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Psychology and Physiology of Combat

STREET FIGHT, An Najaf, Iraq, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Elzie Golden, 2003


An Najaf, Iraq, Operation Iraqi Freedom

Elzie Golden, 2003

Single Combat

Humans usually have an adverse reaction to harming and killing fellow humans. When the deed is done, it is not uncommon to become nauseous and even vomit. Many would attribute this to the realization of the magnitude of the situation the person is now in. Why are they in this situation? Why did they commit that act? How will people view them? A protector, a criminal, or a monster? What if this had happened to them instead? These questions can swirl around inside the head until finally, they puke. But why?

Even in situations in which killing is entirely justified, this can still occur. This is because our responses to various stressors, how our body handles the various hormones it plays with to help you deal with these stressors, has more to do with physiology than the abstraction of sociology. Evolution has put restraints on our actions since that has given our ancestors advantages as humans have developed complex social dynamics. You can’t just freely employ the tool of violence without possible consequences. Every action is assessed and the more consequential the action the greater the scrutiny. Violence is the most consequential tool and killing the most consequential action, and, therefore, it is understandable why doing so can be difficult.

There is a natural limiter, an inhibitor, to certain actions. The psychology of the brain and the physiological impact on the body, produce a behavioral response. This cycle, how we train to control it, and what that means for those that engage in combat as either an individual or a group. This is what we will discover in this chapter before we will finally apply this understanding to what we may see in the business sector.

Fight, Flight, Posture, or Submit

In the previous chapter, we discussed that violence was a tool and that there were various factors that would lead a person to use that tool or not to use it. We are, however, now in the position to make the decision to employ violence as either the initiator or the respondent. The “why” of violence - somewhat abstract reasons we should use it - has passed, and now it is the time of the “what” of violence. What neurological processes happen to drive a human to violence?

Regardless of the motives that led to a fight, when those neurological processes play out we see humans act in one of four pragmatic ways. When faced with danger or threat most would assume that people would either fight or run away. That is a good assessment for interspecies conflict, but within the species - especially a social species like humanity - there is more at play. As Grossman states in On Killing:

One of the roots of our misunderstanding of the psychology of the battlefield lies in the misapplication of the fight-or-flight model to the stresses of the battlefield. This model holds that in the face of danger a series of physiological and psychological processes prepare and support the endangered creature for either fighting or fleeing. The fight-or-flight dichotomy is the appropriate set of choices for any creature faced with danger other than that which comes from its own species. When we examine the response of creatures confronted with aggression from their own species, the set of options expands to include posturing and submission.

I will partially disagree with Lt. Col. (RET) Dave Grossman in that we do see posturing happen between different species, especially in the form of puffing or outstretching their bodies to appear larger or making noises to warn trespassers. We do see submission, though rarer, too - for example, when dogs submit to human discipline. Posturing and submission, however, do require some type of understanding of how the other may respond or at least, be actions brought about by evolutionary compulsion. In the case of this conversation, however, Grossman is indeed correct as within a species its members are more apt to reign in the actions of their kin.

Regardless, we will look at these four responses to threats of violence in a little more detail.


Fighting is a dangerous act. The consequences of failure are severe: death at worst, and injury a distinct possibility. Even victors can be hurt and eventually die from fatal injuries. If you feel you are in the right, there may be people that perceive the situation differently. By fighting you inherently make enemies out of someone else - even violent predators have lovers and kin that may care for them.

If fighting is a high-stakes gamble with severe consequences - why would anyone do it? We know the logic behind why people rationalize fighting - those inner demons of predation, domination, revenge, sadism, and ideology as postulated by Steven Pinker in the last chapter "On Violence." Our question is, what are the neurological triggers that compel a fight response over other options? The DK book, How the Brain Works: The Facts Visually Explained states:

Fight or Flight: When we see a possible threat, visual information travels to our amygdala, a tiny part of the brain that processes emotion. The amygdala sends a signal to the hypothalamus, which activates the sympathetic nervous system, preparing the body to react to danger. The hypothalamus also sends signals to the pituitary and adrenal glands, which secrete hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. The combined effect of these pathways is to initiate our fight-or-flight reflex, which prepares our bodies to attack or run away.

In this case, the decision to fight or run away may be based on a perceived advantage or disadvantage. Is fighting worth the risk? Or is running the worse option? What environmental and psychological factors may be present to weigh in on this decision?

Angry or Afraid: The bodily reactions to fear and anger are similar. It is mainly the way we interpret the sensations we experience that determines whether we feel afraid or angry. One theory suggests that if we know why a negative event happened, and who was responsible for it, we will feel angry. If we are unable to figure out the cause, or it is out of our control, we will feel fear.

Our emotions and the actions we take while in that state are, therefore, the result of the information being processed and our body’s physiology adjusting accordingly. Our bodies are getting prepared to do what is necessary, or at least what the experiences recalled within the brain deem is necessary, in order to survive. Based on physiology and access to information about the environment, the fighter enters a state of anger which facilitates their ability to fight.

The issue here, as a side note, is that being in a state of anger compels the use of aggression and violence. Even when the incident that brought about the danger has passed. As the saying goes, when all you have is a hammer, all your problems look like nails, an angry person will employ aggression at times they otherwise would not. To deal with an angry person, to avoid fighting, you need to get them out of their angry state. In order to do this, you need to feed them new information that compels their brain to reassess the situation and adjust its physiology.

For example, in George J. Thompson and Jerry B. Jenkins’ book Verbal Judo: The Gentle Art of Persuasion the authors quote an exchange between a police officer and an agitated man who he had been pulled over for running stop signs and was able to convince the potential perp out of an angry state. The man believed he was going to be taken in for drunk driving, as he did have alcoholic beverages open in his vehicle, and refused to get out saying that those drinks were his friends’ not his. And this is what the officer said:

Sir, listen, that’s an interesting distinction between whether it’s your bottle or your buddies’, but the law does not make that distinction. The law says, ‘bottle in car, you driver, you responsible.’ Now, sir, that might not even be fair, but ‘tis so under the law. I’d like to think you’d cooperate with me. Step on out, sir. I can check that bottle, then I can chat with you about why I stopped you in the first place. That way it looks as if you’re gonna be able to go home tonight, put your feet up, be with your family, eat at your own table, sleep in your own bed, and get up in the morning and go to work. I’d like to think you’d want to do that, sir, but the law gives you another option if you wish. The law says if you want, you can come with us, eat with us, stay overnight, sleep with us. That’s called an arrest. Now, I don’t see any need to do that. That’s a lot of paperwork for me, that’s towing your car, and you know they’ll put dents on that thing down at the yard. You don’t need that kind of trouble, do you, sir? Why don’t you give us both a break and cooperate with me and step on out of there?”

