The Chimp Paradox

Work places can be volatile places. As HOF you are responsible for dealing with multiple personalities and it is your job to ensure that from within that a cohesive bond is formed. You can be pushed and pulled from side to side and pillar to post. Demands are made, pleas are made. People moan at you. People moan about you. People laugh with you. The hours are long – you can be the first to arrive and the last to leave. It is tiring. But your passion drives you.

Yes, the workplace is an emotional place to find yourself in. Our job, as leaders, is try to remain constant. Not something that is always easy to do.

Yet The Chimp Paradox by Prof Steve Peters explains how you can detach yourself from your emotions so that you make better decisions for yourself and the people around you. It all boils down to controlling your chimp.

Your chimp is your emotive self. It is the part of the brain which controls you and it can cause havoc. The trick is to tame your chimp and calm your chimp down with your human. Now this sounds a little odd ball but it does in fact work.

This week, I had a brief chimp moment. It wasn’t anything serious but an emotional reaction in me was sparked. Instead of emotively responding, I was able to use my human to calm my chimp down and put him back in his cage.

Although walking into the head’s office to discuss the matter and telling him I was in the process of calming my chimp probably helped alleviate some of the emotion as he stared at me in utter bewilderment!

The process of actually referring to your emotive self as the chimp makes calming the chimp down somewhat more tangible. One evening someone did something which sent me into a rage. I was so angry, I cried and cried. No matter what I did I couldn’t stop my emotive reaction. Now I know, if the same thing were to happen and I were to compartmentalise the emotion as the chimp, I would have a much better success rate at calming myself down.

Similarly, the book uses other powerful mind management tools to help you understand other people. For example, one character personality type is described as Snow White. As I was reading the description of Snow White, I had to put the book down because I couldn’t stop laughing as I realised I knew / have worked with a couple of Snow Whites. Prior to reading this book, I would emotively react to Snow White. I could see what they were doing and I would be frustrated by it. However, my lack of understanding at this personality type meant I didn’t compartmentalise the character and dealt with situations arising from Snow White less effectively than I could have. Now I know the makings of a Snow White, I can deal with any future Snow Whites I may meet.

The book also tells you how to deal with your Gremlins. Gremlins are destructive behaviours that have the ability to be fixed (unlike your Goblins which are embedded within the hard drive of your brain). One common Gremlin is the guilt factor, something every teacher suffers from. A simple suggestion in the book is that the guilty Gremlin who uses the word ‘should’ to describe the multiple activities they have to undertake needs to replace this word with ‘could’. ‘I should mark those twenty assignments’ or ‘I could mark those twenty assignments.’ Again, I used this strategy last week and the difference in feeling compelled to do something out of guilt was gone. Saying ‘I could’ meant that I was alleviating myself of the pressure to do it out of a sense of guilt and if I felt like it, I knew I would get it done anyway. If I didn’t the pressure had been removed.

Another brilliant technique I learnt from the book is the art of the difficult conversation. I am not very good at having difficult conversations and I shy away from them. In my role, however, it is becoming more and more important that I hold people to account and, as a result, difficult conversations arise. The book suggests that one way in which you can do this is by following a set structure of articulating the facts before articulating how what you are addressing makes you feel and therefore, implicitly why something needs to change / be modified. This is such a simple strategy but it really does work. I put this in to place twice during the first week back whereby I had to address sub-standard work and it worked beautifully!

The book suggests the support of your troop is vital to a good mindset. This is the troop you choose for yourself. I definitely feel that this one is in the bag as this year I have started attending pub Friday and this is where I am surrounded by really positive, happy people who make me feel really happy  A troop of happiness is definitely important.

Many other topics are touched upon and many other strategies suggested. The book is simple to read and has workable ideas and suggestions to try out and put into practice. It has really helped me deal with some, already, emotive situations and I have been a lot calmer and happier as a result.

A fantastic book!


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