Why Fight or Flight Mode Can Break Your Business
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Have you ever been in a situation where a client started shouting at the staff? It could have been at a restaurant, at a car dealership or even at a doctor’s office. When people ‘lose’ it in the real world, we label them as unprofessional.
We are less willing to do business with them, work for them, or invest in their business. When your buttons get pushed for too long, it might trigger you to start fighting. The moment we feel ‘attacked’ most people tend to go into ‘Fight or Flight mode’.
The Amygdala (Reptilian) brain has been accessed, and the resulting behaviour is actually beyond their control. What’s scary about this place is that you feel in the same amount of danger as someone who is about to be attacked by a predator.
This is incredibly dangerous territory for your business to be in. This is the place where staff resign, contracts get cancelled, and money gets lost. Maya Angelou explained it well:
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
How you make them feel will impact your staff’s customer service, their productivity and ultimately your bottom line.
As a business owner and leader ask yourself the following questions:
- Are you congruent? Is what you say, do and feel aligned? Can your staff trust you and do your actions speak for themselves?
- Do you understand your own trigger points, and can you calm yourself down?
- Do you pick up on the moods in the office?
- How clearly do you communicate your ideas?
- How do you handle conflict?
- Do your staff feel safe in your company? Or do they know you will throw them under the bus when something goes wrong?
Simon Sinek says that a successful leader’s number one goal must be to make their staff feel safe.
It’s time to increase your EQ
EQ, or emotional intelligence, is a key factor in an effective leadership style. To increase your emotional intelligence, start with these steps:
- Get enough sleep, exercise and notice your blood sugar levels.
- Many people will snap if they are dehydrated, tired or hungry.
- Set meetings around lunch times, allow yourself to have time to eat and pack healthy meals and snacks for yourself. Your body needs the right fuel to keep going.
- Exercise releases dopamine that will naturally make you feel happier and more energised.
- Make sure that your staff take lunch breaks and have time to eat.
Practice mindfulness and journal
Find time in the morning to do your ‘morning pages’. In Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way she explains how writing morning pages helped lawyers, doctors and screenplay writers to focus and find their creativity and drive again.
I have noticed my own emotional states, patterns and triggers come out of my morning pages and this has helped me with my self-awareness tremendously. By cleaning out your thoughts on a page, you feel much calmer because you have decluttered your own thoughts. You’re now in charge and ready for the day.
Find a quiet spot to visualise what you want to get out of the day. Use all of your senses to create the perfect movie of your day, with all the colours, textures, sounds, smells and tastes that can make it real. Imagine yourself being calm, listening well, and being a great leader.
Notice your body language in your visualisation, how you are sitting or standing, and even the way your neck curves. I often use this technique for public speaking. Swimmers in the Olympics use visualisation to train themselves for their big race and find that they swim the race with 90% accuracy in the time they swam it in their minds.
Notice if people are walking on eggshells around you. You may have many unresolved issues or triggers that some neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) or personal development coaching can help dissolve.
HOW CAN YOU HELP OTHERS WHEN THEY HAVE ENTERED FIGHT OR FLIGHT MODE?
PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR BODY LANGUAGE, TONE AND CHOICE OF WORDS
When we communicate, 55% is conveyed through our body language, 38% through our voice and tone and only 7% through what we say. When someone is in ‘fight or flight mode’ make sure all the elements communicate: ‘I am your friend’, ‘you are safe here’ to the other party.
Body language: Show open palms — this means ‘I come in peace’. Smile, lean forward, show your ear.
Tone: Have a calm friendly tone in your voice. Stay away from sounding snappy, angry or sarcastic. This will make a person even angrier.
Word choices: Our minds cannot hear the word ‘Not’. Use words that focus on the outcome that you want, rather than what you don’t want.
Say something like: It looks like you are not so happy right now. If you said to them: ‘I can see you are frustrated and upset’ you are entrenching their unhappiness. Can you hear the difference between ‘unhappy, not calm’ versus ‘frustrated’ or ‘upset’.
Be solution orientated: ‘How can we resolve this situation? How can I support you, and how can we fix this?’
STOP ASSUMING AND ASK QUESTIONS
Don’t assume what a person is feeling. Ask them using open-ended questions. Make it clear that you are open to feedback and want to learn. ‘Please would you mind telling me what was said, or done that you didn’t like?’
Focus entirely on the person, their body language, their facial expressions, their tone of voice and what they are really saying. Clear your mind from your own thoughts or agenda and focus just on them.
Allow a breather or a space after they’ve spoken so you can make sure they have finished speaking. Most people respond to only the first thought of a sentence, never fully listening to what the real message is behind the words.
Cut out distractions: Hide your phone — from yourself and from others.
Communication experts Celeste Headlee and Simon Sinek both say that you should hide your cell phone in a meeting. The research shows that a person will trust you less if they see your cell phone on the table, even if you’re not looking at it.
EMPATHISE, DON'T SYMPATHISE
Put yourself in the shoes of your client or staff. Try to understand what they are going through. When relating to your staff or a client, it’s crucial to anchor yourself in a positive place, in order not to be pulled down by them.
Offer an outside perspective, but hand them a rope or a ladder to get out themselves; offer them the support and encouragement to get to safety.
SHOW THEM THE BIGGER PICTURE
Explain to your team how their puzzle piece fits into the bigger picture. Once we know that the work we do has a greater purpose, and we buy into that purpose, we will do almost anything to support our company to get that outcome. Let them buy into your vision and let them surprise you.