We react to tough conversations the same way we respond to a threat to our life. Our emotional brain shows up, and our limbic system kicks in. Adrenaline release. Heart beats faster. Veins and arteries open to supply more blood to your extremities. Digestive system slows. Rational thought processes decrease. Your body is preparing to fight or run away.
All fine and good if a lion is walking around your office, and I know you may think that some of the people you work with may qualify, but sorry. They’re a human and their tough question or criticism isn’t going to kill you. Sorry, you’re going to have to talk this one out.
Back to this fight or flight thing. I mentioned that more blood is sent to your extremities. Where do you think that blood comes from? That’s right, your head. The exact thing you need to have this difficult conversation. Your frontal lobe doesn’t have the resources it needs to facilitate a dignified response, so we resort to what’s currently available – aggression (fight) or silence (flight).
When the experts recommend that you take a breather and go for a walk before you engage in an emotionally taxing conversation, it’s not only a psychological strategy. It’s a physiological one, too! You’re giving your body time to return to homeostasis. Things are leveling out. Now when you talk you don’t resort to unrecognizable sounds and fist pounds like a cave(wo)man. You look like the wise thought leader that we know you are.