Conflict at work is common. In fact, according to a study by CPP Global, 85 percent of employees at all levels have experienced conflict in the workplace. The root of conflict stems from distrust and, sadly, according to a 2012 Strategy+Business Poll, only 7 percent of employees trust their leaders.  

That's not just a people problem, but a real business problem. The foundation of a high-performance team and culture is trust. So in the absence of it, performance is greatly impacted. Your bottom line shrinks.

So how can you build trust and help to resolve conflict -- a skillset that's deeply appreciated and recognized in business? 

On my podcast, Unmessable, I talked with Dr. Andrew Newberg, renowned neuroscientist and ten-time author who studies the relationship between brain function and various mental states.

We spoke about a number of things, but in particular, talked about his book Words Can Change Your Brain: 12 Conversation Strategies To Build Trust, Resolve Conflict and Increase Intimacy, where Dr. Newberg unlocks what he says is the key to successful interactions that lead to mutual trust and increased effectiveness in work environments. 

Below are neuroscientific findings Dr.Newberg shared that help to inspire trust, increase your leadership effectiveness and help diffuse office tension.

1. Watch what you say.

Your words (spoken or thought) form neural patterns in your brain. Imagine an unwalked path. The more you walk down the same path, the more forged the path becomes. Eventually that path becomes a proper trail that leads to a specific place. Your thoughts are building roadmaps in your brain, which forms your perception of reality and guides what you think you can do and, ultimately, can't do. 

For instance, if you say or think that work is hard, you are not a match, or you will never be as successful as Sally Mae then guess what? You are actually laying down the foundation for that to materialize. Why not invest your time in building neural patterns that are positive and empowering? It's a no-brainer.

2. Speak slowly, confidently, briefly and calmly.

To effectively communicate with your colleagues and build trust, speak slowly, confidently, calmly and keep it short. 

Dr. Newberg explains that our brains can only hold onto information blocks of 30 to 40 seconds, so if you are saying something important, keep this in mind. Also, the emotion that you convey when you talk plays a role in how the constituent's brain processes the information. Confidence, when you communicate, turns out to be important in how much people trust what you say, and ultimately you. So when you share important news, know that this carries a lot of weight. 

3. Don't forget to smile like the Mona Lisa.

It's not just the words you use that impact your relationships and build trust. It's your body language, too. Your facial expressions can offer an extraordinary glimpse into your intentions, whether or not you realize it.

According to Dr. Newberg, research shows that the most trustworthy face is gentle, with gentle eyes, a gentle smile, and soft facial expressions. Think Mona Lisa. Learning to be in control of your body language and facial expressions is a great way to improve the impact of your communication across the board. 

4. Listen and be authentic. 

Authenticity is everything. It's hard to earn trust if you're not being straight-forward with others. We know this intuitively, but apparently this is measurable in your brain. While many people think that being overly positive can be a good thing, it has the opposite effect.

Being overly positive is perceived as a negative, so you should resist the urge to over exaggerate. Be honest and keep it real without embellishment, and you'll see the response to your interactions improve because of it. 

5. Know mirror neurons are a thing and use them to your advantage.

Dr. Newberg shares that in our brain, we have mirror neurons, which are brain cells that react both when a particular action is performed and when it is only observed. Meaning through your mirror neurons, it allows you to feel, to a certain degree, what someone else is feeling without going through it yourself. 

So practically speaking, here's how you can leverage this. Say your boss came to you being very upset and instead of panicking or going on the defense, you remain calm. By doing this, you will make that person calmer by way of their mirror neurons, even though they may be upset with you. If you get upset back, it's just going to explode. Anticipating reactions and tailoring your own actions to offset negative impact is powerful if you're hoping to resolve conflict effectively.  

While the people side of business is complicated, leveraging these neuroscience backed findings at works will help you led more effectively. 

Published on: Aug 25, 2019
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