On our last management blog regarding conflict, we discussed the importance of caging the chimp and the fact that in a conflict situation it can make things worse.   Today we are going to look at some beneficial techniques to calm the chimp down.  Remember the chimp or to use its correct name, the Amygdala is an essential part of our brain.  If we didn’t have it then we would probably not be here, it’s just not very effective as a manager or when dealing with conflict.

As I have suggested, I have been in many situations where the chimp has been active, in fact, if I am honest I made it a habit.  So much so that I didn’t recognise when it is being used.  It was as natural to me as breathing in and out, I didn’t think about it.   The following techniques are not just ‘one-time’ techniques; they have to be used again and again so they become habits themselves.  Of course, they will be positive habits.

Ask empowering questions to yourself – simple questions such as “Why are they not understanding me” or “How could I get my message across clearer” are great questions we can ask ourselves when conflict is occurring.  When we ask questions, we have to look for the answer.  In turn, our thoughts move away from the ‘chimp’ part of our brain towards the more logical and creative part of our brain which we all have.  Questions should be ‘empowering’ and not 'negative', so more empowering question would be “What could I do differently” and not “Why are they rude and ignorant”.  Remember we don’t just do this once we do it again and again until it becomes a habit.

Exercise the body, exercise the brain – exercise does so much for us mentally, and many studies have proved this time after time.  Apart from the positive health benefits, it gives us a fantastic buzz and feels fantastic it also helps us with conflict. It doesn’t have to be hard work, a walk in a park or green area can have brilliant effects.  I am also a massive fan of meditation, and I meditate three times a day, 10 minutes in the morning and two quick 5-minute sessions through the day.   Meditation quietens the mind and helps with stress (created by the chimp) and conflict brilliantly.

Not a one-time event – as I keep saying we don’t just do this once, we do it again and again to such an extent we don’t know we are doing it.  Scientists believe 80% of our thoughts are subconscious thinking, in other words, we don’t even think about what we are doing such as breathing. We want to make caging the chimp a subconscious thought, so we cage it without actually thinking about it.

I know that for many people, this will be seen as wishful thinking, but I need you to know that this works and is a fantastic way of dealing with the chimp.  There are so many reasons why chimp activity is more evident in certain people, upbringing and conditioning play a massively important aspect in this. What I do know is that we all can change and with change comes greatness and this starts with caging the chimp.

Ok, next time on our management blog we are going to discuss techniques when dealing with difficult people in conflict situations.  None of the methods I am going to share with you uses the chimp!

Ralph Moody is the founder of Target Training and specialises in trainer and management development.  You can read more about him here.  To see courses where Ralph delivers see our website here.