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  • Writer's pictureJake Kastleman

How You Can Enjoy Work More - According to Brain Science



man sitting at laptop and on phone, feeling happy at work

As work is where we may spend about 1/3rd of our life, it’s important that we have good relationships and interactions with coworkers, bosses, clients, etc. 


If we are in a toxic environment, or we are constantly in conflict, or simply feeling lonely or disconnected, this contributes to the isolated, detached, chaotic thought patterns and beliefs that contribute to pornography addiction and other addictions. 


Building new habits to improve our work relationships and satisfaction contributes to the No More Porn Lifestyle and Mindset, and experiencing overall greater happiness, peace, and well-being.


Chris Reavis is a guru when it comes to understanding what makes us happy and satisfied at work. When I asked him what’s missing in today’s corporate environment, he pointed out that much of what we do is based on instinct or outdated models rather than evidence-based practices. This can lead to a lack of resilience and poor adaptation to stress, especially among younger generations.


Contrary to the common belief that younger workers are less resilient because they’ve had it easy, Chris argues that their brain development and life priorities simply differ from older generations.


One critical issue Chris highlights is our neglect of brain science in motivating and connecting with people. Instead of relying on outdated methods of command and control, we need to understand how our brains function under stress and how to foster environments that promote better responses.


Understanding Brain Science in the Workplace

Chris explained that our brains have a predictable response to stressors, often defaulting to fight, flight, or freeze. This response isn’t something we can just will away; it’s hardwired into our biology. The idea that people just need to try harder or care more is a myth. People who seem to handle stress well often have the necessary skills either from birth or from their upbringing, while those who struggle are already giving their best effort within their current capabilities.


Experts like Dr. Ross Greene, Dr. J. Stewart Ablon, and Bruce D. Perry have shown through their research that the key to helping people lies in understanding these brain patterns and responding appropriately. Stress disrupts our ability to function at our best, and expecting someone to push through without the right support is like asking someone to run a marathon without training.


The Power of Empathy and Validation

I shared with Chris a technique I use with my clients called the "Reject and Ace" exercise, where we acknowledge and give voice to our automatic, fearful responses instead of suppressing them. Chris agreed, emphasizing that empathy and validation are crucial. Our primitive brain responses are hardwired for survival, and when we’re in stress mode, our brains react as if there’s a bear in the room, even if the threat is just a stressful email.


Empathy and validation help to calm these primitive responses by reducing the adrenaline and cortisol flooding our brains. By acknowledging someone’s fear or stress, even if we don’t agree with it, we help them move from a reactive state to a more thoughtful, problem-solving state. This approach is not about excusing behavior but about understanding and addressing the underlying issues.


Practical Strategies for a Better Work Life

Chris shared insights from his book about autism, where he discusses how the brain’s response to stress can be similar across various conditions, including addiction and PTSD. For people with autism, sensory overload can cause severe reactions because their brains struggle to filter out unnecessary stimuli. Similarly, in the workplace, when people face overwhelming stressors without the skills to handle them, their brains react in the same fight, flight, or freeze mode.


One effective strategy Chris mentioned is to get curious and empathetic. Instead of demanding better performance, we should validate the person’s experience and help them calm down. Over time, this approach helps build new neural pathways, leading to better stress management and improved performance. It’s about creating a safe space where people can develop the skills they need to handle stress and solve problems more effectively.


The Role of Leadership

Good leadership involves recognizing the limitations of our natural responses and fostering environments that support brain health. Chris talked about how, as leaders, we often fall back on what we know, which can sometimes be outdated or ineffective. By understanding brain science and applying empathy and validation, we can help our teams build resilience and improve their overall well-being.


It’s fascinating to see how these principles can transform workplace dynamics. When we give people the space and support they need, they’re more likely to develop the skills necessary for success. This approach not only benefits individuals but also enhances overall workplace satisfaction and productivity.


The Importance of Authenticity at Work

One of the core messages Chris emphasized is the significance of showing up as our true selves at work. Often, we erect barriers between our work and personal lives, thinking it's necessary to maintain professionalism. However, these barriers can prevent us from being fully engaged and genuine, leading to frustration and burnout.


Chris highlighted that it’s essential to be authentic at work, even if it means showing our flaws. This doesn’t mean we abandon accountability or productivity, but rather, we need environments where it’s safe to express our unique selves. Leaders play a crucial role here, as they must foster a culture that encourages authenticity. When we bring our whole selves to work, we not only enhance our well-being but also contribute more effectively to our teams.


Quality Over Quantity

Another critical aspect Chris pointed out is the misconception that more hours equate to better results. Many people fall into the trap of working longer hours, thinking it will lead to greater productivity. However, this often leads to burnout and reduced efficiency. Instead, Chris advocates for focusing on the quality of our work hours.


It’s about being productive within the time we have rather than extending our workday. This involves re-evaluating how we spend our time in meetings and ensuring they are purposeful and action-oriented rather than just routine. Additionally, managing our anxieties and not letting work loom over us constantly can improve both our work performance and personal life satisfaction.


Self-Care and Connection

Self-care is a fundamental element in showing up fully at work. Basic practices like exercising, staying hydrated, and eating well are crucial, but so is maintaining our mental health by connecting with others. Human connection, both inside and outside of work, supports our overall well-being.


Chris also stressed the importance of empathy and curiosity in our interactions, especially with colleagues and leaders. Instead of being quick to judge someone’s behavior, we should consider what might be happening in their lives and how we can support them. This shift in perspective can foster a more compassionate and productive workplace.


Handling Difficult Behaviors

We discussed a common concern: what if our authentic selves are perceived as rebellious or disruptive? Chris believes that behind such behaviors often lies a passionate drive that lacks the proper skills for positive expression. Rather than viewing these traits negatively, we should see them as potential strengths that need guidance and development.