Those were options, not threats, and they worked. Basically, all I told the guy was he could get out of the car or go to jail, but notice that I left the power of choice with him. Notice also how specific I was. Specificity is one of the secrets of persuasion - helping people see what you want them to see. I tried to paint the picture of his going home, the problem over, contrasted with a picture of his coming with me, having his car towed, and going to jail. Those specifics made his choice clear and easy. I knew I’d hit on something when the guy laughed and said, “I don’t need that kind of trouble, Officer,” and stepped out.

In a situation, such as this, a person compelled by hormones bringing about a physiological change in the body may account for how angry people sometimes make bad decisions. Additionally, if the compulsion to fight is particularly the cause of physiology and the associated hormones then it explains why males are more violent. Males produce higher levels of testosterone which increases muscle mass, bone density, and strength, and that testosterone is produced in the testes of the male reproductive system. And in the last chapter, we discussed sexual dimorphism and that in species with males larger than females they generally engage in a sexual strategy of male vs. male competition for breeding partners. Males have the body structure, the hormones, and the environment that compels them to be aggressive. Men literally evolved to be fighters.

rooster, male fighting
chimpanzee war, chimp fighting
Von Stuck, men fighting over woman

And Adrian Raine states in his book The Anatomy of Violence: The Biological Roots of Crime,

  • In evolutionary terms, the human capacity for antisocial and violent behavior wasn’t a random occurrence. Even as early hominids developed the ability to reason, communicate, and cooperate, brute violence remained a successful “cheating” strategy. Most criminal acts can be seen, directly or indirectly, as a way to take resources away from others. The more resources or status a man has, the better able he is to attract young, fertile females. These women in turn are on the lookout for men who can give them the protection and the resources they need to raise their future children.
  • Consider also the sex differences in aggression are in place as early as seventeen months of age. Boys are toddler warriors. This might be expected from an evolutionary perspective that says males need to be more innately wired for physical aggression than females, to prepare them for later combat for resources.

But our species’ inherent strength doesn’t come from our ability to fight - plenty of other species are far more capable fighters when compared to us - it comes from our intellect. Big brains, upright postures, opposable thumbs, and the ability to communicate meant that we could redirect our aggression towards more abstract applications of violence in order to improve our chances at survival. Survival is most important, and while fighting is a compulsion, sometimes those that fight and run away live to fight another day.


Based on stimuli from the external environment, if there is a perceived danger then the amygdala begins the sequence of processes that result in the release of cortisol and adrenaline into the body - putting the body into a heightened state of alertness and preparedness. If the threat is unknown or known but perceived as too dangerous or undefeatable, then instead of entering into a state of anger the individual enters into a state of fear. While in fear, the preeminent goal is to get out of the situation and survive. There is, however, another survival aspect that may prevent flight due to its threat to survival, and this involves turning one’s back towards a threat. As Grossman states:

It is when the bayonet charge has forced one side’s soldiers to turn their backs and flee that the killing truly begins, and at some visceral level the soldier intuitively understands this and is very, very frightened when he has to turn his back to the enemy.

Grossman postulates that one reason a person may not run is that they fear turning their back for two reasons. 1) That turning their back can trigger a chase instinct in a predator, and this applies to human threats as well. Many of history’s greatest one-sided battles were caused when the victor chased down their fleeing foe, and not when both sides stood trading blow for blow. And 2) that the chaser is more physiologically uninhibited in shooting or skewering a person when all they can see is their back and can’t see their faces. Also, a reason executioners, state-sanctioned or not, hide their victims’ faces or shoot them in the back of the head.

highway of death, routing enemy

"Highway of Death" as the Iraqi Army fled their occupation of Kuwait, coalition air and artillery pounded their flight back along Highway 80 into SouthEastern Iraq.

Regardless, the compulsion to flee, or to fear fleeing, is based on an assessment of survival. A pretty straightforward concept. The last two actions of how a human may respond to a threat are also very prevalent though we don’t acknowledge them as much as we do fight or flight.


Of all the four actions that a person could take in response to aggression and violence, posturing is the most prevalent. The reason for this is because humans, generally speaking, don’t want to fight since there are inherent risks involved. They still desire the positive outcomes of a fight, or at least avoid the negative outcomes of a fight, so resort to posturing to display willingness and capacity to engage in violence. That way, after the sides have sized each other up, they can choose to fight, flee, or submit based on this new information being presented.

  • There is a clear distinction between actual violence and posturing. Oxford social psychologist Peter Marsh notes that this is true in New York street gangs, it is true in “so-called primitive tribesmen and warriors,” and it is true in almost any culture in the world. All have the same “patterns of aggression” and all have “very orchestrated, highly ritualized” patterns of posturing, mock battle, and submission. These rituals restrain and focus the violence on relatively harmless posturing and display. (On Killing )
  • Stepping up to your opponent and reaching out is the hallmark of social aggression: cuffing, shoving, and punching to show displeasure. It shows a lack of desire to cripple and kill, it signals a healthy fear of the other man, and even a bit of respect for his personal space - it is, after all, giving him plenty of room to work. It says, “I’m pissed off, but there are still rules here.” As a result, injury is relatively unlikely in these kinds of confrontations, outside of a freak traumatic brain injury - which is the most common fight-ending injury we see in both street fights and competitive matches. (Usually, they’re stopped well before that point by friends, teachers, referees. etc.) (When Violence is the Answer)
  • That doesn’t mean that the emotions behind dominance will go away - they are very much a part of our biology, especially in a certain gender - but they can be marginalized. (The Better Angels of Our Nature)

As stated, the purpose of posturing is to achieve the results of a fight without actually fighting. Fighting is dangerous. From the shit-talking you see amongst tough guys in the streets to the saber-rattling of world leaders - posturing is aggression just short of violence.


Successfully submitting to an enemy requires one important aspect, and that is that the enemy will adhere to some social considerations. That they will show mercy. That they will accept your submission and show leniency. That you believe they will allow you to live to see another day.

For the victor, an opponent that submits is also beneficial - at least when compared to the other option of just killing them or beating them unconscious. Even when one is going to win, the victor may still become injured - maybe even fatally if the fight drags on. Also, showing that you are lenient to those that surrender may broadcast to others that you respect social considerations, and that may compel others to submit as well.

