by Judith Glaser
I’m sure it’s happened to you: You’re in a tense team meeting trying to defend your position on a big project, and you start to feel yourself losing ground. Your voice gets louder. You talk over one of your colleagues and correct his point of view. He pushes back, so you go into overdrive to convince everyone you’re right. It feels like an out-of-body experience — and in many ways, it is. In terms of its neurochemistry, your brain has been hijacked.
In situations of high stress, fear or distrust, the hormone and neurotransmitter cortisol floods the brain. Executive functions that help us with advanced thought processes — like strategy, trust building and compassion — shut down. And the amygdala, our instinctive brain, takes over. The body makes a chemical choice about how best to protect itself — in this case from the shame and loss of power associated with being wrong — and as a result is unable to regulate its emotions or handle the gaps between expectations and reality.
So we default to one of four responses: