The Human Brain: How Neurotransmitters Impact Negotiation Behavior

The Human Brain: How Neurotransmitters Impact Negotiation Behavior

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As a negotiation geek, I love thinking about how the brain impacts our negotiating behaviors. The brain is a fascinating organ. It's the human computer that can process a trillion bits per second. Yet scientists say we've only barely begun to understand how the brain works. 

We know a few basic things, like how the brain evolved over millions of years and how some chemical messengers (or neurotransmitters) relay information that trigger thoughts and emotions that drive our behavior. In this episode, I talk about three neurotransmitters: serotonin, oxytocin, and cortisol. 

My intention is to raise our awareness about our brains and the impact of these neurotransmitters so we can understand: 

Our own impulses at the negotiating table, The why behind how other people react to your ask, and How to create better strategies for success with all this in mind.

Full Episode Transcript

Hello! This is Episode 57 of Born to Thrive with Jamie Lee. I’m your coach and host, Jamie Lee.

How are you?

I believe that we are all born to thrive. Not just survive, not just get by, but really thrive on our own terms, live the life of our dreams.

And I believe that asking for what we want, negotiating, or engaging in collaborative value creating conversations is the practice of conscious leadership. And that means, as a leadership and negotiation coach, I work with human brains.

Take for example, what expectation does your brain hold when you want to ask for what you want?

And in the last episode, 56, I talked about how success comes from asking for what you want with a positive expectation that you will get a yes.

In other words, you want to hold the intentional thought in your brain that you will get a yes.

But we all know that’s not so easy because there’s a part of our brains that will immediately assume we’ll get a no. It will assume the worst-case scenario. It will bring up doubt. It will bring up fear. It will bring up worry and even shame for wanting what we truly want.

The brain will make us feel like we’re gonna die for taking courageous action and for asking for what we want.

And so the work of asking while expecting to win, even when your brain is tempted to assume we’ll get a no, is all about managing our minds. And we can all do this because we are not our brains. We are not the reactive or knee-jerk reaction thoughts that come up in our brains. We’re more than that. We have the capacity to watch our brains. We are the watcher, not the brain. We’re the watcher of the brain.

We have the capacity to manage our brains and show up to the negotiation table with self-composure, self-management, and self-confidence.

I’m a negotiation geek and I love thinking about how the brain impacts our negotiation behaviors but in any case, the brain itself is a fascinating organ. It’s a human computer that can process a trillion bits per second. Did you know that? And yet, scientists say that we’ve only barely begun to understand how the brain really works.

And we know just a few basic things and those are the things I want to share with you today. Like how the brain evolved over millions of years and how some chemical messengers which are called neurotransmitters relay information that can trigger thoughts and these thoughts can trigger emotion that can drive our behavior. That’s why it’s so important to understand how neurotransmitters impact negotiation behavior.

This is a replay of a webinar that I gave last month and I talk about three neurotransmitters:

  1. Serotonin

  2. Oxytocin

  3. Cortisol

And my intention for sharing this content with you is so that we can raise our awareness about our brain so that we can understand, first, our own impulses at the negotiation table - and some of those impulses, if we followed them, we would undermine ourselves, so it’s really important to understand how we’re going to want to react so that we can manage our reactions - and number two, the why behind how other people react to your ask.

And I got feedback from somebody who attended the webinar live that attending this webinar really helped her understand why and how people react the way they do in her workplace conflict situations and this helped her gain a better understanding, bring some compassion, understanding, and wisdom.

And, finally, how to create better strategies for success with all of this in mind. So I cover all of this in this webinar, so I really hope you enjoy and if you like this content, come check out for more webinars and more awesome content coming your way.

Thank you and I hope you enjoy!

Let’s get started. Hello! My name is Jamie Lee. I’m a leadership and negotiation coach and this is The Human Brain: How Neurotransmitters Impact Negotiation Behavior.

I have prepared a slide presentation for you, so let me share that.

Alright, so again, we’re gonna talk about the human brain and how neurotransmitters impact negotiation behavior.

I work as a leadership and negotiation coach and my mission is to help high performers like you become bolder, braver, and better paid through powerful mindset shifts.

