distrust.

Trust looks like this:
I trust that you and I share the same view of reality. I trust that you will have my best interests at heart (you care about me); that you will not cause me to fear you; you will allow me to speak my voice without fear of retribution so I can be open and candid with you and share everything that’s on my mind. (You demonstrate that you are my friend, not my foe.)

Distrust looks like this:
You and I see the world very differently. We disagree on what’s important. I feel you have your own interests at heart and could care less about mine. You talk out of two sides of your mouth–one to me, and another to your closest buddies. I am afraid to share what’s on my mind for fear you’ll use it against me. (In truth, you act like a foe, not a friend.)

Opening or Closing Our Minds
It is essential to recognize how trust and distrust drive so many of our personal interactions and relationships. To understand them in a different way, consider the simple analogy of a door that guards the pathway to our inner self. When we feel trust, we readily open that door, leading to an exchange of thoughts, feelings and dreams with someone else. When we distrust someone, thinking that he or she is somehow a threat, you can bet we will slam our door as quickly as possible as we begin to defend ourselves.

Unfortunately, our brains don’t always make the best judgments relative to our long-term interests when it comes to deciding which door: Our neural programming is designed to make split second decisions right now, not consider the consequences down the road. That’s why, especially in times of stress as we see in so many workplaces these days, we can find doors slamming left and right.

Unintended Consequences
The downside of making snap decisions is that we might be misinterpreting the signals we’re receiving from our bosses and co-workers, leading us to mislabel friends as foes. Perhaps we have trusted someone in the past, only to have that person stab us in the back. (Just ask any of Bernard Madoff’s investors about that dilemma.) We might even be unknowingly sending out signals of our own, causing others to distrust us even when we think we have the other person’s best interests at heart.

Conversational Intelligence™ Neuro-tip #1: Our brain responds to signals of threat in .07 seconds. The response is chemical; we don’t have conscious control over the speed or the response; it’s instinctual. Fear triggers the primitive brain — called the Amygdala — and activates a neurotransmitter called cortisol, which closes down our Prefrontal Cortex (also called our Executive Brain), where truth, judgment and trust reside.

 

The Neurochemistry of Positive Conversations

Neurochemistry-of-conversations

By Judith E. Glaser & Richard D. Glaser | blogs.hbr.org
Published: June 12, 2014

Neurochemistry-of-conversations Why do negative comments and conversations stick with us so much longer than positive ones?

A critique from a boss, a disagreement with a colleague, a fight with a friend – the sting from any of these can make you forget a month’s worth of praise or accord. If you’ve been called lazy, careless, or a disappointment, you’re likely to remember and internalize it. It’s somehow easier to forget, or discount, all the times people have said you’re talented or conscientious or that you make them proud.

Chemistry plays a big role in this phenomenon. When we face criticism, rejection or fear, when we feel marginalized or minimized, our bodies produce higher levels of cortisol, a hormone that shuts down the thinking center of our brains and activates conflict aversion and protection behaviors. We become more reactive and sensitive. We often perceive even greater judgment and negativity than actually exists. And these effects can last for 26 hours or more, imprinting the interaction on our memories and magnifying the impact it has on our future behavior. Cortisol functions like a sustained-release tablet – the more we ruminate about our fear, the longer the impact.

Positive comments and conversations produce a chemical reaction too. They spur the production of oxytocin, a feel-good hormone that elevates our ability to communicate, collaborate and trust others by activating networks in our prefrontal cortex. But oxytocin metabolizes more quickly than cortisol, so its effects are less dramatic and long-lasting.

This “chemistry of conversations” is why it’s so critical for all of us –especially managers – to be more mindful about our interactions. Behaviors that increase cortisol levels reduce what I call “Conversational Intelligence” or “C-IQ,” or a person’s ability to connect and think innovatively, empathetically, creatively and strategically with others. Behaviors that spark oxytocin, by contrast, raise C-IQ.

Over the past 30 years, I’ve helped leaders at companies including Boehringer Ingelheim, Clairol, Donna Karen, Exide Technologies, Burberry, and Coach learn to boost performance with better C-IQ. Recently, my consultancy, The CreatingWE Institute, also partnered with Ryan Smith, CEO of Qualtrics, the world’s largest online survey software company, to analyze the frequency of negative (cortisol-producing) versus positive (oxytocin-producing) interactions in today’s workplaces. We asked managers how often they engaged in several behaviors — some positive, and others negative — on a scale of 0 through 5, in which 0 was “never” and 5 was “always.”

