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Emotional Hijacking

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A statement and a question always comes up for me around the topic of emotions in the corporate setting. The statement is that “There is no place for emotions in business!” The question is: “Why do all executives I know at one time or another do unproductive behaviors?” This diagram is an attempt to explain why.

When an executive is experiencing an uncomfortable emotion they can still be productive until it hits a certain threshold that they have. Thresholds are different for each person and they are also different for the same person in different settings. The deep cut here is that the settings of the threshold line come out of the executives belief structure and their attitudes. For an example: if I made a presentation where I was doubtful about either my content or ability to deliver it and some makes a derogatory comment afterwards I may: 1. Attack, intimidate or threaten them in some way or 2. Withdraw, accommodate or avoid the conversation – without my even knowing that I did it! There may be other words that describe your behavior but in many instances it won’t be productive. If you are emotionally balanced and have good self esteem then maybe you would choose a productive response such as: “Gee, it seems like you think the presentation could have better met your needs, can you share with me how that might have looked?” The operative dynamic there is “emotionally balanced.”

A large part of emotional intelligence is about raising the threshold line and elevating one’s awareness as the intensity of a particular emotion is occurring and having the ability to express or manage it in productive ways. For if we are not aware of the rising intensity then we are very liable to be emotionally hijacked.

So here are the keys to avoiding a hijacking:

  1. Become more aware of your emotions particularly when they become intense
  2. Learn how to express yourself emotionally to help release the pressure
  3. If you’re nearing the threshold line take a break, a breath or even say that you are having a strong reaction to the conversation and want to take a break.

Doing this will give you more choices in behavior and keep you on the productive side.

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