2 angry business people at laptopsWhen was the last time you experienced an awkward office interaction?

Navigating the complex world of human interaction is something we do on a daily basis, yet can still get wrong after years of practice.

Someone says the wrong thing, or says it in the wrong way, or to the wrong person, or doesn’t say anything when they should have said something…..  there are countless things that make us feel uncomfortable and send a conversation downhill very quickly.

Navigating the complex world of human interaction is something we do on a daily basis, yet can still get wrong after years of practice.

What Does the Research Say?

Research into neuroscience is ever providing us with information about how to better work with people.

We now know that the brain’s response to threat impacts our ability to think, collaborate, and communicate.  We know how chemicals released into our brain lead us to connect with certain people and protect us from others.

These discoveries are incredibly useful when thinking about how to build relationships, inspire and motivate your teams, deal with difficult situations and communicate effectively.

One of the key discoveries from  neuroscience is that that our brains have a tendency to move very quickly into a protective state when we feel threatened.  As neuroscientist Matt Leiberman explains in his book Social – Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect, the brain responds to social threats (and the workplace is teeming with them) in the same way as it responds to physical threats.  It goes into fight or flight and reduces our ability to effectively interact with others.

How are we to keep ourselves out of fight or flight and be at our best for interacting and communicating well?


How Science can Help

This is where the science can help guide us.  Science shows that if we take deliberate steps to make people feel safe, included and connected we are likely to keep their brain (and our own) in a better state for interacting.

However, working with people is not only about the science.   It is still an Art.  And we need to remember that the science can support the art, but not replace it.

No two conversations are alike and as much as we may prepare they can still take unexpected turns

I am a big fan of taking the science into account, preparing for conversations and setting things up for success.  However, we can’t treat interacting with people as pure science.  No two conversations are alike and as much as we may prepare and know the science, they can still take unexpected turns. (and this applies to everything from board room meetings to a conversation with our significant other about plans for the weekend)


The Art of Conversation

These are often the things we end up feeling bad about after a conversation doesn’t quite go as we thought it would.

There is an art to being able to deal with those unexpected turns.  Its about being able to connect, read and adapt in the moment.

There is an art to stepping back and really listening to someone else to hear their point of view before sharing your own.

There is an art to putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and seeing things from their perspective.

There is an art to dropping your own agenda and being willing to go with what is going to be best for all concerned.

And there is an art to putting your own needs forward and getting what you need  while maintaining a good relationship.

These are often the things we end up feeling bad about after a conversation doesn’t quite go as we thought it would.   These are the things we see in hindsight after we’ve had time to think things through.

Can we learn to do these things in the moment?

Can we learn to change the way we interact?


Changing the Way we Interact

Science shows that brain is capable of creating new connections and developing new behaviours.

You can change the way your interact. It doesn’t happen overnight, but research shows that brain is capable of creating new connections and developing new behaviours.   But it doesn’t happen by itself, it needs to be deliberate and intentional.   Its accomplished through taking a series of small steps towards the change you want, reflecting on whats working and whats not and then taking the next step.

This is where the science supports the art.

Contact me if you want to know more about how can combine the science and art of working with people to become a more effective communicator.

Free download – one pager handy guide to Negotiating Awkward Office Interactions
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