Submission is an important consideration to a social species as it allows for disengagement by one party accepting a lesser social position in return for being allowed to live. And if they are allowed to live they can mate and pass on their genes to future generations. A society that allows submission as a viable course of action is a society that focuses on violence and conflicts of dominance as opposed to complete annihilation.

The Four Responses in Business

These four responses to violence; fight, flight, posture and submit, are understood in relation to the world of conflict and combat. But just like the five causes of violence, the responses to it have parallels in the business world. This is because business, like combat, is about human engagement and influence - only through different ways and means. The responses to violence are social in nature and this is the same for business.


Fundamentally this is active resistance. In business, other than literally fighting, you have the more figurative forms of resistance. Negotiations, counter-offers, and worker strikes as examples. Because of the less severe consequences of the business world, it is more difficult to differentiate between fighting and posturing except that in posturing there are more threats to become active while fighting is active itself.


In regards to violence, flight seeks to disengage from the conflict altogether. You're not actively resisting or threatening to act, but you are seeking to remove yourself from the issue. In business, this could be done by making yourself unavailable, passing responsibility to others, or even quitting or canceling a contract.


A lot of posturing in business is by threatening to do something disadvantageous to the other party. You could do this by leveraging your position within the organization or by swearing to file a complaint, quit, or cause some problem for the other party - enough to get them to submit to your demands; even if that demand is just to go away and don’t bring up the issue again.


Just do it. This is the most common response when being engaged in a business environment. You are being compelled to do something you don’t want to do. But is it worth fighting, quitting, or arguing over? If it isn’t illegal or unethical, it may just be better to submit and execute. Choose your battles - so to speak.

Behavioral and Psychological Responses to Combat

Responding to violence and then actually performing effectively requires a whole new discussion. A discussion on how the body responds to combat stressors. Under the stress of combat - in a life or death situation - the body undergoes physiological changes - good and bad - to prepare itself to survive combat: an evolutionary imperative, of course. It is extremely important to understand that a person will not perform to the same level as they practiced in a controlled environment, and here we will quickly discuss a few important subjects on the topic.

Autonomic Nervous System (ANS)

Your brain is you. It controls your body, processes external and internal stimuli, and infers your reality. Short of a few reflex responses triggered in the spine to certain stimuli, all control - both voluntary and involuntary - originates from the brain. The sensor receptors within the body, that we discussed back in “The Human Domain,” provide all the information needed, but to actually execute control the brain calls the shots.

Command signals are sent from the brain through the central and peripheral nervous systems that allow action to take place. The actions we can directly control are part of the somatic system while the involuntary functions are part of the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS is important to understand because of its impact on our ability to act, to fulfill our will. Referencing the DK book, How the Brain Works: The Facts Visually Explained:

The autonomic nervous system: The involuntary, or autonomic, system maintains the internal conditions of the body by controlling the involuntary muscles in the digestive system and elsewhere, as well as heart and breathing rates, body temperature, and metabolic processes.

Understanding these systems is important in regards to making sense of some of the physiological responses that the human body goes through during times of extreme stress. With signals from the brain, and facilitated by hormones, it is understandable that there are times in which it is evolutionarily beneficial for the body to prioritize bodily processes that promote survival when the situation is critical. Humanity has such a capability.

The autonomic nervous system, which controls the involuntary processes of the nervous system, can be separated into two separate competing systems.

  • Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS): Focused on releasing stores of energy in the body, increasing the release of stress hormones, and increasing blood flow to muscles in times of great stress.
  • Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS): Focuses on recovery and maintenance activities for the body. Digesting food, repairing damaged tissues, defecation and urination, and sexual arousal.

These two systems, throughout our waking hours, maintain a balance between the activity and alertness of SNS processes, and the relaxation and recovery activities of PNS processes. When we go to sleep the PNS is mostly in charge, recuperating from the day’s stressful activities in preparation for the next - this is one of the reasons why a complete sleep session is so important. Conversely, in life or death scenarios, PNS processes are halted and SNS processes take charge as your body prepares to do what it must to survive the situation. But these situations are rare, so we rarely get to experience what happens, and when they do happen, we are often surprised and so focused on the dangers that we can’t and don’t take time to witness how our body is responding. So to understand how humans perform and survive, or don’t, in dangerous situations like combat - we need to understand what happens when the SNS takes charge, and what happens when the PNS turns back on.

Grossman and his research compatriot, Bruce K. Siddle, describe many of the physiological effects that occur while under duress, both the positive and negative effects that contribute to your ability to survive. While I will quickly mention them here, please check out their Killology page called “Psychological Effects of Combat” in which they have nice charts which associate certain effects with heart rates. Basically, you gain many benefits up to a certain heart rate (115-145 BPM), but beyond that, it starts to deteriorate and can even lead to apparently irrational behavior. Training and mental conditioning can allow for improved performance at these higher heart rates, but everyone has their limits: warriors - both mentally and physically - are just conditioned to higher limits.

grossman, killology, BPM Chart

What happens when the SNS takes control?

Fine motor skills may suffer at around 115 BPM, but here those complex motor skills and mental processes that analyze and react to stimuli become most efficient. At around 155 BPM, however, even the complex motor skills begin to suffer. Beyond that, up to 175 BPM our ability for cognitive processing worsens, we get tunnel vision and lose effective visual acuity on the periphery as well as near and in-depth. And oddly enough, auditory exclusion occurs in which certain sounds are ignored - even gunshots. Beyond 175 BPM, well that is when you really start to suffer: loss of gross motor skills, emptying bladder and bowels, irrationality in action, and restricted blood flow to non-vital areas.

What happens when the PNS comes back?

The body has been strained in order to survive, and now it must recover. There is a backlash of the PNS that floods the body with hormones in order to begin this recovery process. You get extremely tired, and this can happen after your adrenaline has effectively been “burnt out” from your bloodstream through physical exertion. Basically, you may simply just lay down and drift into sleep in a matter of seconds or minutes, even if the threat is not entirely passed - a concern for Soldiers after a victorious battle who may fall victim to a successful counterattack. You may become famished or extremely sexually aroused in the aftermath. Understandable, given you will need nutrients and calories for the body to repair itself, and you may have an evolutionary kick in the pants to propagate your genetic code through procreation.

From the actions, he has witnessed, and the anecdotes told to him by others, Grossman discussed the psychological and behavioral responses that warfighters, law enforcement officers, and other first responders have faced in life or death situations. These responses, at times, can seem perplexing or be seen as evidence of incompetence or even bravery - depending on what actions were taken. We forget that we, who observe and judge their actions from a relaxed perspective (or in my case when writing this section - an airconditioned Mexican restaurant) aren’t experiencing tremendous tribulations that may impact the rest of their lives or prematurely end it. The only thing we can effectively understand is that these people are experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime elevated level of stress, and we can’t predict what someone may do when they haven’t truly experienced it before. But we can attempt to understand it or at least provide the benefit of the doubt.