So, why mindset? Why do I focus on this mindset? It’s because success is 90% mindset and mindset is how we think in our brains, how we feel in our hearts and in our bodies, and how we act from those emotions.

And when I talk about mindset, I talk about how there are only five things in the Universe. There are five things:

  • Circumstances that are neutral and provable.

  • How we interpret those circumstances, which are our thoughts, which are 100% optional.

  • How we think influences how we feel.

  • How we feel influences how we act.

  • How we act creates our results.

And so, when you see this, you might think, “But wait. Is that right? Because I feel like there’s something wrong with my circumstances.”

It’s a very common misconception that many people have that, under the right circumstances, then we will have the right feelings, then we will have the right thoughts, then we will take the right actions to create the results we want.

For the most part, we feel like there is something wrong. Do you feel like there is something wrong in the world? With you? With the people with whom you negotiate at your work and in your life?

And I’m gonna guess that for most of you, the answer is, “Yeah. I feel like there is something wrong with the world, with me, with other people. There’s definitely something wrong.”

And if that is the case, I just want to reassure you that there is nothing wrong with you for thinking that way. And I hope that the content I will share with you will show you that there’s a really good reason why, which is that we have a human brain that has been programmed by design, by evolution, to make us think that there is something wrong. And when we think that there is something wrong, in fact there is nothing wrong with us.

And because we think there is something wrong, these are the common reactions to negotiating:

We either put up a fight, we try to dominate the conversation, we try to turn it into a debate and win at all costs, at the expense of collaboration, cooperation, and better reputation, better results.

Or we fold too early. We give up. We give in to other people’s demands and we feel defeated.

Or we take flight. We avoid the conversation altogether because the concept of dealing, of engaging in conflict is too uncomfortable for us.

So we either fight, we fold, or we take flight.

And again, there’s a good reason why. It’s because we have a human brain.

So, let’s talk about the human brain.

I’m not a scientist. I’m a coach. So, I’m just gonna talk about really, really basic things. The basic things that we all understand and know about the human brain. And, according to research I found on, there are 100 billion neurons or nerve cells, brain cells, in the brain. 100 billion. And these nerve cells don’t actually touch each other. They are connected by synapses.

What they do is they emit, the nerve cells emit neurotransmitters. So neurotransmitters are basically the chemical messengers of the brain that enable the nerve cells to talk to each other. And neurotransmitters can trigger thought processes. Neurotransmitters can trigger feelings and, therefore, neurotransmitters can trigger certain behaviors.

Take, for example, when we feel stress inside our body, it sets off 1400 different chemical reactions and more than 30 hormones and neurotransmitters. This is something that I learned from reading the book Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself by Dr. Joe Dispenza, which I highly recommend. The book really goes into the science of how the brain works and how, actually, when the brain thinks, the emotions that are triggered by our thoughts are not just immaterial, they’re actually material because they do set off chemical reactions in our body. There is a real chemical reaction that happens when we feel a certain emotion and those chemical reactions trigger a desire to take certain actions.

And so understanding our brain is super important to understanding our mindset so that we can create the results that we want.

Another thing I found out about the brain is that there are a quadrillion synaptic connections. In other words, there are a thousand trillion - a quadrillion is a thousand trillion. There is just a mind-boggling number of synaptic connections that can happen in the brain, how nerve cells can connect with each other.

And, according to one research I read, the human brain is like a supercomputer with a 1 trillion bit per second processor. So that’s kind of really cool to think about how we have the most advanced machine, the world’s fastest supercomputer, in our heads: the brain.

So a lot of brain scientists at first, earlier in the twentieth century, thought that we are born with a certain number of brain cells and that’s it. So our capacity, our brain capacity, is determined at birth. That was what a lot of people thought but that thinking has evolved now and now neuroplasticity, which, basically, is another way to say that you can change your brain throughout your life - you can do that throughout your adulthood, well into your adulthood because we can change the neural pathway or how nerve cells connect with each other. The way our brain works can be changed and can evolve throughout our life.

So, that’s amazing news. It’s really great news.

