The ability to think intellectually and rationally is driven by the frontal lobe of our brain. When things are running well, the frontal lobe is happy, and we function in a mature, logical manner.The amygdala, located near the spinal stem, is in charge of our fight, flight, or freeze response. The amygdala is the driver of our most base emotions; especially fear. When we feel threatened the amygdala gets fired up and our frontal lobe starts shutting down.We stop being rational and intellectual and start trying to figure out whether we should freeze, fight or take flight. Some studies even hypothesize that the IQ drops when the amygdala takes over.This natural evolutionary response – a response that that kept us from being eaten by saber-tooth tigers – can start rearing its head if:
- Your position is threatened
- Someone publicly challenges you
- Your boss is angry with you
- A project is going wrong
- You catch someone in a lie
When you or one of your team faces any of the above the reaction may be quite out of character, but completely natural. As a leader you should consider how you confront someone on your team to mitigate coming across as a saber-toothed tiger to that persons amygdule. The freeze, fight or flight reaction, taken too far in the workplace, will almost always end poorly.
It is important to understand the science behind dealing with people. It will help you predict, understand, and manage their reaction to tough situations.