Survival, Emotional Or Thinking Brain

Here’s how to help your clients get in the brain you need them to be.

Survival, Emotional or Thinking Brain

Your client is in their emotional brain but you need them to be in their thinking brain, here’s what you do.

Depending on what you’re trying to achieve, you may want your client to be in their brain’s Limbic System when you’re trying to tap into their emotional decision making. However often, you will want them to be in the Neocortex if you’re looking for factual analysis and data-focused, critical decision making.

To do the best job you can for them and to achieve the best outcomes, you’ll need to know where your client is operating from, and know how to shift them to the part of the brain that will be of most benefit. For example, there’s little point asking a highly emotional person (Limbic) to comprehend your complex and rational spreadsheet, if all they care about are the heightened emotions they are feeling.

Your client will be more likely to see and understand your rationale if they are less focused on their Limbic System and resting more in their Neocortex. You definitely don’t want them in their Reptilian Brain (the part of the brain that relates to survival, flight, flight and freeze).

Here’s how to help your client move out of one brain and into the other…

Shifting from the Limbic System to the Neocortex
Let’s assume, you have at least some reasonable idea of where your client is at. You think they are in the Limbic System because their conversation relates more to how they feel. Look for dialogue and body language that correlates with values, desires and emotional content.

You need to proceed with cold, hard facts and you need rational thought processing and decision making. You’ll be tempted to keep talking facts and plough through to the end of your presentation, in the hope that you’ll get through and sensible thinking will prevail.

It usually won’t if your client is firmly planted in the Limbic. Don’t bother proceeding at this point. Instead, take a break, shift the environment, get a coffee and change the subject. Give them the emotional support they need, or you’ll come across as uncaring.

When you think that you may be able to make a shift happen, start talking about something non-related to the job. Raise a factual topic that you think they might be interested in. You’re trying to help your client shift away from emotions and into their thinking brain.

If you can’t get the shift to happen today, perhaps scheduling may be a better option.

Shifting from the Neocortex to the Limbic System
Depending on your profession, you may be trying to achieve the reverse; shifting your client from the Neocortex into the Limbic System. To achieve what you need to, you want to be accessing your client’s feelings and emotional responses, not analytical processing.

You may have an advantage here because the Neocortex is often easily overridden by both the Reptilian Brain and the Limbic System. In this case, you will need to focus your conversation on things that relate to the past, pleasure, family, motivations, value systems and what gives your client joy.

Remember that many people tend to favour, and live in most of the time, one part of their brain more than the other. Other people can easily pivot from one to the other within a very short timeframe. Patience will sometimes be your best friend.

Scroll to Top