And so, having said that, in the frame of neuroplasticity, I think it really helps us to understand the root of our impulses by understanding our human brain, understanding the role neurotransmitters or the chemical messengers play in our brains, so that we can understand our own impulses, our own impulses, particularly, around negotiating, which I said earlier was to fight, put up a fight, dominate and debate and to win at all costs, or to give up, to fold to early or to undermine ourselves, and finally to avoid negotiating altogether, which is something that I used to do because I felt too much anxiety about negotiating or asking for what I wanted.

Then it also helps us to understand the counterpart, our negotiation counterpart’s reactions. Why do they react the way they react?

We feel frustrated and feel a lot of stress because we don’t understand the root of other people’s behaviors and I think understanding the brain and neurotransmitters really helps us understand their reactions from a compassionate place, from a non-judgmental place.

And from there, we can learn how to negotiate better, how to create better results for ourselves. So that’s what we’re going to talk about today at this webinar.

So, the human brain evolved over 7 million years. That’s a long time. In summary, the brain is old.

According to the evolutionary model, we evolved from single cells to mammals and then to our current human form and according to this research that I read, the human brain evolved over seven million years. It tripled in size, but the most development of the human brain happened only over the last two million years.

And when you think about the fact that we now live in modern society with cutting-edge technology, the changes that our society has gone through happened within a blip of time when you think about the full spectrum of human evolution over millions and millions of years.

It’s old.

And so I’m gonna talk about how the brain has evolved over those long times and how that evolution is still impacting us today.

And so, because the brain is old, it hasn’t completely evolved past those patterns of the past. So the brain favors survival, by which I mean we evolved from a time when we lived as mammals in the wild. And so the brain favors survival or ways to avoid harm, physical harm, emotional harm, imagined harm, perceived harm, any sort of harm, any sort of pain, really because our brain perceives threat to any sort of harm or perceived, imagined, threat as a threat to our survival, to living in the wild and being able to pass on our gene pool, basically.

And the brain also favors belonging because over time we have evolved to become social animals and we’ve found safety in numbers.

And so the brain also favors repetition because when we repeat the patterns of the past that ensured our survival, ensured our belonging, then we know we can continue to survive. So the brain favors repetition of things that we’ve done in the past. It favors efficiency and that is because, when this pathway is formed, when this synapse is created, it is strengthened by repetition.

So, I’m gonna talk about three chemicals, brain chemicals, or neurotransmitters: serotonin, oxytocin and cortisol. As I said, I’m really gonna talk about really, really basic things and I’m going to talk about how these chemicals impact our behavior at the negotiation table and how we can improve our results from having understood the impact of these chemicals on ourselves and in our behavior.

So, the first chemical is serotonin. Serotonin is a happy chemical, like when there is serotonin fired in our brain, we feel good. And serotonin is associated with when we have gained social advantage or when we feel that we’re getting the respect of others and we feel pride.

Now, I know a lot of us don’t like to think of ourselves as animals that seek social advantage. We want to think that we naturally want to be equal with everyone, that everyone should be equal but the reality is that we evolved from having been these pack animals.

And on the right here is a picture of a meerkat. They look warm and fuzzy and cuddly but, in reality, they’re really fierce and aggressive. I was just reading research that says that even though they like to play a lot, even with their play they display a lot of aggressive behavior and that is driven by serotonin.

And one thing that I read that I found so fascinating is that “Natural selection built a brain that compares itself to others as if your life depended on it.” And this is a quote from Dr. Loretta Breuning.

And so our brains are wired to compare ourselves to others and to always size up the situation and see what is the hierarchy here, who’s on top, how do I compare with others, how do I one-up myself, how do I gain a social advantage? And that’s just baked into our mammalian brains and I find it really interesting that our brains are built to do that as if our life depended on it.

According to Dr. Breuning, our desire for social advantage is more primal than our desire for food or sex, which makes sense when you think about the fact that we evolved from having survived in the wilderness and having a top of the hierarchy ensure that we would be able to pass on our gene pool.

Now we don’t live that way but still these ways of thinking, the way that our brain is wired, impacts our behavior because serotonin drives us to one-up each other. And it drives us to want to fight to be right at all costs and to rage against power.

Now this may seem counterintuitive, right?

