Self-awareness skills are critical to managing our emotions to make rational decisions. When we recognize emotions and feelings guide all we do, we can avoid hijacking situations and differentiate ourselves from others.
Anyone can become angry–that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way-that is not easy. – Aristotle
The Influence of Your Emotions
Developing our emotional intelligence, specifically our self-awareness, will inevitably change how we conduct ourselves, including our decision-making skills. It is not a simple task; it takes time and a great deal of effort to learn to effectively read our emotions and understand how they affect our decision-making and our ability to empathize with others. Managing them comes next, which requires considerable skill that requires strong self-awareness.
What is Emotional Hijacking?
When our emotions get overwhelmed, they can quickly become hijacked. When this occurs, we lose control of them and often our behaviour. Ordinarily, it’s a burst of uncontrollable and intense feelings that propel us to react in a way that doesn’t reflect the best version of ourselves.
It is not a new phenomenon but has become more popular over the last 20+ years. Psychologist and author Daniel Goleman coined the term “amygdala hijack” in 1995 in his book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. The amygdala is found in the temporal lobe of the brain and helps us perceive and feel anger, fear, and sadness, as well as control aggression. It regulates our fight or flight response (known as the acute stress response) to immediate threats. It sends us a signal, a “red flag” to us, and our reaction depends upon our ability to manage our emotions.
Why we get hijacked?Our emotions can rapidly sneak upon us. It can happen in a matter of seconds at work; you get emotionally hijacked when a colleague disappoints you, and you lash out at them instead of taking the time to share your feelings calmly. After seeing the shock and hurt on your colleague’s face, you’re likely then embarrassed, and you regret your actions and decision to act impulsively. You wish you behaved more rationally because you’re aware of the significant amount of time it will take to repair this relationship.
How many times have you decided to purchase something that was a great deal? You were so excited about the opportunity and at that moment thought you needed or, perhaps, couldn’t live without the item only to realize later, not only was the item not in the budget, you didn’t need it after all. Poor decisions like this can happen even when in a good mood, and we least expect it.
These examples require appropriate responses to assist us in rationally making decisions, from daily budgeting to managing danger and stress in our environment.
Our ability to understand and manage our feelings will empower us to make decisions that elevate our confidence. Believe it or not, our ability to breathe can save us from being hijacking. It’s hard to imagine if you take the time to stop and “just breathe,” it only takes 10 seconds or less for your brain to become calm and regain control of highly charged situations. Once you regulate the feeling, you can move forward and manage the situation peacefully.
This strategy for managing these situations takes time to develop but is well worth it. Increasing self-awareness will enhance this technique assists with decision-making to eventually eliminate everyday emotional hijacking situations. Marshall Connects offers Emotional Intelligence Assessments and Coaching to enhance skill development in all areas, including self-awareness strategies enhancing your focus to improve overall productivity.
This article was originally published on November 2, 2019, and has been updated (April 2021).
Are you Emotionally Intelligent?
Sign up for Linda’s monthly tips to build your Emotional Intelligence and reduce Emotional Hijacking!