Finding our way in the New Normal…

As the month of March began, we were watching the Coronavirus spread across China and Europe but here across the pond, we continued to operate as business as usual.

I look back at notes I took at client meetings and coaching calls during the first week of March and it feels like it was a different reality.  Indeed it was… since then, our inboxes and feeds have been exploding with news of the spread of the virus across Europe, U.S. and North America. Restrictions are being put in place daily to flatten the curve. We are trying to find a new rhythm of life navigating COVID-19.  We are experiencing the metamorphosis of a new world order.

With this sudden dramatic shift in our daily routine, our brains revert to our most primitive state, the reptilian brain. “What is going on? How can this be happening? This isn’t real. This doesn’t make any sense? I need to protect myself”.

The reptilian brain is the oldest part of our brain, developed in primitive humans to make decisions to protect us from the lions, tigers and bears. When we are in our primitive brain we are reactive, we take a stance of fighting, fleeing, appeasing or freezing.  None of these stances can help us navigate this new normal.

If you have been reading my blog over the last few years, you have seen some posts about Conversational Intelligence® or C-IQ.  Conversational Intelligence is about moving from the “I-Centric” primitive brain to the “We-Centric” prefrontal cortex part of the brain. The capabilities that reside in the prefrontal cortex are empathy, creativity and innovation.  These are the skills we need to find our way in the new normal.

Photo source: Conversational Intelligence® for Coaches

What does it take to move from the primitive brain to the prefrontal cortex?

    1. Recognize you are in your primitive brain and take several breaths. This calms the nervous system and slows down the cortisol which is the hormone activated by this fear response.
    2. Reduce the amount of media you consume about the pandemic (don’t scroll your phone before bed or immediately when you wake up). This allows your brain to start and end the day with more optimism.
    3. Reach out to friends and family members who are finding their way in this new normal. We may have “stay at home” orders in place but humans are social beings. We need social solidarity to move to the prefrontal cortex.
    4. Take Microsteps of creating new habits. There are SO MANY resources out there but I really like what Thrive Global is curating in their new series, “Thriving in the New Normal” that offers Microsteps about sleep, nutrition, stress, and more to help us proactively strengthen our immune system and build resilience. 

During this time, our initial tendency is to go to that primitive brain and hunker down, hoping that it will pass.  We all know now that we are in this together for the long haul. We are co-creating our new normal.

If you are in your primitive brain, feeling lost, stuck, not knowing what steps to take, let’s chat. I am here for you and look forward to co-creating the new normal with empathy, creativity and innovation. A new normal that works for all of us.

The Wisdom of the Brain is Expanding

This post originally published on December 4, 2017 has been updated.

In July 2017, Judith Glaser’s seven-month Conversational Intelligence® program culminated with an in-person graduation event in New York City. Vista Global Coaching & Consulting joined over 200 coaches in New York plus hundreds of other participants live-streaming from across the globe.

As a group, participants spent the majority of the day in a brain simulation exercise to help us synthesize all seven modules through experiential learning.

Each table explored five parts of the brain.

    1. Heart brain
    2. Primitive brain
    3. Limbic
    4. Neocortex
    5. Prefrontal Cortex

The simulation provided us a deeper understanding of the nuances and patterns of each part of the brain, how they interact, network and integrate.

The importance of communication beyond mere words is not a recent discovery. In 1967, Albert Mehrabian isolated three elements that play a role in effective communication. In terms of importance, people allocate 55% to nonverbal behavior; 38% to tone of voice and just 7% to words. In another study conducted by Professor Uri Hasson at Princeton University, he found that successful communication was noted when the speaker and listener brains showed the same patterns of activation. Their brains were synchronized.

“Co-creating Conversations have the power to literally rewire our brains.” — Judith Glaser

The Five Brains

HEART BRAIN

The heart brain is the most basic of our wiring. It syncs like Wi-Fi. The heart brain has 89 nodes that blood goes through and it reads chemistry and other components necessary for health. It sends messages all over the body and brain. When the rhythm and timing of the heart is a smooth wave it sends calm messages. When it is erratic, you can’t send messages beyond what is immediately demanding your attention. If you slow down, breathe intentionally in and out, not only through your lungs but your heart, you are able to connect with other hearts neurochemically that are within 10 feet of you.