You may think that the people who are in power experience serotonin, people who don’t have power feel depleted of serotonin and so they feel sad, depressed, which makes sense when you think about the fact that serotonin, or the lack of serotonin is thought to be association with depression.

But also serotonin drives us to want to seek moral superiority and makes us want to feel special within a group of people and so how does this play out in our interaction with people, especially at the negotiation table?

So, when others try to one-up, when they try to say “Oh, I’m better than so-and-so because I have the better car or I have more money in my bank account,” or whatever, we judge them. We judge people like that. We find them really annoying. We call them arrogant, right? We dismiss them.

But see what your brain is doing there. By dismissing those people, by calling those people arrogant, we have found ourselves to be at a moral high ground. So by judging people, we find a way to one-up them. See how that impulse to one-up others is so deeply ingrained in us?

And when we try to defend our position, it feels like our very survival is at risk. It feels like there’s this innate desire to be right, to be proven right and this desire can undermine our negotiation outcomes because when we lose sight of our long-term goal and just try to fight people, we lose their trust, we can put the relationship at risk, and we can undermine our result.

And so I think it’s really important to remember that negotiation is not about one-ups and put-downs.

I used to think this way. I used to think “Oh, when you negotiate for what you want, you go in there, you make demands and you huff and puff and show yourself to be right and better than everyone else.” It’s about one-ups and put-downs. When people try to put you down, you come up with the better one-up.

So, this was a really game-changer for me, it really changed my life when I realized that negotiation is not about one-ups and put-downs but it’s simply a conversation with the intention of reaching agreement. That’s it. We can lose the drama.

And so, what are some things that we can do to improve our negotiation results in light of our mammalian brains wanting to always one-up others because of our desire for serotonin and to feel good?

We just first start with observing and raising our self-awareness. Observe our knee-jerk reaction to want to prove ourselves right, to want to be right, and be morally superior to others at any given time, at any point in the conversation.

Just observe and raise your self-awareness around that and ask will this help me? If I follow this impulse, this desire to prove myself right, will this help me achieve my big goal or just make me feel better in the moment?

Now take, for example, you’re going into a salary negotiation conversation and your supervisor makes a comment about, “Well, you’re doing pretty good but there’s this one aspect of your performance that I’d like you to improve.”

This sort of thing is something that I coach a lot of my clients over and our minds, our brains, will be tempted to just sort of fixate on that one negative comment because it means that we weren’t right, we’re not doing 100%, we’re not special. And it’s gonna make us want to fight and debate in the moment and say, “Wait, wait, wait. But you’re missing x, y, and z,” right?

So just observe that knee-jerk reaction and that desire to prove yourself right in that moment and ask, will this actually help me or will this make me feel just good in the moment?

And also, understand how the other side wants to be perceived by others because, in the workplace, we don’t like to think of it as a hierarchy but of course there are hierarchies in the workplace. There are people who make decisions, right? And how do those people want to be perceived by other people in the workplace? Treat them accordingly.

When I was very young, I once made the mistake of going up to the CEO of a small firm that I worked at and I went and I demanded that this person give me the reimbursement for a training that I had signed up for, it was like $1,000.

And we’re gonna talk about this a little bit later on but serotonin metabolizes very quickly and the brain’s natural state is actually cortisol, or stress, or to look for threats to your perceived social status. And so when this young person who’s fresh out of college marches up to you and makes a demand like that in front of everyone, from his perspective, it can seem like a threat.

And so I did myself a disservice by not thinking about how my behavior can undermine my own desired negotiation outcome because I didn’t think about how the CEO wanted to be treated.

So, what about you?

How can you better understand how you’re negotiation counterpart wants to be perceived by others and treat them accordingly?

Take, for example, if you need to negotiate for help with somebody and they want to be perceived as experts in a particular field, make sure you treat them accordingly. Make sure you treat them the way they want to be treated because it is linked to how their brain wants to see themselves as having a particular social standing.

So now let’s talk about oxytocin.

Oxytocin is happy chemical. It’s another happy chemical. When oxytocin fires, we feel good. And this chemical is associated with social trust, belonging, and the safety we seek in numbers. And we know that oxytocin is fired when a mother nurtures her infant and when a mother breastfeeds her infant.