Conversational Behavior Chart

The good news is that managers appear to be using positive, oxytocin and C-IQ elevating behaviors more often than negative behaviors. Survey respondents said that they exhibited all five positive behaviors, such as “showing concern for others” more frequently than all five negative ones, such as “pretending to be listening.” However, most respondents – approximately 85% — also admitted to “sometimes” acting in ways that could derail not only specific interactions but also future relationships. And, unfortunately, when leaders exhibit both types of behaviors it creates dissonance or uncertainty in followers’ brains, spurring cortisol production and reducing CI-Q.

Consider Rob, a senior executive from Verizon. He thought of himself as a “best practices” leader who told people what to do, set clear goals, and challenged his team to produce high quality results. But when one of his direct reports had a minor heart attack, and three others asked HR to move to be transferred off his team, he realized there was a problem.

Observing Rob’s conversational patterns for a few weeks, I saw clearly that the negative (cortisol-producing) behaviors easily outweighed the positive (oxytocin-producing) behaviors. Instead of asking questions to stimulate discussion, showing concern for others, and painting a compelling picture of shared success, his tendency was to tell and sell his ideas, entering most discussions with a fixed opinion, determined to convince others he was right. He was not open to others’ influence; he failed to listen to connect.

When I explained this to Rob, and told him about the chemical impact his behavior was having on his employees, he vowed to change, and it worked. A few weeks later, a member of his team even asked me: “What did you give my boss to drink?”

I’m not suggesting that you can’t ever demand results or deliver difficult feedback. But it’s important to do so in a way that is perceived as inclusive and supportive, thereby limiting cortisol production and hopefully stimulating oxytocin instead. Be mindful of the behaviors that open us up, and those that close us down, in our relationships. Harness the chemistry of conversations.


You can also read the spanish version of this article here: http://desarrolloorganizacional.cesoftco.net/la-neuro-quimica-de-las-conversaciones-positivas/

Break Out the Office Cake. It Could Change Your Company

cake

By Judith E. Glaser |
Published: May 28, 2014

cake

May kicks off a season of celebrations, with Mother’s Day, Graduations, Weddings and Father’s Day. These events mark happy milestones where we recognize the people who are important in our lives and show them our appreciation. The season can teach companies a few lessons since our work lives don’t have the same built-in reminders to recognize, measure and reward those who make a successful business run. Great leaders know how essential these elements are to creating a fun place to work, and building a drama-free culture of trust and collaboration.  

Which means that office birthday cakes serve a purpose long after all the slices are doled out. Celebrations work wonders in the brain and meet people’s needs for inclusion, innovation, appreciation and collaboration. By releasing dopamine and other positive neurotransmitters, positive celebrations and intelligent conversations provide ways to socialize and share information while triggering healthy physical and emotional changes in the brain. In fact, the need for celebration is greater than the need for safety. Feeling socially excluded actually activates some of the same neural regions that are activated in response to physical pain and leads disengaged staffers to physically or emotionally check out.

Such social exclusion can create a vicious cycle. Disengaged employees can seem  uncooperative or unreasonable. Their managers, in response, can act counter-productively, avoiding these staffers, talking poorly about them, or passing them to HR ‘to be fixed.’ The tension isn’t relieved until the staffers are fired or decide on their own to quit. In the meantime, everyone involved resigns themselves to low satisfaction and performance.

These negative behaviors signal one thing: that the social and psychological needs that drive performance are not being met. All people have deep-seated needs for meaning, purpose, connection, and inclusion. These are needs that they want—and expect—to fulfill at work. Managers and staffers need to feel connected to each other and included in the decisions that impact their jobs. They also need to feel appreciated for their hard work and achievements and challenged to take risks.

Celebrating is just another way to build connections, leveraging social and psychological needs to fuel growth and productivity. Make it part of your culture to publicly recognize and thank coworkers for their contributions. Set milestones that bring groups together to work toward goals they can feel good about achieving. Make it easy for colleagues to know each other, either through happy hours or a break room designed for conversation. Celebrate the meeting of a need, and you can expect this need to become increasingly met going forward; fail to celebrate the meeting of a need and expect demoralization.

Navigational Listening

navigational-listening

By Judith E. Glaser |
Published: May 23, 2014

navigational-listeningFor a leader, listening is perhaps the most important component of communication. It’s essential for moving ideas from one person to another. Done well, it will enable you to collect information for timely and effective decision-making. The listening adult’s mind is never blank or completely impartial. Our listening is influenced by events, relationships and experiences — all adding to what we hear and its meaning. As objective as we would like to think we are when we listen, we actually are not.
We are also subject to the effects of our physical and emotional states. Being tired, angry, elated or stressed predisposes us to selective listening. These two forces — history plus emotional state — make up our listening capability at any point in the day.

