Fight or flight – how we naturally respond to stressors and perceived threats determines a lot about who we are at our core. In this Mursion Future of Work Roundtable, “Fight of Flight: How Your Driving Core Motive Impacts Your Interactions,” leadership expert, senior law firm trainer and certified Color Code trainer Kelly Knowles helps us get to know our Driving Core Motive. This is the inner understanding that gives us invaluable insights into our personality and how it impacts our interactions. Our Driving Core Motive can explain why one person acts with haste while another avoids action. It helps us to effectively understand and work with our colleagues, improve communication skills, and yes – put us in better balance instead of relying on our primal fight-or-flight instincts.

Below is an excerpt of Knowles’ presentation. Join us for our upcoming Future of Work sessions by signing up here. And, to experience Mursion’s virtual reality simulations and see for yourself how this platform can support your own business to achieve its leadership development and other business goals, schedule a demo today.

“Today we’re going to look at that fight-or-flight concept, which has been around since the early 1900s. Fight or flight is that automatic physiological response. What I think is interesting is it’s perceived as stressful or frightening. Some things are stressful and frightening to some people while to someone else they’re not. 

This activates our nervous system and it’s sympathetic. You would think sympathetic would be a good thing, but it’s not necessarily in this fight-or-flight experience. This is something that can impact anxiety. They are looking at a lot of different things in this field because fight or flight is innate and we do have a standard reaction in a lot of cases.

I have a few scenarios that I just want you to think about. What would your answer be? Here’s the first one. Sarah, the administration manager for your department, has not sent out minutes from the last meeting. What are you most likely to do? Are you going to email requesting she sends them out when she has a free moment? Are you going to send them out yourself with something like, ‘Sending these out since Sarah apparently doesn’t have time.’? Or are you going to call Sarah and talk to her about why those minutes haven’t been sent out? Do you have an answer? What’s your gut reaction? Then what is your after you’ve had a moment to maybe breathe about it, reaction?

Here’s another one. You’re waiting in line at the bank or anywhere and someone arrives and steps in line in front of you. What are you most likely to do? Will you roll your eyes, but not say anything? You’re going to smile and explain firmly where the line starts and ends? Or are you going to start raising your voice and demanding the person move? What comes naturally?

Let’s look at one more just to get our brain thinking about how we do tend to behave and instinct in different situations. You can tell a colleague is annoyed with you and you aren’t sure why. What do you most likely to do? Are you going to be hostile until things blow up? Are you going to approach your colleague and initiate that difficult conversation or ignore it and hope it just goes away after some time? Just some scenarios to get us thinking.

Let’s talk and go back a little bit. For some of us, we’re going go back a little further than others. How did you get your way when you were a kid? Did you eye roll? Did you have attitude? Did you hide? Did you avoid? Did you walk away? Maybe you confronted.

You may have said, ‘Well, Kelly, I was wonderful at communication when I was a young person. I was able to have a very logical conversation and achieve my goals.’ I admire you so much. Some of us we may have charmed our way. 

Managing Your Emotions to Be a Better Leader

A struggle with this can get you stuck and it can keep you stuck. If we’re being honest, how do you behave when you disagree with someone? What is your go-to behavior when you’re stressed? How do you manage your emotions to effectively lead? This does impact so very much. It’s holistic. It impacts our work relationships, and it impacts our professional relationships, as well.

Some people, they just shut down. They’re going to pretend nothing is going on. They may just say, ‘You know what, if I ignore it, it will go away.’ What I’ve learned, particularly in the business environment, is it won’t. We want to try to address things as quickly as we can so things don’t fester. Now some of that is a pick your battles moment, as well.

I have learned that is this always the hill that I want to die on? Some of us, every hill is the hill that we feel like we need to die on. We have to use some wisdom there. Here’s some powerful phrases. The first one is assume noble intent. Why bother? That is, when I see these types of phrases my instinct is to say, ‘Why bother? Why do I want to do this?’ What I would toss out at you is it helps you be more receptive and more rational. It helps you balance your reactions, assume noble intent.

