Using 3 Brain States to Connect with Others

I watched an interesting video by educator Becky Bailey who discusses “three states of the brains” that impact our behavior. She outlines them and their functions as follows:

Survival State: This is the brain in “freeze” of the proverbial fight-flight-freeze response. It is concerned with survival—protection, safety. When we are in survival state, we are not engaging the smartest part of our brain.

Emotional State: This is the brain in the “fight-flight” mode. Our emotions hijack us from thinking clearly in this state. We say and do things that we later regret because emotions have gotten the better of us. We are often thinking of ourselves in this state—preserving our reputation, protecting our financial resources, defending our rights, etc.

Executive State: This is the brain in “flow-flourish” mode. Here, the prefrontal cortex is engaged, such that we think more clearly, creatively, and collaboratively. However, if we do not feel safe or emotionally connected, our executive state kicks into plotting, scheming, and protecting.

With an awareness of these three brain states, we can better understand how to connect with others, whether they be family members, coworkers, bosses, employment interviewers, clients, etc.

To address the Survival State in others, help them feel SAFE:

How do we help someone feel safe? It’s tough, because we cannot control the other person’s thoughts or feelings. But we can use body language, tone of voice, facial expressions that will cue the person to sense that they are safe with us.

To address the Emotional State in others, SERVE:

We serve others by understanding what their needs are… and, to the degree it is appropriate for us to engage, serve them in meeting those needs. For example, if interviewing for a  job, asking the interviewer: “What are your top 3 priorities for this position in the nex 6 months?” or if speaking to an employee, “What resources do you need to complete this project on time?” This conveys that you will add to and not drain the relationship.

To address the Executive State, SOLVE:

We solve by being strategic, collaborative, and action-focused. Strategic involves being curious about the bigger picture, as opposed to having a narrow-minded, myopic view of the situation. Collaborative means to engage others’ strengths in the process—e.g., “Jane, I know you’re great at Intellection—what ideas have you been chewing on about this project?” Action-focused involves taking actions, which can include thinking differently, managing mood better, and/or executing on ideas.

This entry was posted in Career Coaching Tips. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply