What Do You Call Your Chimp?


What Do You Call Your Chimp?

4 minute read | By Garry Crosby | Soft Skills | Published: 23/11/2023


In corporate business, it’s not just numbers and strategies that call the shots; sometimes, it’s a chimp.

Yes, you read that right – a chimp. Before you start picturing an actual chimpanzee in a boardroom, let me introduce you to a concept from Steve Peters’ book ‘The Chimp Paradox’. This ingenious model explains how our emotional mind, often irrational and impulsive, can hijack your decision-making process, much like a mischievous chimp.

Let’s dive into a story that brings this to life.

Picture this: a high-flying executive, let’s call him Sam, known for his sharp mind and equally sharp tongue. In a crucial meeting, amidst heated discussions, Sam’s chimp took the driver’s seat.

Words flew, tempers flared, and before he knew it, Sam had launched into a tirade that would make a pirate blush.

The aftermath? A room full of shocked faces and an urgent invitation from HR to ‘discuss his behaviour’.

Sam was baffled. He prided himself on his passion, but his ‘chimp’ often mistook passion for anger. His reputation as ‘over-emotional and angry’ was starting to overshadow his achievements. Enter Sam’s Executive Coach, equipped with wisdom from ‘The Chimp Paradox’ and a toolbox of strategies to tame unruly primates (of the metaphorical kind).

The coach began by explaining the basics. Our brain has three main parts: the human (logical), the computer (habitual), and the chimp (emotional). In Sam’s case, his chimp was not just steering the ship; it was doing donuts in the car park.

The goal was clear – help Sam recognise when his chimp was taking over and learn to manage it effectively.

The first step was self-awareness.

Sam started to observe his reactions, identifying triggers that set off his chimp. Was it criticism? Tight deadlines? Lack of coffee? (We’ve all been there.) Understanding these triggers was like giving Sam a map of where the chimp liked to cause chaos.

Next, the coach introduced techniques to calm the chimp. When Sam felt the chimp’s stirrings of agitation, he practiced pausing – taking a moment to breathe and step back. This pause was like a ‘chimp timeout’, giving Sam’s human side a chance to step in with logic and reason.

The coach also worked with Sam on restructuring his thoughts. Instead of letting the chimp jump to conclusions:

“They’re all against me!”

Sam learned to challenge these thoughts with evidence and reason:

“They raised a valid point, how can I address it constructively”

Over time, Sam’s meetings transformed.

He still brought his passion, but it was no longer at the mercy of his emotional chimp. His colleagues began to see a change – less pirate, more diplomat. Sam’s newfound ability to balance emotion with reason didn’t just improve his meetings; it enhanced his leadership, decision-making, and even his relationships outside work.

Sam’s journey wasn’t about silencing his chimp but understanding and managing it. It’s a lesson for all of us.

We all have our inner chimps, and while they can be unpredictable and sometimes embarrassing, they’re also a part of who we are. Learning to live with our chimps means embracing the full spectrum of our emotional and rational selves.

So, what do you call your chimp?

Experience shows that actually naming your chimp is a big step to dealing with it. More importantly, how do you manage it when it decides to crash your boardroom or hijack your conversations? Remember, it’s not about banishing the chimp but learning to coexist with it in a way that benefits both your personal and professional life.

In the end, Sam’s story isn’t just about controlling an emotional outburst; it’s about the journey towards emotional intelligence and the delicate art of balancing our inner chimps with the demands of the corporate jungle.

And let’s be honest, who wouldn’t want to be a bit more of a chimp whisperer in their day-to-day life?

Remember, next time you find yourself in a ‘chimp situation’, take a leaf out of Sam’s book. Pause, reflect, and maybe give that chimp a banana and a pat on the head before you step back into the ring.