In our hubris, we humans can sometimes think of ourselves as special. We assume that, because we are intelligent, intelligence rules our every decision. But, as Professor Steve Peters describes in his book “The Chimp Paradox”, our animal instinct is quicker and much more powerful than our intelligence.


We can sometimes react emotionally rather than logically

When driving to work, someone cuts you up at the lights. Do you think “Oh well, they are clearly in a hurry, I’ll let them pass”? Do you say to yourself “That person has very few manners, he/she didn’t even apologise or say thank you”? Or did you get angry and swear at him/her? If you got angry, now work out what benefit or use that anger had. The other driver was already a few car lengths ahead, it is likely you will never hear or see them again, it is likely that they could not care the slightest about you, your car, your place in the queue or your feelings.


Working with chimps

Now, let’s bring this into a work context. You criticise a decision made by one of your team in the middle of a team meeting. Do they reflect on your words and accept the feedback as useful input? Or will they react emotionally and feel it is an attack on them personally and a threat to their position in the team? The answer probably lies in the existing relationship you have with your team member, the context, how your team member is feeling, how you are feeling, the way you said it, etc. There is very little logic in there but a whole heap of emotion and instinct.

We are driven so much by these instincts and emotions that developing a greater understanding of what drives us and how our minds work enables us to lead our team with greater effectiveness.

So next time someone reacts in way you were not expecting, try and reflect on what might have happened to cause the reaction. Consider the situation, your demeanour, their demeanour etc. When tempers have calmed down, ask them why they reacted in that way.

Remember that people are complex beings driven by emotions. It is very wise to remember that as often as you can. Never assume that the person you are speaking to is in a calm, logical place. Always remember the fears and angers and instincts that lie just under the surface, ready to take over at any moment.

out of milk blog chimp


How can I help?

I provide training programmes and coaching to managers who want to inspire their teams. I help people understand their inner chimps and understand the importance of Emotional Intelligence in becoming a successful manager.


If are interested in learning more about how I can help you or your management team, call me on 07595 702878 or Contact Me through the site.