• 25 August 2023
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How Your Brain Works When You Communicate with Others: A Guide to Quality Conversations

How Your Brain Works When You Communicate with Others: A Guide to Quality Conversations

What are quality conversations?

Quality conversations are interactions that create trust, understanding, and insight between two or more people. They are not just about exchanging information, but also about building relationships, influencing others, and achieving goals. Quality conversations can enhance your effectiveness as a manager, leader, or team member.

I am Nabeel Shaikh, a seasoned Chartered Accountant with over 17 years of diverse experience in investment banking, management consulting, and entrepreneurship. In this blog post, I will try to explain how your brain works when you communicate with others, and how you can use some brain-based tools to improve your performance conversations.

Why is neuroscience important for quality conversations?

Neuroscience is the study of how the brain functions, communicates, and responds to our environment. By understanding how the brain works, we can learn how to optimize our conversations for better outcomes.

What are some brain-based tools for quality conversations?

Brain-based tools are techniques that are based on neuroscience research and principles. They are designed to help you have more effective and engaging conversations with others.

Some examples of brain-based tools are:

1- SCARF: A model that helps you understand the five social drivers that influence human behavior: Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness, and Fairness.

2- SEEDS: A model that helps you identify and reduce the five common biases that distort our thinking: Similarity, Expedience, Experience, Distance, and Safety.

3- NLI’s 3 Conversational Levels: A framework that helps you choose the appropriate level of conversation for any situation: Transactional (exchanging information), Positional (expressing opinions), or Transformational (co-creating solutions).

4- NLI’s 4 Steps to Insight: A process that helps you have quality coaching conversations that generate insight and action: Ask open-ended questions, Listen actively, Reflect back what you hear, and Encourage testing. These are just some of the brain-based tools that you can use to have quality conversations.

1- SCARF 

The five social drivers that influence human behavior are represented by the letters SCARF: Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness, and Fairness. It is a model that helps us understand how the human brain responds to social situations. It was developed by David Rock, a neuroscientist and leadership coach, based on the findings of social neuroscience research.

According to the SCARF model, these five domains are the main drivers of human behavior in social contexts. They can either trigger a reward response or a threat response in our brains, depending on how we perceive them. A reward response makes us feel positive, motivated, and engaged, while a threat response makes us feel negative, stressed, and defensive.

The SCARF model can help us improve our communication and collaboration with others by reducing the potential threats and increasing the potential rewards in each domain. Here is a brief explanation of each domain and some tips on how to apply the SCARF model:

Status:

This is our relative importance or rank compared to others. We feel rewarded when we receive recognition, feedback, or praise that boosts our status. Conversely, we feel threatened when we are ignored, criticized, or humiliated that lowers our status. To enhance status, we can give constructive feedback, acknowledge achievements, and encourage learning and growth.

For example, imagine you are a manager who wants to give feedback to one of your employees who has done a great job on a project. Instead of sending a generic email or a brief comment, you decide to schedule a meeting with them and praise them in front of their peers. You also ask them to share their best practices and lessons learned with the rest of the team. By doing this, you are increasing their status by recognizing their achievements, giving them a voice, and showcasing their expertise.

Certainty:

This is our ability to predict the future and have a sense of control over what happens to us. We feel rewarded when we have clear expectations, goals, and plans that increase our certainty. However, we feel threatened when we face ambiguity, change, or surprises that decrease our certainty. To enhance certainty, we can provide transparency, communicate frequently, and involve others in decision-making.

For instance, imagine you are a leader who is facing a major change in your organization. Instead of keeping the details secret or vague, you decide to communicate the change clearly and openly with your team. You explain the reasons, the benefits, and the challenges of the change. You also share the timeline, the milestones, and the expectations for each role. By doing this, you are increasing their certainty by providing transparency, clarity, and direction.

Autonomy:

This is our sense of freedom and choice over our actions and environment. We feel rewarded when we have options, flexibility, and ownership that increase our autonomy. Conversely, we feel threatened when we are micromanaged, constrained, or coerced that decrease our autonomy. To enhance autonomy, we can delegate tasks, empower others, and respect boundaries.

For example, imagine you are a team member who is assigned a new task by your manager. Rather than telling you exactly how to do it, your manager gives you some guidelines and objectives, and lets you decide how to approach it. You also have the freedom to choose your own tools, methods, and resources. By doing this, your manager is increasing your autonomy by giving you options, flexibility, and ownership.

Relatedness:

This is our sense of connection and belonging with others who share our values and interests. We feel rewarded when we build trust, rapport, and collaboration that increase our relatedness. We feel threatened when we experience conflict, isolation, or exclusion that decrease our relatedness. To enhance relatedness, we can show empathy, listen actively, and create a positive team culture.

Example: Imagine you are a new hire who is joining a team of experienced professionals. Instead of feeling isolated or intimidated, you feel welcomed and supported by your colleagues. They introduce themselves, share their stories and interests, and invite you to join their social activities. They also offer their help, advice, and feedback whenever you need it. By doing this, they are increasing your relatedness by building trust, rapport, and collaboration.

Fairness:

This is our perception of justice and equity in how we are treated and how resources are distributed. We feel rewarded when we observe fairness, transparency, and reciprocity that increase our fairness. On the other hand, we feel threatened when we encounter bias, discrimination, or favoritism that decrease our fairness. To enhance fairness, we can apply consistent rules, share information openly, and seek feedback.

