Fleshing out the data/A new kind of sensitivity for leaders

Hello there good reader.

You are a preverbal visceral system of arousal!

Ummm? What?

You are currently experiencing a constant bombardment of sensory data. This data is reaching you through your senses, your viscera.  

When I use the term ‘senses’ I’m talking about much more than you sight, smell, taste, hearing and touch. You exist with a sense of balance, a sense of depth, a sense of motion and a sense of stillness. Wikipedia has a huge list of your senses including:

  • Balance and acceleration
  • Temperature
  • Proprioception – aka the space around you
  • Pain
  • Sexual stimulation
  • Next we have other  internal senses including:
  • Hunger
  • Pulmonary stretch which controls your respiration rate
  • Peripheral chemoreceptors that monitor carbon dioxide levels
  • Stimulation receptors in the esophagus control vomiting and swallowing
  • Cardioception refers to the perception of the activity of the heart

In addition to these, we have a chemoreceptor trigger zone which receives inputs from blood born drugs or hormones and communicates with the vomiting centre. Other chemoreceptors respond to our blood sugar levels. Receptors in our bladder and rectum result in sensations of fullness. This is important. It’s how we know we need to go to the bathroom. These are not conscious, cognitive thoughts that require language. Babies do this easily. They are preverbal stimulations and actions.

We have other senses that are more subjective as well. They include our sense of time, sense of agency, sense of familiarity and sense of justice.

All of these are senses can be felt within the body

Humans are not rational. We are preverbal irrational animals cursed with the power of cognition. If you are reading this and think that you are a reasonable person, know this now: You’re not reasonable. Most of your vital systems happen long before the reasonable part of your brain kicks in. Still insist that you are rational and reasonable? Well then you’re an even bigger idiot than I am. Really. Hey you! I just called you an idiot. What are you feeling? Where do you feel that in your body? That’s an emotion. Emotions are not rational. And they happen much more quickly and powerfully than cognition. They happen whether you want them to or not. Any baby will show you two things: You don’t need words to have emotion. And your emotions are powerful and real.

Preverbal senses need to matter for leaders

It is through these preverbal senses and signals that we know we are safe.

As a clown, therapist and even when I was a wedding DJ, becoming more aware of these other sensory, preverbal inputs allowed me to process more information and adapt my behavior to maximize my connections with others. Some people call this stuff intuition. Still more believe it’s just something that people are ‘born with’. I disagree. Sensitivity – which to me means being aware of and able to process the data provided to us from as many of our senses as possible is something that I learned. As such, it’s something that can be taught.

Leaders who are intuitive and creative are using their sensitivity and responding effectively to sensory data in their relations with their environment and with others. The more you can be aware of your pre-verbal sensory input, the more effectively you can manage your responses to others, becoming an intuitive and responsive, rather than reactive leader. And the more you can be aware that everyone around you is a water-filled bag of pre-verbal sensing systems, the more you can pay attention to their responses and reactions to you and their environment.

Use more data

So, as a leader, if you aren’t using all of your senses – relying solely on ‘rational data’ you are probably also letting preverbal data impact your decision making unawares. Your data set is incomplete. Myself? More data and more information leads to better decisions. As a leader at your workplace, how do you use all of your senses in the data collection process? How aware are you of these preverbal motors to your behaviour? What does this incomplete data cost you and your organization every day? When I ask this, what is the cost of a missed connection or a strained relationship? Curious about how you can increase the performance of your team by understanding preverbal data? Comment below.

One thought on “Fleshing out the data/A new kind of sensitivity for leaders

  1. Pingback: My favourite sense

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