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Are you having an Oxytocin or a Cortisol Conversation?

Project success depends on the collaboration of a diverse group of individuals from various functions of an organization that may represent conflicting priorities, interests, and agendas. The main role of a project manager is to bring this diverse community of stakeholders together to work through these conflicts and make decisions on plans, requirements, priorities, dependencies, and deadlines.

To be effective, project managers must develop “Conversational Intelligence” to handle a variety of leadership situations. Some of these involve facilitating difficult conversations about uncomfortable or taboo issues, asking the stakeholder community to do what it does or doesn’t want to do; anticipating and working through the resistance to change, and often disappointing stakeholders gently and tactfully.

Chemistry plays a big role in how we handle these conversations. According to an article by Judith E. Glaser and Richard D. Glaser, negative conversations are associated with higher levels of cortisol, a hormone that shuts down the thinking center of our brains and activates conflict aversion and protection behaviors. On the other hand, positive conversations can spur the production of oxytocin, a feel-good hormone that elevates our ability to communicate, collaborate and trust others by activating networks in our prefrontal cortex. Judith and Richard elaborate further on this concept in their great article: The Neurochemistry of Positive Conversations.

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Project success depends on the collaboration of a diverse group of individuals from various functions of an organization that may represent conflicting priorities, interests, and agendas. The main role of a project manager is to bring this diverse community of stakeholders together to work through tContinue Reading