For example, imagine you are a customer who is buying a product from a company. You would feel satisfied and valued by the company if they offer you a fair price, a clear contract, and a generous warranty. They also deliver the product on time, handle any issues promptly, and ask for your feedback. By doing this, they are increasing your fairness by showing fairness, transparency, and reciprocity.

Brain-based tools are techniques that are based on neuroscience research and principles. They are designed to help you have more effective and engaging conversations with others.

2- SEEDS

SEED is a model that helps us understand and manage our biases, which are mental shortcuts that can lead to errors in judgment and decision-making.

SEEDS stands for Similarity, Expedience, Experience, Distance, and Safety. These are the five categories of bias that the model identifies, based on neuroscience research.

Here is an explanation of each category and an example of how to use the SEEDS technique to reduce bias:

Similarity:

This is the bias that makes us prefer people who are like us or who belong to our group. We tend to favor those who share our opinions, values, or interests, and avoid or judge those who are different. To reduce similarity bias, we can try to find common ground with others, ask questions, and appreciate diversity.

Expedience:

This is the bias that makes us act quickly without considering all the facts or alternatives. We tend to rely on intuition, heuristics, or stereotypes, and ignore evidence that contradicts our assumptions. To reduce expedience bias, we can slow down our thinking, seek more information, and challenge our beliefs.

Experience:

This is the bias that makes us trust our own perception as the objective truth. Consequently, we tend to interpret reality based on our personal experiences, memories, or emotions, and disregard other perspectives or contexts. To reduce experience bias, we can seek feedback, listen actively, and reframe the situation.

Distance:

This is the bias that makes us value what is close over what is far away. We tend to prioritize what is near in time or space, and neglect what is distant or abstract. To reduce distance bias, we can visualize the future, empathize with others, and create a sense of urgency.

Safety:

This is the bias that makes us avoid risks and losses. We tend to stick to what is familiar or comfortable, and resist change or uncertainty. To reduce safety bias, we can embrace learning, experiment with new ideas, and celebrate failures.

3- NLI’s 3

NLI’s 3conversational levels are a framework that helps us choose the appropriate level of conversation for any situation. They are based on the work of Judith E. Glaser, a pioneer in the field of conversational intelligence. The three levels are:

Level I: Transactional.

This level is about exchanging information, facts, or data. It is useful for updating, informing, or directing others. The interaction dynamics are telling and asking. For example, “What time is the meeting?” or “The meeting is at 10 am.”

Level II: Positional.

This level is about exchanging opinions, perspectives, or ideas. It is useful for influencing, persuading, or negotiating with others. The interaction dynamics are advocating and inquiring. For example, “Why do you think we should use this strategy?” or “I think we should use this strategy because…”

Level III: Transformational.

This level is about exchanging energy, emotions, or insights. It is useful for co-creating, collaborating, or innovating with others. The interaction dynamics are sharing and discovering. For example, you could ask “How do you feel about this challenge?” or “I feel excited and curious about this challenge.”

The three levels of conversation have different impacts on our brain and body. Moreover, Level I activates the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for logical thinking and problem-solving. However, Level II activates the amygdala, which is responsible for emotional reactions and fight-or-flight responses. In contrast, Level III activates the heart-brain, which is responsible for empathy, trust, and connection.

By understanding the three levels of conversation, we can choose the best one for our purpose and context. We can also switch between levels as needed to achieve our goals and build relationships with others

4- NLI’s 4

NLI’s 4 steps to insight are a process that helps us have quality coaching conversations that generate insight and action. They are based on the neuroscience of how the brain learns, changes, and solves problems. The four steps are:

1- Ask open-ended questions.

In this step, you want to spark the coachee’s curiosity and interest, and encourage them to explore their own thoughts and feelings. To do this, you can use open-ended questions, which are questions that require more than a yes or no answer and invite deeper thinking and explanation. For example, you could ask “What are you hoping to achieve with this project?” or “How do you feel about the feedback you received?”

2- Listen actively.

The purpose of this step is to demonstrate to the coachee that you are listening attentively, understanding, and empathizing with what they are saying. You can practice active listening by using verbal and non-verbal cues, such as nodding, eye contact, paraphrasing, summarizing, and clarifying. For instance, you could say “It sounds like you are feeling annoyed by the poor communication from your team.” or “Could you explain more about what you are trying to say?”

3- Reflect back what you hear.

This step is about mirroring the coachee’s words, emotions, and body language, and helping them gain a new perspective on their situation. Reflecting back involves using statements that begin with “You” or “It sounds like”, and adding your own observations or interpretations. For example, “You seem very passionate about this idea.” or “It sounds like you are feeling stuck and unsure of what to do next.”

4- Encourage testing.

This step is about helping the coachee move from insight to action, and supporting them in trying out new behaviors or solutions. Encouraging testing involves using questions or suggestions that begin with “What if” or “How about”, and challenging the coachee to experiment with different options or scenarios. One possible way to paraphrase the sentence “For example, “What if you tried to approach your team leader and ask for more clarity?” is: For instance, “How about talking to your team leader and requesting more guidance?”or “How about creating a plan for your project and sharing it with your team?”

Conclusion

In this blog post, I have shared with you how your brain influences your communication skills, and how you can use some brain-based tools to improve your performance conversations. I hope you have learned something new and useful from this post, and that you will apply these tools in your daily interactions with others. Remember, quality conversations are not only good for your brain, but also for your relationships, your influence, and your goals. Thank you for reading and happy communicating. Please share it with your friends and followers. And if you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below. I would love to hear from you. Don’t miss out and subscribe to NashFact.com today.

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