We Can’t Escape Human Brain Wiring. Why, How, & How to Manage

Hi UWS achievers!  In my March 25th post I shared the idea we’re subject to certain psychological principles/natural laws and the keys to navigating are 1) recognize them, 2) discern when one or more conflicting principle/natural laws takes precedence over others depending on the situation, and 3) find the courage & resolve to act on them (or not) in order of priority.  We’re subject to those natural laws because every human brain is wired to react predictably to certain stimuli. 

I’d like to share 2 resources that have helped me understand why our brains are wired this way, recognize the traits of this wiring in myself and others, and learn how to manage for optimal success and problem avoidance/mitigation in sales, business, & life in general through synergistic collaboration (as far as possible) vs destructive manipulation.

The first is a Harvard Business Review article titled “How Hardwired is Human Behavior?” by Nigel Nicholson.  (Interesting to note this isn’t new- published in 1998- yet you wouldn’t necessarily see a lot of this information in practice by observing modern sales management.  What you’re more likely to find would be like computer manufacturers still using vacuum tubes.)  In any event, the premise: based on years of research in many disciplines including genetics, neuropsychology, paleobiology, etc., there’s overwhelming evidence our brains are the same as our Stone Age hunter-gatherer ancestors: programmed to survive more simple, dangerous, harsh circumstances vs thrive in our relatively safe, complex, modern world.  A few key traits & how to manage include:

-We “hear bad news first & loudest.”  Manage by being “sensitive to the emotional minefields that all negative messages must navigate” and only communicating negative messages when absolutely required, fully aware of the natural reaction and potential consequences. 

-We “put confidence before realism and work hard to shield (ourselves) from any evidence (to the contrary).”  Manage by “challenge(ing) human nature and ask(ing) questions such as, am I being overly optimistic?”

-We “stereotype people based on very small pieces of evidence, mainly their looks and a few readily apparent behaviors.”  Manage by consciously attempting to remember “people are complex and many-sided” and I’d add sincerely try to understand each as much as possible.

Second is one of my favorite books: “Influence” by Robert B. Cialdini, PH.D.  Also a classic dating back several decades, the author explores in-depth a few of our key hardwired traits including reciprocity, scarcity, consistency, liking, etc., what triggers them in our brains, and how one might ethically navigate as a buyer or seller.

Example: Scarcity.  The more people perceive other people or objects as scarce, rare, dwindling in availability, etc., the more they naturally value those people or objects.  It’s triggered anytime one person perceives another person or object as scarce or becoming more so.  It’s what causes feeding frenzies in the animal kingdom, fights on Black Friday, and why “limited time only” is so prevalent in marketing literature.  To use it effectively and ethically as a seller, value your time and always ask yourself what might be a more efficient/effective use.  (Tip from me for sales interactions; I’d suggest calculating all the hard costs of your time, your resources’ time, and knowing the hard costs and profitability goals of your company.  That information will help you not spend too much time & energy with prospects and customers who, according to the scarcity principle, naturally value all the above less than they should, increasing your perceived value in the process.)  To navigate it effectively as a consumer, remember you’re wired to react to it.  Before you buy anything (or sell any stocks 😊), force yourself to evaluate the real needs, pros, and cons, and act based on the rational analysis.       

An important final thought.  On occasion, destruction, dissolution, and/or reframing of relationships and agreements are the healthiest actions to bring about optimal ends for all parties.  I’d submit when that happens it’s even more critical to be mindful of human brain wiring to optimally navigate.  On the 4th of July we’ll commemorate one of the best examples in history.

Todd Lamoreaux