Recognising the Chimp In You

Over Christmas I’ve been reading a fascinating book called The Chimp Paradox by Professor Steve Peters. The book introduces the concept that we all have two brains:

You (The Human) — this brain is responsible for intelligent, rationale and logical thought.

The Chimp — this brain is completely independent of you and not under your control. This brain thinks emotionally and is led by feelings and impressions.

The book argues that throughout life our two brains battle continuously in response to situations. The stronger Chimpbrain often wins, particularly in the moment as You, the human brain takes time to process information and to construct an intelligent and rationale response that considers all of the information available.

I am guilty (as I guess we all are) of not always thinking through the consequences of my actions and in particular not always considering how others might respond. Sometimes it is necessary to take an action which provokes an emotional response from another individual but strong emotional intelligence requires that we are cognizant when such a reaction is being provoked and what the outcome is likely to be.

I have been reflecting on my own approach both in my personal and work life. Sometimes I want to provoke a reaction. The question I have been asking myself is which brain has the response to the actions I take has come from and is it possible to tailor my approach in order to specifically target someone else’s human or chimp brain.

Experience tells me that sometimes in order to make someone sit up and take notice it is necessary to provoke an emotional response. The chimp paradox has reminded me that I need to have a game plan — when deliberately provoking an emotional response it is always helpful to consider how I will subsequently engage the respondents human brain; and how I will subsequently help the respondent to fight their inner chimp and logically rationalise my intention.

Learning from the Chimp Paradox in 2021 I am going to make an effort to get to know my inner chimp; both before and after I take action. I am going to carve time into my day to reflect on situations that have occurred and to evaluate which brain I engaged. I will also take time to consider which brain others around me are using and proactively consider how I can get to know the inner chimp of those around me.

My hope is that by taking time to understand how my inner chimp, and the inner chimp of those around me thinks, I can use this information to build my own emotional intelligence which in turn will help me to achieve my own goals and objectives.

My challenge to you in in 2021 is to take some time out and get to know the inner chimp of a friend or colleague. Taking this time might help you to tame your own inner chimp and focus more on positive human intentions and less on uncontrolled emotional responses that detract from your goals and objectives.

Above all when you are faced with an emotional reaction recognise that this is the response of an inner chimp and remember the words of Maxime Lagacé

“The most important thing is to look ahead. The past is your anchor.“

Now go find your inner chimp and ask your chimp if you can work together this year.

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