So, here are a few situations and what they may tell us about the individual and what they are experiencing:

They vomit, they cry, and they question their actions. Why did they vomit? Do they believe what they did was a disgusting act? Possibly. Nausea could be explained as the mix of digestive processes that start back up again during the PNS backlash and the empathetic gravity of their actions that they needed to take in order to survive. Regardless, great physical exertion can make one nauseous because the processes of the digestive system were halted - much like when one engages in exercise after a prolonged period of inactivity - this is natural. If you needed to kill to survive then it makes sense that the physical exertion may have also been extremely high. Therefore, the vomiting may simply be the aftermath of extreme physical exertion never before experienced.

They pissed and shit themselves… Are they cowards? Possibly. Are they scared or fearful? Probably. What does it tell us? That their body’s PNS has been temporarily shuttered. That their SNS has taken control, and that they probably perceive the situation as one of life or death for them. Even the brave may lose control of their digestive faculties because their body is also preparing to do what it takes to survive. Many of the surviving firefighters responding to the World Trade Center attack on September 11th, 2001 also defecated themselves during the whole ordeal and many of those that hadn’t did recall going to the bathroom before being dispatched.

Why did they keep shooting after the threat was effectively neutralized? There are times when a threat may submit after a fight, but might still be killed because the killer perceived them as still a threat. A third-party watching and listening to CCTV may showcase the threat had their hands up or had verbally announced their submission, and that this should be obvious, but we now understand that in stressful high-intensity situations our visual and auditory acuity can become limited. On camera, we may see a person with their hands raised, but the person on the ground may have tunnel vision and only perceive a threat still standing or still armed. Audio recordings may clearly hear the threat yell, “I give up! Please don’t shoot!” but on the ground, the person’s auditory cortex doesn’t even acknowledge it.

Our ancestors evolved to survive in much simpler, yet dangerous, environments. There is much neuronal activity going on at one time, but as we mentioned in “The Human Domain” the one-billion neurons that make up the average human brain don’t allow for perfect analysis and response. There are inferences occurring at all times, stimuli are processed and filtered based on need-to-know important or novel information while everything else is just noise. We pigeonhole, stereotype, and categorize everything we perceive because the world has just too much information and too little time to allow for critical thought. As humans began to develop societies, the environments only became more and more dynamic. Societal structures, tools, technological innovation, weapons, warfare, culture, and languages all became exponentially more complex over shorter time spans. As the world became more varied, we have had to compensate using basically the same inference-based fatty brain matter that our ancestors had.

It is no doubt that this perspective would be found in the business sector as well:

In Zig Ziglar’s book, Born to Win: Find Your Success, in Chapter 1: Wanting to Win, he talks about the excess noise of information with which we have to tackle in pursuit of our endstates:

Commitment is the solution to help you overcome the distractions you will face in life and help you stay focused on what really matters. Today, most of our society is up to their necks in the Internet and all that comes with it. Don’t get me wrong. I think the information we now have at our fingertips is astounding, and information is a key ingredient in being informed and equipped with the knowledge we need for success. But the level of information in this day and time is far more than any one person can possibly handle and process. You might say we live in a time of “information overload.” The result of information overload is usually distraction, and it dilutes your focus and takes you off your game.

In Jeb Blount’s book, Sales EQ: How Ultra High Performers Leverage Sales-Specific Emotional Intelligence to Close the Complex Deal, he identifies this in “Chapter 4: Pattern Painting, Cognitive Biases, and Heuristics:”

Moving slowly had the tendency to remove one’s DNA from the gene pool, so our brains evolved to think fast. With so much sensory information hitting us at one time, we needed a way to manage it and focus only on environmental anomalies that might be dangers or opportunities… If your brain did not leverage patterns for decision-making and adaptive response to the world around you, you’d be unable to function. Every bit of information would require analyzing before a decision could be made. Instead, the brain uses mental shortcuts (heuristics) to cut through the noise and make quick decisions… While heuristics aid stakeholders in working through complex problems faster, they also lead to cognitive biases that result in emotional decision-making. Rational, objective analysis is pushed aside by the lazy brain looking for an easy way out. The irrational buyer is born.

Psychology of the Group

Before we finish this section on the physiology and the psychology of human beings in combat, we would be remiss to not discuss the impact of the social group on this dynamic. Humans are a social species after all. The constraints of how people should act in front of others within their own social groups are strong. Not only members of the Armed Forces, but all humans are guided by these impulses. And not all of it is for the better, or at least, not necessarily for the betterment of contemporary society.

Bystander Effect

If you have ever been out in public and have driven past a car wreck on the road, or saw an out of control fire, or witnessed someone having a medical issue and didn’t stop to render assistance or contact emergency services because you thought somebody else must have already done it - then you have experienced the thought process behind the bystander effect. A situation in which multiple people observe a problem occur and choose not to act because they believe someone else would have already done so. It can be a mixture of underlying issues that lead to it: not wanting to stand out, not wanting to be embarrassed, or not wanting to be inconvenienced.

The problem we face here as a social species is our inability to fathom all that is occurring and what role, if any, we should play in dealing with it. If you had found an injured hiker while on a nature walk, and no one was around, you would probably render aid. No one else is going to do it. A car crashes into a ditch on a backwoods road you may stop to check to see if they are alright, help them contact a towing service, or even give them a lift to the next town. No one else would be able to do it. In fact, when it is just you and no one else is able to act you may feel a social compulsion to help because of innate fear of being singled out and ostracised for inaction. When others are present you can shift the responsibility to the group, but by your lonesome, it falls on your shoulders - so you act.

We gave this problem a name, the bystander effect, because it is a real problem that gets in the way of people getting time-sensitive help and we want others to be aware of it when it happens to them. The thing about the bystander effect is that it occurs even when the situation is not dire, and we only acknowledge it happening when it causes bad outcomes - like when death or debilitating injury occurs as a result of delayed action. Remember that the reason for inaction when we see a problem is because we don't want to stand out, be embarrassed, or we don’t want to be bothered.

