Brain Based Engagement. Really?

Submitted by Raising the Village on April 17, 2012 - 10:55am
What truly stops us from engaging?

Do you truly approach or avoid when working with others? How do we know?

Personally, we figure ourselves to be fairly "switched on" in the engagement department. And then we discovered Dr. David Rock’s materials and had to think again!

There are obstacles to working together, no doubt. There are familiar conflicts such as; time, resources, power struggles, differing values and agendas, and communication (or lack of) to name a few.

With all of these obstacles – what is happening or NOT happening is engagement. There are two responses we can take when engaging with others. We can approach or avoid a situation or person based on the way our brain perceives the interaction. Our response is based on neuro-biological social triggers. Knowing our triggers helps us understand (and potentially increase) our positive interactions and collaboration with others. Approach or avoid is with us in every interaction we have in this world and it happens in a SNAP (yes, snap your fingers right now, it’s that quick).

How we are with people can be linked to 5 domains of human social experience. Dr. Rock, the creator of this model, proposes that DEEP engagement occurs when people experience rewards from all five domains of SCARF. (See for more).

1. Status (relative importance to others)
2. Certainty (ability to predict the future)
3. Autonomy (a sense of control over events)
4. Relatedness (sense of safety with others)
5. Fairness (perception of fair exchanges between people)

These five domains are social needs and in fact are treated in our brain the same way we need food and water. How our brain is wired, however, is that the avoid response is the default setting which means we have to work much harder to be in our approach responses.

Now while this model reflects only ONE way to consider engagement and is not the be-all-and-end-all, it has inspired us to write a series of blogs. Watch Raising the Village blogspot as we dive further into these five domains and pose some scenarios to find out... what activates an approach or avoid response for YOU?