How To Manage Your Inner Chimp In The PR Jungle
If you find yourself feeling gut-wrenchingly anxious, bubbling with anger or out of your depth in the daily PR grind, it could be because your inner chimp is taking over.
Everyone has an inner chimp, whether they like to admit it or not. It’s the primitive, instinctual part of the brain that thinks and acts for us without our permission, helping us navigate jungle life.
While we don’t live in the jungle anymore, the world of PR can certainly feel like it at times.
But by learning simple mind management tricks, you’ll find you’re not just surviving but thriving.
Right, so I Have a Chimp Controlling My Mind?
Yes. Well, sometimes.
Here’s a brief lesson in neuroscience (I promise).
In 2012, Professor Steve Peters, respected psychiatrist and coach to Olympic athletes, wrote a book called “ The Chimp Paradox ”.
It explains there are three parts of the brain, each with a different function:
- The human: the part of your brain that’s really “you”, powered by logic, reason and compassion
- The computer: your memory bank, holding past experiences and lessons on file
- And the chimp: the fast-acting defence mechanism that controls your primitive desire to fight, flight or freeze.
The human and chimp parts of your brain are in a constant tug of war. And it’s up to you who wins.
PR – It’s a Jungle Out There
As PRs, our job involves creating campaigns that appeal to people’s inner chimp, focusing on emotive topics like love, power, money and danger to get media exposure for our clients.
But if you’re unable to control your own chimp, you’ll find it hard to enjoy what you do and do it well.
Among other things, your inner chimp craves instant reward, to be liked and protected from danger. And if it doesn’t get these things, it will act out.
Within the fast-paced and pressure-intense PR environment where risk-taking, gut feelings and public acceptance are key to success, your chimp will be fully satisfied if things go your way – but throw a full-on tantrum if they don’t.
But by learning some simple mind management techniques, you’ll not only survive but thrive in the PR jungle…
1. Don’t fight your chimp
If you think you’ll be able to kill or lock your chimp away, you’re wrong.
You and your chimp are in it for the long haul, so you need to learn to live together. This means understanding it and building a relationship with it. Naming it can help.
Appreciate the positives your chimp offers. It gives you that gut feeling that can be so valuable in planning and launching PR campaigns. It lets you know what ideas hit the right emotive buttons. It can give you the power to keep going when the chips are down and turn things around.
So, never ignore it, learn to harness it.
2. Let your chimp offload
Every so often you’ll need to vent about something that’s wound you up. If you keep this inside, it’ll only build up and the bang will become an explosion.
When you complain about something out loud or to another person, it instantly makes you feel better. That’s because your human brain is the one listening and reason kicks in. You’ll find your chimp will soon get exhausted too and give up.
3. Take a pause
Ruled by emotion, your chimp will be the first to react to something. But by taking a pause before you decide what to do, you’ll give your rational and reasonable human brain the chance to catch up and make an informed decision, taking your chimp’s feelings into account.
You can also take five or ten minutes a day to assess how it’s going and reflect on the decisions you’re making. This awareness can help keep your chimp out of the driving seat.
4. Control your own self-esteem
A lot of what we do in PR is measured by KPIs, client satisfaction and comparing ourselves to others.
But for your chimp, no amount of success will ever be enough. It will chase success but once it’s got that it will redefine it. This can make your confidence drop, making you doubt your ability to do your job well.
Instead, make sure you base your success and self-worth on more. Appreciate your strengths. Are you a positive person that motivates your team? Do you care about what you do? Do you produce creative and thought-provoking content? Are you a good communicator? Are you honest?
If you’re measuring success by your strengths and values, building self-esteem is in your own hands…not your chimp’s.
Other Recommended Reading
I asked the PR Twitter community to recommend the best self-help books they’ve read. Here’s what they said:
- Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
- Black Box Thinking: Marginal Gains and the Secrets of High Performance by Matthew Sayed
- Know Your Worth: How to build your self-esteem, grow in confidence and worry less about what people think by Anna Mathur
- Atomic Habits by James Clear
- How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Cargeie
- Joy at Work by Marie Kondo and Scott Sonenshein
- The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson
- The Practice by Seth Godin
Comment below with any other recommendations!