Have you ever been driving or walking around a town’s commercial area at nighttime and noticed a business’ signage with its bulbs burnt out or lights flickering? Did you think that that would be a problem for their business? Did you immediately enter the business, or give them a call, to let them know their sign needed to be fixed, or did you simply carry on with what you were doing? I am going to bet, in the many times, you have experienced this scenario, that you did the latter. For a split second you may have thought of these:

  • They already know.
  • They already have an appointment with a contractor to fix it.
  • Someone else will inform them.
  • They will realize it when they step outside and see it.
  • It is someone else's job to care about its displays.

Any of these thoughts may be correct, but they are just excuses for inaction when a problem is identified. This seems inconsequential, and it is, but I give this example to showcase the reality of group psychology. From the least important to the most critical, problems are being observed but not reported to those that need to know because of the bystander effect. It impacts all groups and organizations - even military units and installations.

As a result of this effect, military organizations attempt to identify problems that could occur to the proper conduct and security of the unit and its assets. In the United States Army, we have a “safety officer” established at the bridge level (around 3,000 to 5,000 Soldiers) who is charged with ensuring all subordinate battalions and companies are following proper safety procedures. This is to ensure Soldiers and equipment are protected from preventable accidents and negligence. This isn’t to say that subordinates don’t know proper safety procedures, but that at times fatigue, laziness, and complacency - that all humans are susceptible to - can cause lapses in safety procedures, and the safety officer is there to make sure those safety procedures are followed.

In military units, the concept of “everyone is a safety” is there to reinforce a compulsion that if you witness a problem, report it, and if the problem is dangerous you have the responsibility to stop it. But to identify a problem, you have to actually look for it or be aware of it as a problem that could occur. In your offices, who ensures that the fire extinguishers are properly charged? You know the importance of them, but most don’t actually verify that they are good. The assigned “fire marshall,” who is just another Soldier with an additional duty of fire safety, ensures all of the fire extinguishers are properly charged and knows who to contact to recharge them. A simple solution to a simple problem - if you are worried about something falling through the cracks, tell a person it is their job to handle it. Similar to when there is a medical emergency and they tell you to identify a person in the crowd to call emergency services, the responsibility falls on the shoulders of an individual instead of getting lost to the bystander effect of the crowd.

Group Anchoring and Absolution

The individual’s actions in relation to the group are based on trying to mind-read what others may be thinking based on verbal and non-verbal cues. In combat, business, sports, and romance we shape our own actions based on what we are reading in others and try to produce the best outcome. While the bystander effect is on such phenomena, it is one that occurs in which the individual is not under duress. What happens when we crank up the stressors on the individual? How does the group impact the individual under extreme pressure?

To quote Ben Shalit, in his book The Psychology of Conflict and Combat,

All crowding has an intensifying effect. If aggression exists, it will become more so as a result of crowding; if joy exists, it will become intensified by the crowd… The effect of the crowd seems to be much like a mirror, reflecting each individual’s behavior in those around him and thus intensifying the existing pattern of behavior.

The group is powerful when directed towards a goal. With everyone being a “mirror” to everyone else they are able to persevere through hardship that may have broken an individual. The individual is anchored to those around them, while others are also anchored to this individual. An invisible tether bonds the members of the group, psychologically speaking.

Because of this anchoring effect, a solid formation of soldiers is very difficult to break. The longer they have trained and fought together the more powerful those bonds are and the more accountable they feel to each other. This is how we can see an entire file of soldiers get ripped apart by a cannonball or grapeshot and the formation just takes it and doesn’t break. They may even take a few more hits and volleys, and sustain horrendous casualties - until they actually break formation. The reason for this steadfastness is because, while large portions of the formation are being pounded into a pulp, the rest are anchoring on each other. A soldier may have seen his buddy to the right of him blown to pieces, but the person to his immediate left and rear is fine. They aren’t wavering, so he won’t either. It works in the reverse as well, him standing strong splattered with the blood of the fallen compels his buddies to persevere too.

This is why it is difficult to break a formation, or at least it explains why they don’t break sooner. Individuals want to get away and survive, but the group isn’t running so they stay. Only after there have been enough casualties to isolate individuals from others and break their psychological anchor to the group, does running become an option that others in the group start contemplating. When the “reflection of the mirror” of the group shifts from standing fast to rout does the group finally break.

Square Formation, Group Anchoring, Absolution

British infantry square. Difficult to break, and effective against cavalry.

Routing and Forward Panic

When the group breaks even the bravest and most stoic of soldiers may run. For one, without support, retreating may simply be the tactically advantageous thing to do. However, if the group loses its cohesion and routs then it may actually put itself in even more danger. Fleeing soldiers may have increased survival probability if they work together, such as covering their retreat with supporting fires or even staying close by to fight off pursuing foes. But throughout history, an uncontrolled rout would simply see warriors get run down and die tired - better to have stood and fought.

This lesson, however, is a difficult one to teach. Failure is the best teacher, but in combat, failure means you die. As a result, we learn from the lessons of others, and we train our organizations to maintain control of their formations even as things appear to be falling apart. Understanding the psychology of the group will help a leader better manage it. If the unit needs to disengage in order to survive then maintaining control is vital. A retreat is controlled. Rearguards can be established to protect the main body’s retreat while screening units or vanguards can clear the path ahead. A rout has no control. It is every man for themselves, which is why every man is usually killed.

The group is fleeing, and instead of individuals being anchored by steadfastness they are instead anchored to panic and flight. The more people run the bigger the compulsion to run, and when everyone is routing it is difficult to get it to stop. So this is why, as stated, leaders need to prevent it from occurring through leadership and training.

Rout of Moy, Rout, Fleeing

Art depicting the Rout of Moy in February 1746, during the Jacobite Rising of ’45. A force of 1,500 was compelled to rout by a handful of Jacobins deceiving them into believing the Jacobite were there in greater numbers.

A rout, being an uncontrollable flight away from an adversary or perceived threat, is an understandable psychological response. But did you know that there is a psychological compulsion that can drive a group to throw themselves into their enemies? An uncontrollable flight towards danger to destroy it outright. It is called a “forward panic” and it can be just as dangerous to the organization as a rout, but for entirely different reasons. Steven Pinker states:

When an aggressive coalition has stalked or faced off against an opponent in a prolonged state of apprehension and fear, then catches the opponent in a moment of vulnerability, fear turns to rage, and the men will explode in a savage frenzy. A seemingly unstoppable fury drives them to beat the enemy senseless, torture and mutilate the men, rape the women, and destroy their property. A forward panic is violence at its ugliest. It is the state of mind that causes genocides, massacres, deadly ethnic riots, and battles in which no prisoners are taken. As the butchery gains momentum, rage may give way to ecstasy, and the rampagers may laugh and whoop in a carnival of barbarity.

