By Kristen Manieri

Your Brain in Relationships

This week my guest was Alicia Braccia, who I’ve had the great fortune to know for about five years through our daughters’ Montessori school. 

This was a conversation that has the potential to completely revolutionize your understanding of the people you love in your life, especially when they are mad, sad or frustrated.  

Alicia Braccia is a Florida Licensed School Psychologist with Masters Degree in School Psychology based in Lake Mary, FL where she has created the Center for Health, Learning and Achievement. 

What I love about Alicia is that she has such a clear understanding of how the brain impacts our behavior. And when you have kids, especially little ones, this can be really helpful because their behavior can be really, really frustrating. 

But what you’ll hear in the conversation ahead (you can listen via the link below) is that there is a reason why our kids or our spouse each act the way they do during certain moments and the answer lies in neuropsychology. In fact, understanding some key elements of brain function can help us understand everyone’s behavior, including our own. 

It doesn’t matter if you’re a parent or a CEO, a surgeon or a hockey coach, the principles of brain function and neuropsychology are universal, and when we can understand what’s happening inside the brain when people we love get upset or frustrated, as well as feel joyful and safe, we can create better connections and relationships with those around us. By the end of this episode you’ll seriously have a new skill that can exponentially make your family and work life better. 


If you’re like me, you likely found it really helpful to understand the mechanics of the brain. Let me run through a few takeaways to outline them again as well as a few more key elements from this conversation Alicia. 

1. In its simplest terms, we have three main parts of the brain that impact our behavior:

a. the reptile or survival area (base)

b. the mammalian or emotional area (middle)

c. the human or executive area (front)

It’s helpful to be able to identify which part of the brain we’re in, or perhaps our kids are in, so we know how to respond. 

For example, someone in the reptile center of the brain might have clenched fists and a red face. Your heart may race and you may start to sweat. That’s your body getting your ready for fight or flight. 

Someone in the mammalian center of the brain will be displaying a lot of big emotions, perhaps yelling or crying. 

It’s not until we get back into the human or executive part of our brain that we can start to problem solve or work through conflict. 

2. We can move ourselves and the people around us back into the human part of the brain by connecting and keeping our own composure. This could be though eye contact, physical touch or by words using the DNA method, which stands for: (D) describe what you see, (N) name the emotion being expressed and (A) acknowledge the hurt or upset. 

3. Sometimes stepping away from a highly emotionally charged person or moment is the best way to serve. When we can gain our composure, we’re more likely to help others gain there’s. 

4. We’re not always going to have composure. Sometimes we’re going to lose it. But we can model the ability to have an oops and not have shame around it. We can say: everyone makes mistakes. What can I or we do next time to be better?

5. Play more. The people in our lives want to know that they are loved and they are safe. One of the best ways to show this and to deeply connect on a regular basis is to have a spirit of playfulness around the relationship. 


Understanding the brain gives us an objective way to understand behavior. We’re not bad, our kids aren’t bad… they’re just in a reptilian or mammalian part of the brain. When we can hone the skill of keeping our composure through lots and lots and lots of practice, we gain the ability to gain the ability to be with others’ big emotions without getting sucked into them. And when we can keep our composure, we can keep the connection. 

A big thanks to Alicia Braccia for being my guest this week. You can learn more about her work at http://www.learningandachievement.com.

Until next time, keep on living the synced life. 

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