I really like this quote from Dr. Loretta Breuning again, “Neurons connect when oxytocin flows, which wires you to trust in a context that triggered it for you before.”

Again, it kind of shows you how the brain will always want to revert to the past memories that triggered happy feelings, so when you felt good because you belonged to a softball team when you were in middle school, you will always want to recreate that happy feeling by belonging to a team like that.

So, oxytocin drives us to belong to a group, conform to a group, but also drives us to be selective about whom we trust because of what Dr. Breuning said, because neurons are going to look for the same context that triggered oxytocin for you before.

And so, how does this impact our thinking about our counterpart? How does this impact us at the negotiation table?

When others conform to their social group norms, we judge them to be closed-minded. We sometimes call these people biased and we make them out to be wrong. I have a lot of experience with this because I have belonged to many different social groups and I’m sure that’s also the case for you.

I was born in South Korea so, for my formative years, I belonged to the social group of Koreans who identified themselves as Koreans. And then I moved to America when I was very young. I’m an immigrant and so then I belonged to a social group of immigrants and now I belong to a social group of people who call themselves coaches, right?

And when I was assimilating, when I was becoming more American in my teenage years, I wanted to judge my parents. I wanted to say, “Oh, they’re so closed-minded. They’re so stuck in their old ways of thinking and feeling and behaving because they only wanted to stick to Korean ways of doing things. And I was judging them to be closed-minded but in fact, I think it’s really because of how our brains are wired and because our neurons fire when oxytocin flows and we’re always going to be looking for the same context. And so, for adults, they’re gonna look for the same context and for my parents, it was the context of being among other people who look and talk and eat like them. Koreans, right?

So, for us, when we want to do something different than our group, we fear social rejection because we don’t want to give up oxytocin flowing in our brains. Oxytocin makes us feel good and we fear that if we choose something that is different than the group we belong to, we will be rejected and we will lose out on oxytocin. So I think it’s really fascinating to think about how do we undermine ourselves, like our individual desires, our individual and unique dreams because of oxytocin?

What are we giving up to feel good and to feel like we belong?

And how often do we fold because we feel like we’re not going with the group?

I have coached some people who told me that they don’t want to be too successful in terms of their status, in terms of the money they earn because they don’t feel that it’s fair. And another way to look at that is they fear that they will lose belonging, lose the sense of belonging to this social group that identify themselves in a specific way in terms of as coworkers, as people who are struggling.

And when you think about how serotonin is also fired when we feel moral superiority, you can see how the cocktail of serotonin making us want to feel moral superiority over those people who have the things that we look down upon and oxytocin making us want to belong and stick with the group that shares the same values as us. You can see how it can create conflict and make us want to feel like it’s safer to just stick with the status quo instead of sticking our neck out, making waves, asking for what we want, and going for our dreams.

And so, what should we do?

Here’s some suggestions. First of all, you can use oxytocin as a positive way to create a bond with your negotiation partner. And that’s why, when I teach negotiation, I always talk about how the first thing you want to do is you want to establish a relationship. You want to establish that bond. And you can do that by identifying what is the common ground that both you and I share?

You and I both work in this particular industry.

You and I both work for this particular person.

You and I both want the same thing, which is to be able to go home to our loved ones sooner rather than later.

Or, do we share a common enemy? And that’s why a lot of people bond over gossip, right?

And a really easy way to think about this is you can simply talk about the weather.

“The weather is terrible today, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, it totally sucks.”

And just by talking about some common ground or common enemy that you both share, you can easily and very quickly establish a bond. It can happen with something really simple like just a greeting, a little bit of small talk, or you can really invest time in establishing that relationship by sharing meals, going out, spending time together.

You don’t necessarily have to touch each other to create that feeling of oxytocin. You can just create a bond by building a relationship and I say this is like the fundamental thing that you want to do. This is the fundamental thing you want to do before asking for what you want, before making demands or negotiating.

And when you are negotiating, find social proof for your ask that they care about. Now, social proof is one of the six principles of influence that Robert Cialdini talks about in his book, Pre-Suasion. And social proof is basically, it shows that what you are asking for is something that is validated by a group of people.