No one has to be trained to carry out a rampage, and when they erupt in armies or police squads the commanders are often taken by surprise and have to take steps to quell them, since the overkill and atrocities serve no military or law-enforcement purpose. A rampage may be a primitive adaptation to seize a fleeting opportunity to decisively rout a dangerous enemy before it can remobilize and retaliate. The instinct behind rampages suggests that the human behavioral repertoire includes scripts for violence that lie quiescent and may be cued by propitious circumstances, rather than building up over time like hunger or thirst.

In the previous chapter, when looking at our chimpanzee cousins, we saw that they avoid fights when there is no clear advantage. In these situations, chimpanzees resort to posturing. If they assess that they have an advantage then they may take the opportunity to remove the threat. As an evolutionary compulsion, this makes sense. Threats are dangerous to your continued survival, so a lineage of kin with an innate desire to remove threats when possible would be more likely to pass on genes.

Killing a member of a group may only earn the ire of that group and the victim’s kin, so given the opportunity to wipe out the entirety of the threat, improves your chances. Stopping short of complete destruction only leaves the seeds of your own future destruction. Therefore, this is why we see rampaging amongst primates. Their complex social dynamics and understanding of long-term consequences allow us to foresee what may occur. The third factor of violence, revenge, is what the complete destruction of the threat seeks to avoid.

For humans, earlier in our evolution, our groups were no bigger than a tribe or a clan of a few families. A rampage to wipe out an enemy was a viable strategy at the time. As tribes got bigger, city-states, kingdoms, empires, and nations were formed, and the viability of a rampage actually removing threats went away. There will always be survivors and associations that see these actions as a direct threat and will seek revenge for the rampage. The innate desire, though, is still there and needs to be accounted for when we conduct operations.

Much like a rout, the forward panic sees individual warriors anchor their emotions and actions based on what they observe amongst their fellows. The individual witnesses a drive of frenzy and destruction and is compelled to participate. That individual’s participation becomes an anchor for others to emulate. Destruction and violence can intensify as individuals undertake actions they feel are appropriate but are perceived by others as an escalation.

For example, as stated earlier, a person can suffer significant visual, auditory, and motor function limitations during high levels of stress. To the individual, they may take the life of a surrendering enemy but did not perceive the intent to surrender. To the individual, he killed an enemy combatant, but to others in their unit, they just witnessed an execution. Small imperfect actions are perceived and compound upon each other amongst all participants until the whole organization is escalating beyond military necessity. Without leadership to step in and take control, pending they haven’t also been sucked into the mayhem, they risk a forward panic - a rampage of murder, rape, looting, and destruction. These well-trained and organized unit becomes nothing more than a mob.

Business Perspective of the Psychology and Physiology of Combat

The times in which one may personally experience or observe these behavioral responses, either as an individual or as a member of a group, will be rare, maybe even a once-in-a-lifetime event. For warfighters who train to actually be thrust into these situations, it is still uncommon. Even a Soldier who has deployed multiple times, a medieval knight, a feudal samurai, or a tribal warrior who have all lived during chaotic and brutal times still spend the bulk of their time preparing for extreme duress rather than actually participating in it.

So, why should the business world be concerned with an aspect of humanity that they may never experience? There are two reasons. The first is eponymous with War Is My Business which is to say that more and more business leaders are studying military theory, concepts, and principles, and are applying them in unique and unorthodox ways to develop their businesses. The second is much more grounded in a reality that most don’t acknowledge, and this reality is that for the last 1.8 million years of divergent human evolution, these psychological and physiological responses to stress were a daily concern. Threats in the form of exposure to harsh environments, toxic plants, deadly predators, and increasingly territorial human tribes set the conditions that required these behaviors for our ancestors to survive. Our increasingly peaceful and stable societies are merely a recent advent for our species. 11,000 years of human domestication, agriculture, tailoring, building homes, launching satellites, and traveling to the moon can’t undo the millions of years of evolutionary shaping to survive a hostile world.

This is understood by those in the business world as well. If you are keen to study the art and science of selling, you may have read up on some of these powerhouses in the industry: Zig Ziglar, Brian Tracy, and Jeb Blount. See if you can pick up on some of those individual and group behavioral responses that were touched on above in their writings below.

Referring to a previous Zig Ziglar quote about commitment being the solution to distraction that gets in the way of goals, he is very much focused on the salesperson doing what is necessary to close a sale. And his writings have as much to do with shaping perspectives as it does on how to engage prospects. From his book, Born to Win, he brings up these points in the chapter “Wanting to Win”:

  • Psychologists will tell you in a New York minute that you invariably and inevitably move toward the strongest impression in your mind. The impressions that are most vivid in your mind are the things you want to do.
  • When tough times happen, we have to persevere through those difficulties and keep pressing on to our ultimate goal and vision… More often than not, too many people give up when they get more resistance than they bargained for… If they fail to persevere through those times, they will fail permanently!
  • Others don’t realize that the real opportunity for success lies within the person and not in the job; that you can best get to the top by getting to the bottom of things - and then climbing the stairs of success, one at a time. Success and happiness are not matters of chance, but choice.

When an individual is put under stress they respond according to their perspective and their training, and in doing so alleviate the pain caused by that stress. Remember, pain and discomfort exist as an evolutionary compulsion to fix a problem. But in a complex society, alleviating these symptoms of a perceived problem may not actually solve the problem that caused it. What a lot of self-help books try to expound is to improve oneself by altering your perspective so you can tackle problems from a new angle. This is one thing that Zig Ziglar tries to teach to the sales world. He states this in his book, Secrets of Closing the Sale, in the chapter “The Right Mental Attitude”:

  • As an advocate of positive thinking, I frequently encounter people who are enormously confused about the subject. They often think we positive thinkers believe with positive thinking we can do anything. That’s ridiculous. Positive thinking won’t let you do anything, but it will help you do everything better than negative thinking will.

It is the individual salesperson, as it is the individual warfighter or any person for that matter, that needs to shape their attitude to prepare themselves for hardship and stress. A positive perspective during difficult times, which will undoubtedly occur, is necessary for building the resiliency that can carry a person through to their goal. All the training in the world may fall flat in the face of friction when a person has a negative outlook.