To connect to the heart brain in a positive way, as soon as you come in contact with someone, prime them for trust by saying hello, shaking their hand, send positive intentions their direction. This opens the brain up to the other person to synch with this positivity.

PRIMITIVE BRAIN

The primitive brain is the oldest brain, it is hardwired to sensor threats and protect us from harm to our body or ego. In .07 seconds our brain determines if someone is a friend or foe and acts accordingly. Whether you go into fight, flight,  freeze or appease mode, the primitive brain is only concerned about protection. You will not have access to any higher functioning thought when the primitive brain is activated.

Using the skill of “double clicking” supports the shift from the primitive brain. Words create worlds and if the primitive brain is activated in a conversation, there was a trigger word or nonverbal message. Use “double clicking” to ask, “what does that mean to you? Or “what was the meaning of that nonverbal expression?” It allows the primitive brain to move from fear and distrust to a place of curiosity, understanding to establish safety.

LIMBIC BRAIN

The limbic brain stores all of your emotional experiences. It is the part of the brain that deciphers, “where do I fit in”. It reads social context and scans for exclusion and inclusion in a community. It provides the emotional continuum for moving toward or away from others.

Using the skill of “listening to connect” is to not judge, confirm or reject but listen with a focus on the other person, not you. It is more than listening to understand, which is often to confirm what you already believe. By connecting to their emotional world, you will foster greater inclusion and exploration of a co-created path.

 © Benchmark Communications, Inc. and The CreatingWE® Institute. All rights reserved. 

NEOCORTEX

The neocortex is hardwired for language, storing information, basic thinking, reasoning and cognitive skills.  It holds our working memory and our stored memory. The brain has the capability for simultaneity, being in steady state and change at the same time.

To activate the neocortex, use the conversational skill of “asking questions for which you have no answers”. When you ask these types of questions, you are in a discovery mindset and the other person feels the curiosity. It puts the person in a more trusting and receptive state of mind. Together you create a conversational space for a completely new reality to emerge.

PREFRONTAL CORTEX

The youngest brain is the prefrontal cortex and often is called the “executive brain.” It is hardwired for the higher-level coordination of the whole brain. It provides us with mastery of more complex functions such as the ability to envision the future, create scenarios, step into someone else’s shoes, experience empathy, think strategically and make decisions.

The skill of “conversational agility” activates the prefrontal cortex.  If a conflict is brewing, the prefrontal cortex recognizes patterns. By using “reframe, refocus and redirect” it enables people to interrupt patterns, accessing new energy, for insight and wisdom to emerge.

In 2018, CreatingWe Institute, identified the sixth brain, the Gut-Brain that verifies the relationship in the intuitive saying of “go with your gut”.

GUT-BRAIN

The gut brain is revolutionizing medicine’s understanding of the links between digestion, mood, health and how we think.  Scientists call this little brain the enteric nervous system (ENS). It is a bidirectional relationship between your brain and your stomach. Stress is related to the lack of biodiversity in the gut flora. Ninety percent of the body’s serotonin is located in the EC [enterochromaffin] cells of the GI tract, where they regulate intestinal movements. Serotonin plays a key role in cognition, specifically in learning and memory.

Whole Brain Access

How often do you experience or witness your team being stuck in the primitive or limbic brain, not able to access the more expansive, creative and innovative areas of your neocortex and prefrontal cortex?

With just a few minor shifts in using Conversational Intelligence® tools, you can transform the level of trust and quality of your conversations which in turn can move you to the next level of greatness in your organization.

Interested in how C-IQ can help improve your leadership skills or your organization’s team? Contact Mary to set up a  customized workshop session and more.

Stay tuned for more C-IQ tips! This is part of a blog series on Conversational Intelligence® course by Judith E. Glaser. Check out related blogs such as “Asking Questions for Which You Have No Answers” and “Moving from Distrust to Trust.