Imagine arriving to work and you are just getting settled at your desk when an employee comes to you who is visibly shaken.  The employee conveys yet another incident of interacting with an abrasive leader and your day shifts from attending to your responsibilities to putting out the fires of a leader who has a pattern of yelling at employees, name-calling, and overreacting when things aren’t done exactly as they want, when they want it.  A day in the life of a manager or HR Professional can be turned upside down by a leader’s abrasive behavior in a manner of seconds.  Even as you read this, check in with your body – what are you feeling?  Tightness in your neck, a flushed feeling, perhaps a headache coming on?  What are you feeling in your gut?

Through neuroscience research, we have learned there is validity in the saying “trust your gut”.  Both the vagus nerve and a section of the brain called the basal ganglia have connectivity to the intestines that send signals when something isn’t quite right through an intuitive gut feeling.  Although the basal ganglia stores everything we do as well as guidelines about how we made past decisions, it has no direct connectivity to the verbal portion of the brain which explains why you may not be able to put into words the reason when something doesn’t seem right or the rationale for a decision.

As a busy manager who is inundated with corporate priorities and responsibilities all day long and often going from one thing to the next, learn to listen to your gut feelings.  Whether you are interviewing a new candidate or intervening with a leader about unacceptable conduct, your gut instinct gives you vital information. If you don’t listen to your gut and avoid taking necessary action, your fight/flight response is likely to take over.  Once fight or flight response kicks in, your tendency to react impulsively goes up as well as saying something that could escalate an already tense situation.

Three ways to listen your gut:

1. Breathe:  Taking even just a few minutes to take some deep breaths will slow down your stress response and relax your nervous system.

2.  Pause:   Literally do nothing for a few minutes and simply stop, observe what’s happening in your body, especially your gut.

3.  Listen:  Pay attention to whatever thoughts, ideas, or words that come to mind.  You won’t hear anything audible and you may not notice anything at all, however you are training your brain to notice what your intuition is trying to tell you nonverbally.

Make the conscious choice to trust your instincts by listening to your gut and you are likely to respond instead of react during your next difficult conversation