And so, in the context of workplace negotiation, it’s really straightforward. Think about, okay, what are the metrics, what are the values, what are the key goals that the person that you’re negotiating with most cares about?

It’s not just what you care about. Take, for example, if you work as a graphic designer, you probably most care about creating the best graphic design. But the person that you negotiate with, what they really care about may be revenues for the company because their performance is measured by the revenue they generate for that company.

So social proof can be also metrics, goals, values, and so it takes some curiosity. It takes some asking questions, open questions, and researching the other side to understand what they most care about. Which group do they most want to belong to?

And also, don’t give up on your unique desires, on your individual goals for the sake of oxytocin. If you want to become the best person in your industry, if you want to become a person who earns a six-figure salary, don’t give that dream up because other people in your social circle haven’t done it, other people in your social circle look down on it.

I’m thinking about how, for me, not a lot of people in my immediate circle are coaches. I don’t know anyone who is also a Korean and an immigrant and a coach but just because I didn’t see other people doing what I’m doing now, it didn’t mean that I needed to give up on it.

So think about what it is you want and honor your desires, your individual desires.

So now, let’s talk about cortisol which is the only unhappy chemical I’m gonna talk about today. It’s an unhappy chemical triggered by real threats, perceived threats, and imagined threats.

So something really fascinating that I read while I was putting together this content was that cortisol is basically always there. In other words, it’s natural. The brain’s natural state is to always look for threats to its survival and that makes sense when you think about the millions and millions of years that humans survived in the wilderness and we had to watch out for threats to our survival like a predator, so our brains are wired to always seek out predators and to look for threats and because our brains are so big and because human brains think in terms of language, our brains are uniquely adapted to imagine threats, to create threats by our thinking, and we think in our language, with words.

Dr. Breuning says, “Cortisol creates the feeling that you will die if you don’t make the threat stop. Disappointment triggers cortisol.”

So this is really fascinating, that this explains so many things - why we buffer. Buffer is my way of describing how we try to resist feeling uncomfortable, we try to avoid disappointment, we try to react by doing things that will mask this threat of disappointment.

And often that looks like us looking for distractions, that looks like us giving up, that looks like us blaming other people.

And that’s because cortisol is baked into our brain for the purpose of our survival in the wilderness and it creates a feeling that you will die. That also explains why when we feel stressed about negotiating or doing anything that is courageous, it feels like, in a fundamental place in our brains, it feels like oh my god, we’re gonna die. Even though we’re not. We’re gonna be perfectly fine and all we’re gonna do is we’re gonna just sit down and have a conversation.

So, another really interesting thing about cortisol is that it is fired when our brain anticipates pain. And so it is fired when we anticipate pain and it makes us feel afraid of imagined or perceived threats and it can drive us to buffer or avoid, react, or resist uncomfortable feelings because, for us, in the wilderness, disappointment meant that we were getting eaten by a lion even though now, in our present lives, disappointments means that a conversation doesn’t go exactly as we imagined it, right?

So, at the negotiation table, when we don’t understand the picture in the mind of our negotiation counterpart, in other words, when we don’t understand how our negotiating counterpart is anticipating pain or imagining or perceiving threat to their identity, their social identity, their sense of belonging, when we don’t see that picture, then their stress reaction, which might be either avoiding, blaming, resisting, looking for distractions, it can seem really illogical. It can seem like what’s wrong with these people? Why are the acting like that? It doesn’t make any sense and then it creates even more stress for us.

But when we feel stress, when we imagine or perceive a threat to our social identity, it feels awful! It feels terrible! We feel it and I often ask my clients, so what do you feel when you feel stress? And it’s in the mind, they really feel it physically too, it’s in the body. They feel it in their neck, in the pit of their stomach, they can’t think straight and that stress can further impact their behavior and further impact their results.

So how do we work around this? How do we become better at responding to cortisol so that it doesn’t ruin our negotiation outcomes?

The first thing I want to offer is you want to learn how to separate stories from facts. Remember I just said how our human brains are big, they’re the biggest of mammalian brains and we’re uniquely adapted in that we think in language, in words. And the words that we have in our brains help us concoct stories. And the stories feel real. Our brains don’t know the difference between an emotion that is triggered by imagination, by thoughts, and the emotion that we experience from direct input from our environment.