Managing difficult discussions starts with understanding ourselves and our tendencies, and that assuming noble intent doesn’t mean we are admitting or agreeing with that person or saying what they are doing or thinking or saying is right. We’re assuming noble intent.

Boy, does that just change up the game? It changes up those inner feelings when you feel that tightening in your gut, when you feel your energy changing, when you feel your breath become more shallow. I have to remember. ‘Wait a minute. Should I be personalizing this? Is this really just about me?’ Probably in most cases I’ve learned it has nothing to do with me.

Understanding Your Driving Core Motive

Then finally, motive matters. I believe it’s important to learn and recognize your driving core motive. You’ll hear me probably say driving core motive or DCM. What is it? There is a understanding, call the driving for motive. It gives us incredibly invaluable insights into our personalities and how that impacts our interactions. It can explain why one person is going to act with haste, fight, while another one, ‘I’m out of here.’ Avoids any kind of action, flight. Motive matters. I think I’ve emphasized that a little bit extra but it does help us to effectively understand and work with our colleagues in our communication. It can help put us back into balance instead of some of those more primal instincts.

When we think about behavior and driving core motive, behavior is that tip of the iceberg. It’s all that other stuff underneath that builds motive. For me, discovering this driving core motive helps me better understand myself and better understand others, and then improve my responses for the good. 

How many times I’ve said, ‘Well, I didn’t intend.’ It is that intention versus impact. The better we could be self-aware, the better we can think about who our audience is and who we are having that conversation with, then the better that we can do on that. 

The Color Code

We’re going to talk about four sections of the color code. The color code is broken into four different colors: red, blue, white, and yellow. I love it because it’s easy to remember and understand. I have never had anyone take the color code and go, ‘Nope, that’s not me. Has nothing to do with me.’ I do want to say this before I go any further and I mean this so wholeheartedly. These personality profiles, whichever one really connects with you, they are not your identity. In my opinion, they are a tool in your toolbox to help you better understand yourself, better understand others and have better information and impact and results for your organization, results for what you’re trying to achieve.

Let’s talk about them. Red, red are your power people. For some that word power may feel a little negative, but I like to also talk about action. Your red personalities are going to get you from point A to point B. They are your doers. They get things done. They drive hard. Natural tendencies are leadership and vision. Now, one thing to keep in mind, does that mean that if somebody is not a red or they don’t have any red as part of their color code pie, if you will, they can’t be a leader or a visionary? No. These are some natural tendencies that seem to draw out with reds.

The next one is blue and the driving core motive. This is motive. The deep peace that explains behavior is intimacy. Now, so many times we think of that from a physical connotation. What I like to rephrase that too, is connection. Our blues in our world are our connectors. They’re all about relationship and quality and value and service. Making sure things are done right. What can come with that, by the way, that lovely term analysis paralysis, for those of us who have some perfectionism in us, sometimes that leads to procrastination as well, doesn’t it?

White means peace, which is all about steady state. If you’re familiar with the term cognitive dissonance, they hate it. They’re always about getting back to steady state. They’re avoiding change. Red comes in and says, ‘I know it’s not broken, but let’s break it and see what happens. Let’s see if we can make it bigger and better.’ The white, the peace is going, ‘What are you talking about? Its fine like it is.’ 

By the way, if you have someone who has white in their color code profile, as a dominant piece, you have just found one of the most accepting people who will provide tremendous clarity. I love that. I can bring all of this complexity in and they can sift through all of that superfluous stuff and provide amazing clarity. It’s really cool.

Driving for motive for a yellow is fun. Some people are bothered by this. For me, it’s a beautiful addition to the combinations. Fun brings a live-in-the moment point of view, but in addition, amazing enthusiasm, natural optimism. Can we use some of that today?

Celebrating Our Differences

All of us, we are all individual human beings. You’re in original. You’re going to have a combination of these and some people have a really strong color with just a little smattering of the rest and others are more even, or they have a pretty dominant secondary color. 

