At all times, two parts of our brain are governing how we behave. We’re aware of the rational, deliberate self that is ruled by the prefrontal cortex. But the threat protector, ruled by the amygdala, reacts beneath the surface causing us to lash out inexplicably. That self is enabled by the inner lawyer, which rationalizes, deflects and blames.
Good leaders understand the reactionary self is always present and work to manage it. Harvard Business Review contributors Tony Schwartz and Emily Pines offer ways to gain better awareness and control. Observe your dueling selves in real time and without judgment. Take notice when impatience, frustration or anger arise. Notice when you’re digging in your heels and justifying it. These may be signs that you feel threatened.
In challenging moments, Schwartz and Pines urge you to ask yourself “What else could be true here?” and “What is my responsibility in this?” These questions will help tamp down your inner lawyer.