“When things are not working for us, instead of fighting and struggling, we need to say, Whats happening here? How am I not being true to who I am?” – June Singer
The SCARF Model in Conflict
The second framework we will examine, The SCARF model, comes from David Rock out the Neuroscience Leadership Institute (2008). The SCARF model provides a framework to understand the five domains of human social experiences. David Rock and his team found that there are 5 areas of our brains that light up (via brain scan technology) during our social experiences.
Status – Sense of respect and importance in relation to others. “I am respected by my family, friends, and colleagues.”
Certainty – Sense of clarity to predict future outcomes. “I am confident I know what is coming next in my life.”
Autonomy – Sense of control over events that impact the future. “I am the master of my own destiny.”
Relatedness – Sense of connection with others in your groups. “I am connected to those around me.”
Fairness – Sense of non-biased and just treatment between people. “I am treated justly.”
These five areas can either be interpreted by us as a reward or threat based on the type of social experience we are having. Conflict is, by its very nature, a social experience. When we experience conflict we are experiencing the threat response side of the SCARF model. The different ways our brain interprets social experiences in the SCARF model is summarized in the graphic below.
|SCARF MODEL – Domains of Human Social Experiences|
|Definition||Reward Response||Threat Response|
|Sense of respect and importance in relation to others.||Recognition for work, Opportunity for input, Reassurance of importance||Embarrassment, Getting unsolicited advice, Public critique|
|Sense of clarity to predict future outcomes.||Clear expectations, Specific plans or next steps, Making the implicit explicit||No expectations, Unpredictability, Prospect of change|
|Sense of control over events that impact the future.||Giving choice, Offering any flexibility, Options for self-organizing||Loss of choice, No way to make change or impact their situation|
|Sense of connection with others in your groups.||Inclusion, Chance to belong, Taking time to get to know someone||Exclusion, Isolation, Not involving certain people in groups or decisions|
|Sense of non-biased and just treatment between people.||Transparency, Creating group or relational norms, Treating people equally and equitably||Unfair processes, Inconsistent application of rules/policy|
Like with the types of goals framework above, many of us will have one of two areas in this SCARF model that will be regular conflict triggers for us. For me, they are Autonomy and Certainty. A lot of my conflicts surround these topics. We will explore how to use the Types of Goals and the SCARF Model to analyze conflicts below.
To learn more about the SCARF Model check out this article from the NeuroLeadership Journal SCARF A Brain-based Model for Collaborating with and Influencing Others.
These two frameworks give us the ability to look past surface level issues and start analyzing the conflicts in our lives for their real causes, so that we have a chance of truly resolving the issues we are facing with our friends, family, co-workers, and in our communities.