Understanding how to understand

Understanding how to understand


Understanding the Neuroscience of Conflict

He who knows others is wise. He who knows himself is enlightened – Lao Tzu

Ahead of her upcoming workshop, Kathryn Berkett, trainer and expert in Educational Psychology gives us a quick glimpse at the vital role neuroscience plays in understanding employees and their interactions in the workplace.

Not many people can say they have managed to negotiate life without the occasional conflict arising.  Many of us (including myself) could also suggest that we have experienced a few more than the ‘occasional’.

Understanding some of the neuroscience behind conflict won’t stop the situation arising, but it can help us manage it when it happens.  It can also help us be more mindful and conscious of when others are activating into a stress response and give us individualised and practical tools to improve interactions.

In the upcoming Neuroscience of Conflict workshop, we will unpack the neurological and physiological activation of the stress response, and how it impacts our brain and behaviour.  When working in high stress situations, this becomes important for our interactions and productivity, as well as improving our own physical and mental wellbeing.

When we activate the stress response, it is essentially our survival (fight/flight) response reacting to a stressor we have perceived in our environment.  This is brilliant if the stressor is in fact a lion about to attack.  Fascinatingly though, if it is our workload or personal interactions that are perceived as a stressor, the same activation occurs.

To survive, our brain cleverly diverts energy to the survival areas of the brain, which essentially restricts the energy available to the more cognitive, rational, empathic areas of the brain.  Clever in moments of potential injury, not so clever when we are trying to find our keys or remember our computer password!

Understanding and recognising this activation can help us mitigate the impacts.  We essentially need to indicate to the brain that it is safe.  The first and most important factor is relationships.  When the brain detects one or more positive relationships, we feel an increased sense of safety.  Status increase makes us feel safer too. And another factor to increase calm, is to do something sensory.

So, in that moment of stress, thinking of, or being near those we trust can increase calm.  Ensuring status is equalised can help immensely, as can allowing yourself or them to engage in a sensory task.  There is much more to it, but these are the beginning factors of understanding how to increase our sense of calm. Hopefully this can also increase our ability to communicate, empathise, and in the long run, stay healthy.

Registrations are now open for my upcoming Neuroscience of Conflict workshop, as part of CCER’s 2019 training series. Click here to secure your place, and be sure to check out CCER’s other upcoming workshops and networking forums here.



Kathryn has a Masters in Educational Psychology, and is certified as a Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics practitioner with Dr Perry.  With extensive experience in this area, she has worked and trained on the subject of neuroscience nationally and overseas for more than 16 years. Kathryn has delivered training to a variety of groups including Primary and Secondary Teachers; the Police; Government Departments; Prisons; Kindergartens; Parents; Recreation Groups; Mental Health Professionals; Politicians; and Corporates.

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