The Four Barriers to Connection – The Fight or Flight Response


By Tasha M. Troy

John Maxwell says that “connecting is the ability to identify with people and relate to them in a way that increases your influence with them.”

IMG_6651If this is the case, it really makes sense for us to learn how to connect better in order to have greater influence with the people around us. Today I’m starting a short series on the four barriers to connection.

The Barrier:

The first barrier is the fight or flight response. Most of us are aware that when we are under stress our body reacts in very primitive ways. This is the fight or flight response: “you want to either escape from the people who are upsetting you or hurt them” (Real Influence p. 20).

When you’re under stress and you fall into the fight or flight, it becomes impossible to connect with the people you’re interacting with. As Dr. Goulston and Dr. Ullmen say, your nervous system “doesn’t know the difference between a tyrannosaurus and a tyrannical boss.”

A Personal Story:

I experienced this recently when I asked a friend for some feedback on a project that didn’t turn out as I had intended. This particular friend had watched me go through the process, and I thought he would have some great insights that would help me to do better on similar projects in the future.

When I got his feedback, however, I did not react so well. His initial observation wasn’t anything I was expecting, and I definitely went into the flight or fight response. As a result, I did great damage to our friendship, and even today it is still in the recovery phase.

As I have reflected on this particular situation, I have come to realize that I frequently respond to this particular friend in a fight or flight response, especially when we communicate by email. As a result, I have set myself a requirement that anytime he says or does something that upsets me, I will wait 48 hours before I respond. This way I give myself time to get out of the fight or flight mode and time to respond in a more rational, calm, and connective way.

The Solution:

The solution to breaking the fight or flight response is to focus on the other person’s feelings.

In his book Everyone Communicates Few Connect, John Maxwell describes five connecting principles and five connecting practices.  One of the five connecting principles is that “connecting is all about others.”  He lists three questions that people are always asking when they’re interacting with you:

  1. Do you care for me?
  2. Can you help me?
  3. Can I trust you?

Stepping back and taking a moment to identify these three questions and how the other person might be trying to answer them can help you break out of the fight or flight cycle.


Take It Deeper

If you would like to go deeper on this topic, I hold free exploratory coaching sessions on Fridays.  You can register online at Troy Communications or email me to schedule an appointment at TMTroy@TroyCommunications.Net




“The Four Traps that Disconnect You” from Real Influence: Persuade without Pushing and Gain without Giving In by Mark Goulston and John Ullmen.  Read my review of Real Influence

The second barrier: The Habit Handicap

The third barrier: Error Blindness

The fourth barrier: The Double Curse of Knowledge

3 thoughts on “The Four Barriers to Connection – The Fight or Flight Response

Add your voice! What are your thoughts on this?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s