Neuroscience and Conflict: Tips for Moving from Fight/Flight/Freeze to Constructive Problem Solving

Think about the last time you faced a conflict – your own, or that of a client. Simply recalling these moments can trigger the physical manifestations of stress – sweaty palms, increased heart rate, flushed face, heightened breathing, and the list goes on.

Humans have developed these responses as a self-protective mechanism, allowing for quick, instinctive decision making in the face of a threat, such as a bear charging at us in a forest. Jill Tanz describes how, whether we want it to or not, the same response system that prompts us into fight, flight or freeze mode when faced with a physical threat also can activate when we face a perceived threat, such as a difficult conversation.  Studies have shown that when the body’s stress response activates, it impacts our executive functioning, including our ability to process information and make decisions.

As lawyers and conflict resolution professionals, two key steps you can take to help your clients navigate and move through conflict include: 1.) understanding what is happening in the brain and body during difficult conversations and interactions, and 2.) modeling and sharing strategies that mitigate and reduce these responses.

Interested in learning more about what is happening in our brains and bodies, how amygdala hijacking impacts our thought processes, and what you can do to help yourself and your client respond more constructively during conflict?  Check out the full article in the New Hampshire Bar News at, or contact us at [email protected].  We look forward to sharing additional insights on neuroscience and conflict with you.