Reflecting on my own experiences, I shared how my intense passion in my younger years sometimes led to destructive behavior because I lacked the skills to channel it constructively. Recognizing and developing these parts of ourselves can turn what seems like a weakness into a powerful asset.


Building Effective Work Relationships

Work relationships differ from personal ones due to the structured nature of the workplace. However, the principles of good relationships remain the same: empathy, service, and authenticity. Chris underscored that leaders who genuinely serve their teams and are willing to admit mistakes build trust and loyalty.


He also pointed out the importance of forgiving ourselves and others for mistakes. Holding grudges at work can be detrimental, so it’s vital to address conflicts constructively and move forward. Additionally, being mindful of what we bring home from work can help maintain healthier personal relationships.


Finding Balance in a Hybrid World

With more people working from home or in hybrid settings, the natural separation between work and personal life has diminished. Chris noted that commuting used to provide a buffer that helped us process work stress before transitioning to our personal lives. Now, we need to find new ways to create that separation, whether through deliberate routines or other methods of processing our day’s experiences.


Understanding the Role of Empathy in the Workplace

Chris pointed out that expressing empathy in the workplace requires intentionality. Unlike casual chats or messaging, this involves deeper, more personal interactions—think phone calls, Zoom meetings, or even face-to-face conversations. These interactions are crucial because they allow us to pick up on emotional cues and respond more empathetically.


One key takeaway is the importance of focusing on events rather than behaviors. For example, instead of saying, "You seemed off in that meeting," you might say, "The meeting seemed challenging—what's going on?" This approach is less likely to trigger a defensive reaction and more likely to foster open communication.


Building Empathy Skills

Empathy is not just about understanding others; it also involves building skills within our teams. Chris shared a fascinating approach: by requesting empathy from others, we can help them develop this skill. It might feel risky to be vulnerable at work, but it’s essential for authentic relationships. When we express our struggles and ask for understanding, we not only open the door for empathy but also model it for our colleagues.


In these interactions, it’s crucial to validate the other person's feelings without being condescending. Saying things like, "It makes sense that you feel that way," can go a long way. This simple yet powerful validation can make your colleague feel understood and supported.


The Courage to be Vulnerable

Being vulnerable at work is challenging, yet it’s a cornerstone of effective communication and empathy. Chris emphasized that vulnerability leads to different body chemistry, creating a more open and authentic work environment. When we keep our struggles inside, our leaders and colleagues remain unaware of our true state, leading to misunderstandings and missed opportunities for support.


It's important to approach these conversations without the intent to problem-solve immediately. Instead, focus on being present, empathetic, and validating the other person's experience. This practice not only supports your colleague but also fosters a culture of open communication and trust.


Serving Others with Authenticity

Chris highlighted that empathy should come from a place of genuine service rather than self-serving motives. It's about being there for someone else, not for recognition or self-gratification. True empathy requires self-awareness and a sincere desire to help others, which can significantly enhance workplace relationships and satisfaction.


One profound insight Chris shared is that everyone has an idea or a spark of brilliance that can improve their workplace. Often, these ideas remain dormant due to various barriers, such as fear of rejection or lack of skills. By nurturing these ideas and finding ways to express even a small percentage of them, we can unlock tremendous potential within our teams.


Becoming the Greatest Asset at Work

To become the greatest asset in your workplace, focus on authenticity and continuous improvement. Chris advised that we should acknowledge our unique ideas and find ways to bring them to life, even incrementally. Engaging with peers and seeking feedback can help refine these ideas and make them more impactful.


It's essential to approach innovation with humility and openness. Instead of seeking validation for our ideas, we should collaborate with others to enhance them. This collaborative spirit can lead to more effective solutions and a more dynamic workplace.


Practical Tips for Effective Communication

Chris provided practical tips for presenting ideas to executives, a common challenge in many workplaces. He recommended breaking down complex presentations into smaller, digestible points delivered over time. This approach, known as trickle feeding, leverages education science to enhance retention and engagement.


By acknowledging executives' busy schedules and presenting information in a concise, engaging manner, you can increase the likelihood of your ideas being heard and acted upon. It's also helpful to address potential weaknesses in your proposals upfront, demonstrating thoroughness and openness to feedback.


Final Thoughts on Workplace Relationships & Satisfaction

In closing, Chris reminded us to trust our instincts and seek help when needed. Everyone makes mistakes, and there's no need to suffer in silence. By reaching out for support and focusing on serving others, we can create a more empathetic, innovative, and fulfilling workplace.


Reflecting on our conversation, I realize how crucial empathy and vulnerability are in fostering a positive work environment. By embracing these principles and striving for continuous improvement, we can truly enjoy our work more and contribute to a more dynamic and supportive workplace. Thank you, Chris, for sharing your insights and helping us understand the profound impact of empathy in the workplace.


ABOUT CHRIS REAVIS


Chris helps leaders turn naysayers into innovators, using proven neuroscience. He is a tech leader and 3-time bestselling author that loves removing obstacles from the workplace. 


He teaches others to find what’s causing their work issues and how to overcome them. If it’s time to leave, he helps them take the next best steps. If it’s time for a side hustle, Chris can teach them what works. 


Chris shares 13 evidence-based approaches that anyone can use to enjoy a much happier and more productive career.


Chris is a multiple bestselling author, including the books Unleashed and Hashrate. He lives with his wife, son, and wonder pup Penelope in the Pacific Northwest.



You can grab Chris’s Best-Selling Book: Boost Your Bullsh*t Resilience at Work at thebsbook.com or on Amazon


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