Civility and Brain Science

What does the latest research on the brain, especially from a new field of interpersonal neurobiology, have to teach us about civility?

Consider a time when you have noticed that feeling of confusion when a conversation or interaction goes awry. We often say, after a time to reflect on such difficult conversations, “I wish I would have said…”

The reason for this confusion is based on what we now know about the way the brain processes emotional information. If a conversation violates our values or deeply held perspectives, we have a physical reaction: Our brain tells us to fight or flee. This physical reaction can be as strong as if there were an actual threat like an animal attacking us. Because the emotional center of brain is engaged, the prefrontal cortex, where integration and rational thinking occurs, is not available to us in that moment.

Learning to notice emotional information and allowing yourself time to process it is a skill that can be learned and the first step you can take toward a more civil response.

If you have attended one of our workshops or are curious to understand more about the field of interpersonal neurobiology, here is a resource from the work of Dr. Dan Siegel.