Brian Tracy from his book The Psychology of Selling touches on some of the psychological aspects of business transactions from the perspective of the buyer in the chapter “Why People Buy”, and contains a few points a salesperson needs to know in engaging potential customers:

  • What you must appreciate is that people buy for their reasons, not yours. One of the biggest mistakes amateur salespeople make is asking people to buy for their own personal reasons, not for the reasons that actually motivate the customer to take action.
  • As a fundamental principle, every human action is aimed at an improvement of some kind. People buy products and services because they feel they will be better off as a result.
  • People are sensitive to other people in their work or home environment. Whenever someone considers making a purchase, he or she thinks about how other people may respond to that purchase decision.
  • The fear of loss is two and a half times more powerful than the desire for gain. People are much more motivated to buy if they feel they are going to lose something by not buying, than they are in anticipation of the benefits they will enjoy if they do buy.
  • All buying decisions are emotional. In fact, everything you do is 100 percent emotional. The rule is that people decide emotionally and they justify logically. You use logic to justify and rationalize your decision once you have made it.

Our next salesman, Jeb Blount, is a man that shares a way of thinking similar to how War Is My Business discusses concepts and thinks about the human condition. By assessing sales activities, salesperson and customer behaviors, and technologies to employ based on scientific understanding, he is able to discuss concepts, principles, and tenets of selling that can be applied to all human endeavors; if you know how to interpret it. His efforts to teach salespeople the psychology and physiology of selling to prospects, aligns greatly with the topics found within this chapter. From Jeb Blount’s book, Objections: The Ultimate Guide for Mastering the Art and Science of Getting Past No, he writes the following passages.

  • [A] safety bias causes your buyer’s brain to be more aware of bad things (what could go wrong) than good things (what could go right). As humans, we tend to be attracted to safe choices and safe environments. Salespeople, as a rule, are not perceived as safe. They worry that you won’t live up to your promises and you’ll disrupt their business. They worry that you’ll manipulate them… Buyers bring this emotional baggage into the buying process, and because humans remember negative events far more vividly than positive ones, stakeholders believe that past negative events will be more likely to happen in the future.
  • I want you to imagine that you were alive 40,000 years ago. You live in a cave with a group of people in a hunter-gatherer community, in what is now France. It’s a dangerous world. Neighboring tribes fight and compete for scarce resources. When you are out hunting for dinner, there is usually something hunting you. It’s a brutal, survival-of-the-fittest world. You depend on your tribe for everything… It was here, in this ruthless and unforgiving ancient world, that humans developed sensitivity to rejection. The pain of rejection served as an early warning system that the danger of being ostracized or banished from the cave was imminent should one’s behavior not change. It was a simple, but powerful, survival mechanism.
  • Your brain prioritizes the pain of rejection because remembering this pain warns you not to repeat socially damaging mistakes and face the scorn of your neighbors… Rejection is different than other emotions. While the menagerie of emotions you feel originate and live in the emotional hub of your brain called the limbic system, rejection activates the area of your brain that are connected to physical pain. Rejection, unlike every other emotion, mimics physical pain, which is why it hurts so much. Scientists have even discovered that taking Tylenol reduces the pain of rejection, while it has no impact on other emotions.
  • The fight-or-flight response is insidious because it is a neurophysiological response that circumvents rational thought…. To prepare your body to defend itself, oxygen and glucose-rich blood flood into your muscles. However, since there is only so much to go around, blood is moved from nonessential organs into your muscles. One of these nonessential areas from which blood is drawn is your neocortex - the rational, logical center of the brain. It turns out, from an evolutionary standpoint, that thinking through your options is not an asset when dealing with threats. You need to move quickly to stay alive… In the fight or flight state, without rational intervention, you are consumed by disruptive emotions and lose control… This does not mean you cannot manage your emotions - just that the neurophysiological fight-or-flight response is beyond your control. The key is learning tactics and strategies that allow you to put your neocortex (rational brain) in control so that you can rise about these disruptive emotions, regain composure, control your instincts, and choose your response.
  • Salespeople avoid objections because it’s easier to remain in the comfort of delusion than to get the truth on the table… Avoiding the truth is easy because (at least in the moment) you’re not being told no, so it doesn’t hurt. Rather than accepting that asking will create a “no” and that “no” is a good thing, salespeople hide behind justifications like not wanting to seem to pushing, or falling victim to bad timing, or allowing the buyer to do your work for them and buy on their own terms. Here is the brutal truth: When you choose delusion over reality, you are making a conscious choice not only to lie to yourself but to lower your standards and performance.

The status quo is comfortable, even if it isn’t ideal. Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t. This saying is a major element of the safety bias that Jeb mentions. People feel pain more for a loss than they feel joy for a gain, and, as a result, humans are very loss averse. Anywhere from 2 to 2.5 times is how much more, on average, a positive outcome has to be valued in order to risk a loss. For example, a person would only risk $100 if they had the possibility of winning $250 with a 50/50 chance. Each dollar lost hurts more than each dollar won. Safety bias also extends to non-monetary aspects, like time and effort. A less than ideal customer relations management system may be difficult to abandon for a new system that promises greater value, even if at a lesser cost, because at the very least your current system is sufficient; other than promises, you really don’t know if the new system will do the job. Since losses hurt more, they remember a life’s worth of failed promises and sunk costs more than successful systems and savings. Basically, there are reasons to keep things the same if they aren’t too bad, and that is a problem for people trying to influence others to make a change. They are hunting for reasons to say no, or object to your proposals.

And the person trying to influence others to act is also compelled to avoid interrupting and annoying them. Just like our ancestors, we are really focused on being liked and valued, as that improves our chances of benefiting from the group. And though we now live in societies of thousands, millions, and billions of humans, the evolutionary compulsion not to be a burden on others is still there from our times as tribal peoples. Our frontal cortices evolved to handle dynamic social situations. The emotional pain we feel with rejection was a survival mechanism, just like physical forms of pain. The evolutionary purpose of pain is to compel us to change or react in a way to avoid or reduce it, because the pain was associated with actions or events that threatened our ancestors’ survival.

Physical pain is easy to understand, as an injury is still a problem today as it was a million years ago. The dynamic of emotional pain related to social situations, however, is a little less rational as we feel the pain of rejection with total strangers as much as we do with those in our immediate social groups. I would say this is partially related to the fact that millions of years ago, our ancestors saw other humans in one of two ways.

  1. People they knew, and whose favorable opinion was necessary for their continued survival within the group, and;
  2. People they didn’t know, and whose opinions didn’t matter because they may be a threat.

Nowadays, with 7.8 billion human beings on this planet, the general consensus is that all of them are not a threat to you or your peoples’ survival. As a result, treating strangers as a non-threat inadvertently gets them lumped into the first category, because, in our minds, if they aren’t a threat to us then they must be a part of our group in some way. In this way, the opinions of some strangers, in Facebook comments on your business page, or calling you a “baby killer” while you walk down the street, can cause so much emotional pain even though their opinions should mean nothing to you.

