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Why it’s not that easy to just use your head...

 Earlier this week, a co-working colleague was describing a tricky situation with an important international client. It was that classic business scenario where you have to carefully put on your kid gloves while bracing for a difficult negotiation. Immediately, David Rock’s book, Your Brain at Work, came to mind.

Your Brain at Work

Fist of all, we all know, at least on an intuitive basis, that the success of our business dealings is affected by more than pure business analytics. Your Brain at Work digs into how our minds physically respond to different scenarios, explaining why a goal that makes perfect sense on paper can go off the rails when human interactions get going.

The research that Rock draws on shows that the human mind is exquisitely sensitive to stress and to any threat to one’s status. Our brains actually process perceptions of any alteration in our social status as though they were a threat to our physical well being. If that sounds extreme, just think about what happened to our earliest ancestors if their community rejected them.

The SCARF Model

In response to the neurological research summarized in his book, David Rock developed a guideline with a handy acronym. (No surprises there, I guess.) SCARF stands for Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness, Fairness.

In brief, when Status, Certainty, Autonomy and Relatedness are thrown into doubt, people react with an “away response”. People get defensive. When these elements are supported and affirmed, we can relax, open our minds and collaborate more effectively.

The SCARF model sure isn’t an easy fix. Putting it into action requires terrific self awareness, emotional intelligence, transparency… and great communication and leadership skills, overall. But I think that when we better understand how and why we need these qualities, it will be easier to develop them in ourselves. (Note the future tense – I’d never claim to be there, yet, myself!)

Your Brain at Work is well worth a read (it’s available in French, too), or a listen (Audible has it in their catalogue).

Finally, if you prefer to take in info in video form, this animation summarizes the SCARF this talk on line. But check it out, one way or the other. Related situations is like developing your professional network. Preparing for intense work, it’s not a good idea to put it off till you need it most!

Just a few simple tips from Rock’s book :

-When you’re stuck on a problem, turn your mind and your gaze to something soothing or amusing. What do you think funny cat videos were created for? Or get up and do something completely different. This acts as a refresh button.

-Little things help. Collaborating remotely on a stressful project? When emails that could seem angrily short are flying back and forth a reassuring smiley face helps maintain a positive rapport and reduce stress 

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