In other words, there’s no difference between emotion that we feel because of our thinking and the emotion that we feel because of experience.

So this is the hardest part. What are the stories that we believe about ourselves? What are the stories that trigger our emotions at the negotiation table? And what are the facts?

I think this is why it’s really important to gain a really good mastery around your emotions. This is why how you feel will drive your negotiation outcomes because we want to first understand the stories that create the emotional reactions.

Take, for example, I’ve dealt with social anxiety for most of my life and I noticed at one point that I always felt threatened when people were looking at me a certain way. Now, that’s because I had created a story in my mind about what those people were intending, what those people were thinking, what those people were feeling about me when the fact of the situation was that simply they just made a facial expression.

And I had to remind myself, okay, this is another story. This is fiction that I’m getting myself into, not fact. So, first, sit down. Write down the thoughts you have about a situation and learn how to separate stories from facts. And this is gonna be difficult because this is something that I do with all my clients and they always tell me that their story is a fact because it feels like a fact.

And, again, that’s because the experience that we have in our brain from thoughts is just as real as emotion that we experience from actual experience.

And from there, once we have learned how to separate stories from facts, we want to learn how to allow the discomfort without buffering. Because, as I said, cortisol, the stress neurotransmitter, is a constant. I mentioned earlier, the good feeling chemicals - oxytocin, serotonin- when they are fired, they mask the cortisol but they metabolize quickly and so we come back to that natural state of feeling like there’s something wrong, feeling like we gotta be on the lookout, feeling like our own survival is at risk.

And it’s uncomfortable to just allow that cortisol to fire without reacting, without avoiding, without taking a negative action that takes us away from our goal as opposed to towards our goals. This requires us to separate our thinking from our emotion and to allow negative emotion because the reality of the human condition is that 50% of the time, we are going to experience negative emotion.

And, again, that’s just because of the way our brains are wired for survival from evolution. It doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with us, it just means that there is something right with us in that our brains are working just fine.

And also, something I teach all the time is so difficult to do and yet so simple. Easy for me to say, hard to implement, which is we want to get curious about our negotiation counterpart, not furious when they react from the stress they experience in their own minds because of the cortisol that is firing in their brains.

Let’s say people say no to your ask. Don’t get furious, just get curious.

Try to understand, better understand their stories, the picture in their mind’s eye. What is the perceived threat they see? What are they imagining? We don’t know until we ask and get curious about them.

So the purpose of this content was to help us better understand our human brains, better understand the behavior that can lead us to undermine our negotiation results and to think about ways to improve our negotiation outcomes.

And at the end of the day, I want to encourage all of us to stop beating ourselves up for having a human brain. Let’s stop beating ourselves up for wanting to feel morally superior, wanting to always feel special, wanting to fight when, in reality, that impulse is not gonna serve us, wanting to belong to a social group, wanting to conform even though we know that conforming is not going to serve what we truly want for ourselves.

And also, let’s stop beating ourselves up for feeling that, feeling stress, feeling like there’s something wrong because that’s just how we are wired. It doesn’t mean that we have to give in. It doesn’t mean that we have to concede. It doesn’t mean that we have to surrender to having this human brain. I think want we can do is that we can choose to evolve from our default, reactionary behavior because of the neurotransmitter.

We can create intentional thinking. We can manage our brain from the most evolved part of our brains which is, I believe, called the prefrontal cortex which is where our higher reasoning, planning, imagination, where all of that happens. We can start managing our human brain to lead, influence, and thrive.

And so that concludes the official content and if you like this material, I want to quickly tell you about the Small Group Mastermind that is starting in a month. Small Group Mastermind will start in March 2019. I just wrapped up the first group in January, it went really well. And it’s designed for eight women who want to lead, influence, and thrive and who want the support so that they can manage their brains.

Each group call will be a deep dive into your future self, imagining your future self, imagining your more evolved self and how to generate self-confidence from within you, how to set and maintain healthy boundaries and more. And you will benefit from both private coaching with me - you will get two sessions with me - as well as opportunity to interact and hold each other accountable within the context of this group.