Think of Yourself as a Listener
Try to recall a recent situation when you were a listener. It may have been a speech delivered by an executive, a discussion with a subordinate or an explanation from a peer. Did you listen to facts or to specific words? Did you paraphrase these words in your mind? Did the situation lead to new impressions, feelings and ideas? Were you affected by how the speaker stood, the volume of her voice or her appearance?
Did the speaker’s emotional tone bother you? Were you evaluating his effectiveness as a communicator? Or were you so preoccupied that you didn’t listen at all or only hear a little of what was said?
Still another question: What guided your listening? Individuals who hear the same speech often walk away with different impressions of what they heard.

The Untrained Listener
We hear one-seventh as fast as we think. While our mind has the time to listen, evidence suggests that we don’t always use that time well. Traditionally, ineffective listening has been viewed as a hearing problem. However, as we gain important new information about the effects of this uniquely human process on the effectiveness of an organization, we recognize that ineffective listening is much more.

Consider some of these common types of listening behavior in business:

  • “Noise in the Attic” Listening
    Like many people, some of us think that being a good listener is merely sitting silently while others talk. Outwardly, we appear to be listening. Inwardly, however, our mind is elsewhere, or we are making judgments about earlier comments. We end up preoccupied with our own internalizations.
  • “Face Value” Listening
    Sometimes, we think we are hearing facts when actually the words we’re hearing are our interpretations of situations or figures. This explains why executives, managers and staff sometimes differ dramatically in what they think they hear.
    Interpretations are influenced by our experiences. The more experiences we have, the more we should be able to interpret what we hear from the speaker’s perspective. Unfortunately, many adults hear only what they want to hear.
  • “Position” Listening
    We interpret the messages we hear by our position in the organization or concerns as a member of the organization. Employees, for instance, are constantly alert for clues to how their performance is being rated, reading their own interpretations into messages. A manager might listen to her president’s annual report to determine whether her division will be financed to grow further. What she hears in that talk could easily affect her performance during the year, as well as her relationships with co-workers. In business, executives need to focus on the interpersonal influencing process.

Navigational Listening
This is the style of listening that makes us better executives. It accepts that listening is not an end in itself but a part of a chain of processes that ends in a decision, strategy or change in behavior or viewpoint.
When driving to some place new, we often stop at a gas station for a map to navigate in unfamiliar territory. We need the map to drive efficiently and with less chance of an accident. If we get lost, we need only refer back to the map to find our way. Listening can be approached the same way.

Creating the Maps
Why we’re listening determines the type of information we listen for. Salespeople listen for customer concerns. Lawyers listen for their opponent’s faulty logic. Freudian psychiatrists listen for unconscious motivations. Training has taught all of them not to listen at face value and to use the time lag between their hearing and subsequent speaking to properly evaluate what is being said. At the same time, they don’t dismiss their emotional response to the speaker, their “feel” for the situation or their hunch of what might happen next.

A framework telling them how to influence a person’s thinking from Point A to Point B also guides these professionals. In sales, the marketing rep wants to influence a customer from a point of no interest to a commitment to buy. The lawyer tries to influence the jury to his or her point of view. The psychiatrist works to influence the patient toward new insights about personal behavior, motivations or a view of the world.

The Executive as Navigational Listener
In business, executives need to focus on the interpersonal influencing process. Who is being influenced to move him from Point A to Point B and why? Where is this conversation going? To what ideas, beliefs and behaviors is this person most committed in his life? Which of these ideas, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors need to be influenced for the person to be more effective on the job?

What do I know about this individual that will help me better understand her and what is being said? Are her problems or concerns such that we can effect real changes, or are they out of reach in the business context?

The executive examines the way he or she answers the employee to see how these answers affect the listening process. Will the employee listen better if the answers are short and sweet (“yes” or “no”), or will listening improve if these statements contain more background information? What kind of information will be helpful? What kind of questions will open thinking and facilitate connections that lead to greater insights and wisdom along the way?

In practicing navigational listening, the executive listens carefully to the employee’s answers — to phrasing and context used to get clues to the real meanings behind their words. Navigational listening expands the ability for both the manager and the employee to emerge smarter, more connected and more conversationally intelligent by opening up new insights that goes beyond the obvious — insights that reveal true wisdom.

– See more at: http://blog.c-suitenetwork.com/navigational-listening/#more-566