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Triune Brain: improving purchasing Negotiations

Also available in: Português Español

Understanding how our brains work can simplify the way we negotiate or positively transform our interactions with other people.

The concept of the Triune Brain, developed in the 60’s, broadens our knowledge of this body, still so little understood, and offers the opportunity for development in the work environment, including for the purchasing professional – always involved in negotiations connected with several different interlocutors.

What is the Triune Brain, anyway?

The Triune Brain is a model formulated by neurosurgeon Paul D. MacLean based on the division of the human brain into three distinct regions, and organizing itself in a hierarchy based on its evolution. The regions are:

1. Primal or Reptilian Brain

As the name suggests, this brain part is also found in reptiles and controls the body’s vital functions, and is also responsible for our survival instincts. It warns us, for example, of our basic functions such as when we are hungry, cold, hot or thirsty.

Located in the brain stem, in the place where the spinal cord accesses the skull, the primitive (or inferior) brain governs our five primary feelings: anger, sadness, joy, disgust and surprise.

In a situation of danger the reptilian structure is awakened, releasing chemical substances to act instinctively, in defense of our self-preservation. When we lean our hand on a hot pot, for example, the automatic reaction is to push it away immediately – we act without thinking, something common when this brain is in charge.

But, besides primitive impulses, this brain is also related to habits and procedural memory, like getting into the car and starting to drive automatically, without having to think about every step that involves this action. The repetition leads to the recognition that the action is safe.

2. Limbic or Emotional Brain

Its location is exactly above the reptilian brain, that is, right in the middle of the Central Nervous System. The limbic (or middle) brain is the center of our emotions, memory and motivation.

By being activated it can raise the heart rate, increase oxygen consumption, preparing our body to fight or escape from some situation it perceives as dangerous. It can also trigger stress, one of the biggest problems faced in the workplace – whether at the office or working from home.

When we receive a disturbing message or see shocking news, for example, the limbic system is triggered, leading to an emotional experience before the occurrence.

3. Rational or Intelligent Brain

The intelligent brain is a younger cerebral part, constituted by the neocortex, and is responsible for all the conscious activities of superior order: language, reasoning, imagination, creativity, abstract thought, etc.

Located just behind the forehead, the rational (or superior) brain also concentrates a good part of our biographical and automatic memory – essential so that we can talk, write or calculate, among other actions. Responding to the perception of time and context, inhibition of inappropriate actions, generates understanding and empathy, and thus governs the way we conduct our interpersonal relationships and allows us to live in society.

That is, in any situation in which we use our reason the intelligent brain is activated, without involving other brain structures. A good example is when we face professional challenges, and seek the best solutions for each situation.

However, it is important to stress, the rational brain can go offline in threatening situations (real or imaginary), giving way to the limbic system, the first to respond when the goal is to maintain our security.

Triune Brain can improve purchasing negotiations

The concept of the Triune Brain can be used to improve the performance of the purchasing sector because, just as it is possible to develop essential skills for the professional to act in the digital age, it is also possible to better understand the functioning of this system to improve the work routine, as well as to obtain a better negotiation.

Well studied and applied, it can become a form of self-knowledge and be used to “map” better the people with whom we relate – in personal and professional life – even at the moment of negotiation.

As we have seen, our rational (or intelligent) brain is responsible for governing our behavior rationally, inhibiting the primitive impulses of our reptilian brain whenever they arise and prove inadequate.

If during a negotiation a primitive feeling arises, such as anger, for example, it is a sign that the reptilian brain is in command, giving flow to the irrational side.

It is worth remembering that we all carry emotional histories that can be unintentionally awakened by another person. Like the feeling of sadness or joy that comes to the surface, unconsciously, because of a gesture or perfume from someone present at the meeting – that is, many times the sensation awakened was not premeditated.

At such times the best way forward is to work on this sensation in a rational way, trying to understand why it has arisen and thinking about the harm it may offer if it is not mastered. And, of course, it must be replaced by a civilized and positive behavior, coming from the rational brain.

One way to achieve this effect is to go out for a drink of water or ask for the conversation to be postponed to another occasion – if it is possible to postpone – and especially to breathe deeply: this action better oxygenates the neocortex and helps it function.

In fact, it is always possible to make a choice: give in to the primitive impulses and desires of the reptilian brain or use the intelligent (or rational) brain to control them, and obtain the best results in personal and professional life, no matter how challenging the moment may be.

The three distinct brains, which emerged as we evolved and now coexist, do not operate independently: they influence each other. The balance between them will allow us to maintain harmonious relationships, regulate impulses and maintain the right behavior in the most varied situations – like the moment of an important negotiation in the purchasing department.

The concept of the Trine Brain comes to add to other information that can turn the game when negotiating – an essential task for the purchasing department. And exactly because it’s so important, we suggest reading our content on negotiation. Access and improve your techniques:

Advanced trading: prepare for better results

Using emotion for better negotiation

Get to know BATNA, Harvard’s advanced negotiation method

Also available in: Português Español

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