Did you know that you can judge whether a person is a threat or a friend in .07 sec.? This is our subconscious mind at work in our defence. If we get the message that they are not trustworthy we engage the primitive part of our brain that creates a stress response and releases the stress hormones. In doing so they shut down the part of our brain that can reason, make executive decisions and work out challenges. This executive brain is where we trust others, treat one another with empathy and understanding, have insight and creativity. If we feel we can trust another person, we put out a different batch of hormones that makes us feel good, feel more talkative & excited and creates bonding.
The things that threaten us from trusting the other person are things like, the tone of their voice if we feel they are being judgemental; if they are saying something that is hurtful, minimising us or making us feel bad; if we feel like we are taking risks and we’re scared; if we feel excluded; if we feel that someone is angry at us; if they’re making us feel that they are much more important than we are. If we feel threatened the stress hormones are released and the executive brain shuts down.
The brain doesn’t know that it is not a literal life and death decision if our ideas get attacked at a meeting or if we get dressed down by the boss. The workplace environment has a real impact on physical health, especially in a workplace with high levels of stress and an abundance of deadline pressure. When we are in a state of fear, our conversations are going to be shaped by the chemicals that the stress response produces.
The words we use carry meaning. It may take only one word or a single conversation to tip the balance from trust to distrust. Be mindful of your conversations and the emotional content you bring – either pain or pleasure……Are you sending friend or foe messages? Remember the words we use in our conversations are rarely neutral.
Uncertainty causes the fear networks to take control of our brains leading to lack of trust. When the stress response is activated by what is called the amygdala, it activates another area which stores all our old memories. Once triggered, this part of the brain begins to remember other similar hurts and threats and lumps them together into a scary movie. We add in old memories about the person, ideas, beliefs or stuff we make up. This of course creates feelings that may or may not have a pattern that has been programmed into us over the years. In other words we label the interaction as ‘feel good’ or ‘feel bad.’ Those feelings can create thoughts, where we put words to the feelings, we make it mean something. Once we have that story up and running we add in the beliefs, drawing on our past experiences and this affirms our thoughts. The last step is to draw conclusions about the situation.
To create the feelings of appreciation, sharing and celebrating, we need to step back down that process and have an open conversation with that person so you can build the bridge to trust. How do we do that? Notice how we react to threats; label our reaction as normal; notice if we always choose the same reaction to threat; choose an alternative way to react – breathe in calmly, breathe out as you relax, share how you are feeling; realise we can override our emotions and shift into other responses. This is what all my work is about, helping people find these other responses that work the best for them. We are all different and respond to different tools and alternative ways to create a path of trust with the other person.
If we can have a healthy safe conversation with another person, we have the ability to get on the same page and this bridges the gaps between “how you see things and how I see things.”
There are conversational blind spots: assuming that others see what we see, feel what we feel, and think what we think; failing to realise that fear, trust and distrust change how we see and interpret reality; an inability to stand in each other’s shoes when we are fearful or upset and the power to connect becomes disconnected; assuming that we remember what others say, when we actually remember what we think about what others say – we drop out of conversations every 12-18 secs to process what people are saying; assuming that the meaning is in the speaker, when in fact it resides in the listener until the speaker takes the time to check whether their message has ‘landed’ or not.
The importance for people is to allocate 7% on words, 38% on tone of voice & 55% on non-verbal communication. For effective communication these 3 aspects have to support one another.
If you have enjoyed this article, take note that this material came from Judith Glaser’s book, “Conversational Intelligence, How Great Leaders Build Trust and Get Extraordinary Results.” Although she is addressing the behaviour of Leaders in our world today, any of us can decide to improve the quality of our conversations which will improve the quality of our relationships.
Remember you have the power to change the quality of your conversations at any moment if you choose to. Something as simple as a thought can create havoc if we allow it to.
Start paying attention to those thoughts as see if you can turn them around. If you need help to work this out so you can make changes and move through your challenges, make an appointment to see me for a free, ‘Discover Emotional Empowerment’ consultation session.