Conflict Resolution Using Neuroscience

January 23, 2023

Conflict. If you are a leader in any area of your life, you will be faced with the challenge of conflict. So, how can you resolve conflict using neuroscience to help? What are the best techniques and tricks you can apply to calm down tense situations? Even if you are not a leader, you will find this information extremely valuable if you are in a fight with your partner or trying to resolve conflict between your neighbors or your children.

To start off, we will discuss a couple of the portions of the brain that come into play when trying to resolve conflicts that you will need to understand. Those two main portions of the brain are the amygdala and prefrontal cortex, also known as the PFC. The purpose of the amygdala is to process the emotion of fear, it kicks in your flight or fight response. When your flight or fight response kicks in, it will shut down your PFC. The PFC is the area of the brain where you do all your critical thinking, reasoning, problem solving and understanding of consequences of actions. When in a heated situation or dealing with ones arguing, fear ensues. When that happens, their subconscious will take over and put them in that flight or fight response. Why? Because their amygdala takes charge and starts using every piece of available oxygen to protect itself. The amygdala portion moves faster than the thinking portion of the brain. To prevent that from taking place, how can you resolve conflict in a calm way?

Tip #1- Use your brain! You will need to engage the higher thinking portions of your brain and take care of yourself first so that you are in your right mind. The best and quickest way to bring back those higher thinking portions and to get your PFC back in gear is by simply breathing. Make sure to breathe in and out through your nose. If you are breathing clearly and deeply through both nostrils, you are getting oxygen and reenergizing the prefrontal cortex of the brain. Take several deep breathes from your diaphragm. Doing so, will rush all that oxygen into your brain and body. Instantly, your amygdala will calm down and generate a sense of ease and peace. Try to do that deep breathing before you engage with the other individuals. Before you start talking, also have them engage in that same breathing technique. Watch their body language. As upper level management or a team leader, pay attention to your posture and breathing as well as the others posture and breathing. If you start to feel yourself take shallow breaths, take a sip of water, or take a break. Be confident you are giving your brain as much oxygen as you can.

Second, really try to keep in mind the brains of the individuals you are dealing with. Julie beautifully teaches about the most powerful brain personality assessment. It explains the difference between the left and right side of the brain, as well as the anterior and posterior side differences. Also, she teaches about the huge difference between the male and female brain. Their perspectives and way of processing information is completely different. It is also key to keep in mind the big differences between introverts and extroverts which can cause tons of conflict. Odds are, as a manager or leader, you will see these brain personality differences, and it is your responsibility to know the people in your unit or on your team. You will need to know the ones who are left brained or right brained since you will need to be the bridge between those two. Educate yourself on the BPC to see where their brain is coming from and find out what the middle ground is between them.

Third, really pay attention! Give attention to the individual who is talking, not allowing them to talk over themselves. Make that eye contact with them and repeat what they say for verification. Repeating what they say will put their brain at ease because they know you are paying attention and hearing them. That is enormously important and will help keep the amygdala calm. Repeating will also make sure you yourself keep the story right. Do this same process with both individuals. Through all of this, keep in mind you all need to be breathing and have relaxed body postures. Mirror neurons allow you to have empathy for another person or can mirror the person in front of you, so give them something to mirror that is positive by keeping your emotions under control. Take into consideration that the spaces where you are trying to resolve conflict, need to be brain friendly places. What does that place look like for you? What colors are employed in that room? Red is a vibrant, passionate, and deep color that many use but it increases heart rate and raises blood pressure, shutting down the PFC. Whereas, blue, green and natural colors will calm and slow down the blood pressure and heart rate. Try to have that place physically comfortable as well. If that place is not comfortable, it can keep the brain distracted. To use the brain to its full capacity, everyone will need to be comfortable and hydrated. This will allow for smoother and calm conversations.

To recap, attempt to keep the following in mind. Remember to take deep breaths, as well as having the other individuals take deep breaths. Keep the amygdala under control and be calm, allowing the PFC to be used to its full capacity. Think of the brain personality differences of the individuals you will be dealing with. Pay attention, repeat what is being said to you and keep the area where you will be resolving conflict, physically comfortable and brain friendly. Doing these things will help you to be able to work through things much easier and will also assist you in being that bridge that brings compromise and resolve conflicts!

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