Red and white, both are logic-based. Yellow and blue, both come from a place of emotion. White and yellow do not need to be in control, but what they are going to resist is someone attempting to control them. Red and blue are seeking control. If you can imagine a setting where you have a red and you have a blue, and maybe they don’t have much respect for each other, they don’t know each other very well. There is potential for some challenge, if that red and that blue do not consider which way that other person is coming from. If the red and the yellow are interacting, one is shooting for control and the other one saying, ‘Please don’t control me.’

A red is going to fire off questions to you and in some cases you may take it personally. It’s not. It’s a red trying to drive and get things going. Think about that, and if you are someone who needs time to think about things, articulate that to a red. 

Let’s look at the blues. Remember blues are all about connection, value, and service. They’re already dealing with enough guilt, and they need time to collect their thoughts. Here’s the phrase for you: ‘I appreciate you.’ You’ve just heard the love language of a blue. If that feels good to you, or you find that you use that phrase, there might be some blue in your color-code profile. Show that appreciation to that blue. Seek to understand them and be loyal. Try to avoid that guilt, expecting to forgive quickly, promoting too much change and again, expecting that spontaneity. A blue is going to ask a lot of questions. They’re going to be trying to get all the details, so it’s something to recognize.

Let’s look at the whites. Accept their individuality because they’re accepting you. A white wants to be accepted. They want to have an informal, relaxed setting. You fire off a bunch of questions to a white, they’re shutting down. They may nod and act like they’re listening. I promise you, they’re not. They are trying to get out of this place of cognitive dissonance. They’re trying to get back to their peaceful space. They’re trying to get back to their steady state. Combine that firmness with kindness. If you’re coaching a white, if you’re doing some working with a team member who’s a white, I like to use the term soft stretches.

I will just be very informal and personal and tell you, if you force that confrontation, get ready, they have a very long fuse. Unlike reds, who blow as they go, white’s going to hold it in. They’re going to hold it in and then there will be, I guarantee you an explosion, and it will not be pretty. Try not to force that immediate verbal expression, give them some space.

Finally, relating to yellows. A red wants to be respected. They don’t need to be liked by everyone. A blue wants to be good morally and be appreciated. A white wants to feel good, and a yellow wants to be liked. They want that admiration. They want that, ‘Notice me.’ We want to be positive. We want to be upbeat. Offer that praise and appreciation. Encourage them. Encourage the verbal self-expression. Don’t try to do that total control. A yellow, by the way, actually does want a little bit of structure. If you are a blue and you ruminate and you think a lot and you ponder, be aware of the yellow really has no interest in doing that. If you’re having that communication, it’s really good to be aware of that and know it.

As we wrap up, I want to offer, we may have a driving core motive that is naturally fight or flight. We may have a mix. We may have to blend, or maybe at home, we’re a little more our own authentic personality.

No matter what, I want to offer this, it goes back to the impact. We are 100% responsible for ourselves. A red, unfortunately, we always think we’re right even when we’re not. As a charactered person, as someone who wants to be emotionally aware, I have to know, ‘Yes, you’re not right a lot.’ It’s important that we take 100% responsibility for our actions, no matter what. Assume noble intent, that saves me on a regular basis. Be aware of taking things personally; motive does matter.”

by Wendy

Subscribe for the latest Mursion articles and updates.



    By clicking the sign up button above, you consent to allow Mursion to store and process the personal information submitted above to provide you the content requested. View our Terms and Conditions.

    Related Blog Posts

    • Referability in HR: How To Connect Deeply, Curate Your Community, and Champion Your Most Important Ideas
      future of work
      April 8, 2021

      Referability in HR: How To Connect Deeply, Curate Your Community, and Champion Your Most Important Ideas

      Mursion’s Future of Work Roundtable Series recently continu...

    • Radical Candor: Care Personally. Challenge Directly.
      emotional intelligence
      April 4, 2021

      Radical Candor: Care Personally. Challenge Directly.

      The Mursion team recently had the chance to host one our most pop...

    • VR Scenario Design: A Mursion Future of Work Open House
      emotional intelligence
      March 25, 2021

      VR Scenario Design: A Mursion Future of Work Open House

      Virtual training is here to stay, but the difficult conversations...