Sherri acts as Beyond Civility’s lead trainer in the communication workshops. She is a communication consultant and a mediator.
In previous posts, I reviewed the work of Australian neuroscientist, David Rock, who developed the acronym SCARF (Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness) along with an explanation for how actions and words associated with these social triggers activate primal reward (approach) or threat (avoid/retreat) circuitry in the human brain. They can instantly cause us to feel safe and engage, or to feel threatened and retreat. Two prior posts explained our need for Status and Certainty.
Today’s is about Autonomy.
People feel greater certainty and safety when they perceive they have choices. When choices are taken from us, our limbic brain triggers feelings of stress and threat. Think of that feeling of being “boxed in.” When we approach people with solutions to problems that effectively insist, “this has to be done my way, or no way at all,” it can instantly trigger a threat reaction. This response, often unconscious, causes the listener to shut down, and the problem remains unsolved.
When we sense this happening, it is important to change course. For the person feeling a loss of autonomy, it may simply require having more control over the process that is chosen or the ability to present and be heard on an option.
We can all relate to the importance of feeling we have choices–personal influence, even if not complete control over life situations. Protecting that feeling in personal and professional relationships can yield high rewards.