So, we just talked about serotonin, oxytocin and cortisol and my intention with this Mastermind is to help you use your brain on purpose to create that future reality that you most want to create. And so you can come to to read more about it.

As I said, the next Mastermind will start on March 19th and if you sign up before then, you will schedule a private one-on-one coaching call with me and then there are going to be four group calls: one on how to set goals and how to envision your future self, the second will be on how to generate self-confidence, the third will be establishing boundaries, and the fourth will be emotional mastery - how do we become more evolved so that we don’t just give into our natural tendencies to fight, fold, and take flight but instead create emotional mastery so that we’re not just reacting to negative emotions but generating positive emotions on purpose to take positive action towards our goals?

So it works, as I mentioned, with both a combination of private and group coaching calls. You will have two private coaching calls with me, four group coaching calls, and in between calls, you will also get to deepen your learning and take action towards your individual goals. You will also be assigned worksheets that will help you deepen your learning of how to generate emotional mastery, etc.

So this is a testimonial from somebody who was in my January Mastermind and she said that “being in the Mastermind was extremely valuable and with the group’s help, [she] developed and applied strategies for helping her regain some control over [her] response to life’s hurdles.”  So what she’s talking about is how she was able to overcome her human brain tendency to react, right? “And in turn this has empowered me to better pursue the life that I want.”

So, if this is what you want for yourself, please get in touch with me. Let’s talk.

So this is a really, really good deal. My retail coaching fee is $350 but this group coaching program is only three monthly payments of $210, so you save more than $1,000.

Email me directly if you’re interested, or you can go to and submit your application form. Either way, if you apply you will get a free consult. You and I will get an opportunity to talk. I’m not about hard selling, I just want to make sure that this is a good, mutual fit for both you and for me and you might get benefit out of our quick conversation. So, reach out. There’s no harm and there’s no risk.

So, finally, does coaching actually generate results? I know coaching is becoming more popular but does it really work?

So, I want to share some of the results that my clients have seen in their own careers so you can decide for yourself.

So, I had one of my clients, she was able to flip a no to a yes for her dream job. I coached her as she was transitioning from one job to another and she really wanted to work with this particular dream company. At first, they said no. But because she was coached and because she really dug deep into her self-belief, into generating confidence for herself and not reacting from her brain’s natural tendencies but choosing using her human brain, her prefrontal cortex, to do what she knew she could do which was ask for more. And so she did. She negotiated a $10,000 salary increase when she flipped that no to a yes and she’s currently maxing out her quarterly bonus.

I have another client whom I coached through her negotiation process and she’s still a current client. When she got a job offer, she realized what she really wanted was a bigger role. She didn’t just want to be another project manager, she wanted to be a technical program manager so she asked for that bigger role and the thing that held her back from making that ask was her brain saying, “Who do you think you are to make that ask?” And so the coaching was around getting over that perceived fear and as a result, she got that bigger role, she is earning $10,000 more than she would have if she didn’t ask, and she’s also now working to achieve her goal of becoming an expert in her field.

I have another client who has a job and she also has a side hustle that’s all about making impact for women with ADHD and, again, the coaching is about managing her mindset about what is possible. What is she thinking by default and what does she want to think on purpose, intentionally? And when she chose thoughts that served her, by design, the thoughts that would make her motivated to overcome the brain’s natural tendency to avoid pain, she was able to reach out, she was able to get in touch with industry influencers, and she’s currently being groomed to be a thought leader at her day job.

So these are some of the results and there are more results. I have clients who are earning more money, becoming leaders and thought leaders in their fields, so if you want to see more results from my coaching, please go to

So if you have any questions about the content I’ve just shared, please feel free to type them into the Q&A box. If you look, I think it’s either at the top or the bottom of your Zoom interface, there is a little button that says ‘Q’, so if you click on that, you’ll be able to submit a question directly to me.

Alright, well if you don’t have any questions, I will assume you are satisfied with what you’ve heard, there’s nothing that was confusing. Thank you for your time and look forward to hearing from you.

How to Tame Your Inner Mammal with Dr. Loretta Breuning

How to Tame Your Inner Mammal with Dr. Loretta Breuning

You've Gotta Ask

You've Gotta Ask