This is why engaging other human beings with business proposals, orders to do some mundane or dangerous action, or otherwise disturbing their daily activities are so difficult to do. Ostracizing was bad for our ancestors' survival and group rejection could lead to it. So to avoid it, the brain employs pain when it assesses you might engage in a social action that leads to rejection. We find ways to avoid pain, and, therefore, engage in confrontation avoidance or mild requests for actions that can easily be brushed off. The pain of rejection compels us to avoid pressing people to action, being assertive in what we want, and even to the point where we employ delusion to avoid the painful truth that some people will not like us simply for who we are. This applies to not only Jeb Blount’s salespeople trying to set an appointment, but also military recruiters trying to schedule an interview with a candidate. Taken from his book Fanatical Military Recruiting: The Ultimate Guide to Leveraging High-Impact Prospecting to Engage Qualified Applicants, Win the War for Talent, and Make Mission Fast:

  • Shortly after my book Fanatical Prospecting was published, we began to get calls from military recruiting commands… I began getting e-mail and notes on social media from military recruiters and leaders telling me how they were using the techniques in Fanatical Prospecting to fill the recruiting funnel. Entire companies and battalions were reading the book. I couldn’t make sense of why there was so much interest from the military in a prospecting book that was written primarily for business-to-business sales professionals. (xv)
  • We knew nothing about the military recruiting process and had no foundational knowledge on how the military worked… We know exactly what we’re doing when civilian companies call us for help. We know the language of business. We speak sales and the sales process. The US military, though, was a complete unknown. Suddenly we were out of our comfort zone. We didn’t know the language of the United States Armed Forces. Honestly, it is embarrassing to admit how little I knew about how the military worked - especially recruiting. (xvi)
  • With the help of many kind people, I was learning the language and battle rhythm of military recruiting. Military recruiters and their leaders recognize that they need more than basic recruiting skills. For this reason, they gravitate toward civilian sales books like my book Fanatical Prospecting. Commercial sales and military recruiting are not the same. Although there are parallel skillsets between military recruiting and civilian sales, recruiting is a specialized endeavor that requires a specific set of competencies. (xvii-xviii)

Jeb did not see why these recruiters were reaching out to him for his particular set of skills. What could a military recruiter; who is looking to entice youth to enlist into a military career, want to learn from a salesperson; who is looking to convince a prospect to set an appointment for a demonstration or convince them to make a purchasing decision? Once he got to know them, partially because they were now a client and probably a little out of curiosity, he said that there were some shared principles that could be applied. And it was these principles he would go on to coach and write about. He acknowledged that being a subject matter expert in civilian sales was not a direct correlation with that of military recruiting, and I would argue that we could simplify that by dropping the adjectives. It isn’t the civilian and military aspects that limit the coaching potential of what Jeb Blount writes about, but simply the differences between sales and recruiting themselves. It is the difference between convincing a person to commit their resources to a product or service and that of convincing a person to commit themselves to a career path that will shape their future, and both involve simply compelling a person to act in a way that we think is in their best interest.

Once Jeb was able to bridge the divide of understanding, and the unique aspects of recruiting, he was able to apply his knowledge of human psychology and physiology under stress to a military audience. He was able to provide a tailored experience once he understood how to speak their language. While his business is focused on the training and coaching of salespeople in a B2B situation, without intending to do so he was able to begin getting control of a niche need in the market. Recruiting is not easy, and this is especially so for a career that many associate with danger and death. Jeb was able to satisfy a need that was thrust upon him, and I am glad he was able to see the commonalities between military and business theory; at least in this very unique scenario of sales and recruiting. Fanatical Military Recruiting is only the first book in a set of three that he has planned to publish for a military recruiting audience as of this writing, and all his teaching, coaching, and education tools can be found at his website

Whereas Zig Ziglar wrote heavily from the first person, retelling stories and anecdotes from his illustrious career as a salesman, Brian Tracy spoke more on sales topics from the position of an expert observer, and Jeb Blount more heavily leveraged the science angle. Tracy and Blount’s quips and statements can more easily be used as principles and concepts for salespersons to learn and adapt for their own use. This isn’t to say that Ziglar, Tracy, or Blount provide better guidance, they are all competent and proven salesmen with lessons to be learned. Some may tell stories and others may speak in concepts, but there is truth to be found in their words. Just like the truth that can be gleaned from the study of military leaders, battles, and concepts from varied time periods, cultures, and technological capabilities. The success and failures in business and war teach us truths about these endeavors, and each lesson is tested in dynamic and complex environments. And while the means and ways of salespersons and military members may be different, we can learn truths about what they share in common - humanity.

The differences between military and business theory aren’t that complex, it is only the perception and lack of shared understanding between military and business that makes the division seem vast. Practically every business has its own mission, and while the lexicon amongst those businesses may differ, the skills between them are applicable; if only requiring a little tweaking to fit the specific operational environment of those businesses. The military is just a different type of business, with its own mission and lexicon. Whether it is in combat or in individual engagements with prospective clients, what we are concerned about is how humans deal with other humans and the stress that this arrangement places on them. Consequences may be different, but humans are still the common denominator for all of it. Understanding that salespeople, clerks, owners, customers, Soldiers, Sailors, tribesmen, or any class of human being are impacted in similar ways while under duress means that these principles that we study from combat, from sales books, from anecdotes, and from historical passages, which deals with human engagement, can be a source of inspiration. This is a major point that War Is My Business attempts to argue.

Either in individual activities or group endeavors, we are compelled to act in certain ways based upon our shared evolutionary development. By understanding how a human reacts under stress, we can shape our environments to compensate when the effect is negative or exploit the situation when it provides an advantage. But in high-intensity, stressful, dynamic, and dangerous environments - like combat, terror attacks, active shooter scenarios - to include other very stressful situations like simply engaging customers in a transaction, these times make it difficult to make effective decisions on what to do in the moment. It is understandable that we may not perform perfectly based on available information because the feeling of stress can feel overwhelming. Understanding the psychology and physiology of humans was the first step. We know what occurs. With training as the second step, however, we can take control of what was once automatic behavioral responses. Follow me to our next chapter where we discuss how training helps us solve many of the problems associated with automatic behavioral responses brought about by stressful situations.

Zig Ziglar

Zig Ziglar

Brian Tracy

Brian Tracy

Jeb Blount

Jeb Blount

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On Violence

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On Training

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