"........When Change is the Challenge."
Laurie Weiss, Ph.D.
almost cost Evelyn her job.
several employees resigned because of her behavior, Evelyn's
manager had insisted that she either get coaching or find
another job. Evelyn, an extremely competent technical
expert, believed that the other employees had been
over-sensitive, and that she was an exemplary worker.
trouble understanding exactly why her manager was unhappy
with her behavior until we had a misunderstanding about when
one of her coaching assignments would be completed. In a
steely, cold and crisp VOICE, she told me about six or seven
lapses and inconsistencies in my association with her. I
instantly felt like a second-grader being scolded by the
Fortunately, I have
learned to recognize when my own brain is hijacked, and I
have a reaction that is way out of proportion to an event I
experience. When I was spoken to in that kind of voice when
I was a child, I knew that I was in BIG TROUBLE. Whenever my
primitive brain hears that VOICE, I have an instant
reaction. I want to dig a hole and hide in it. It is a
physiological reaction, and I am not in control of it, it
brain-hijacking reaction was useful when we needed to
instantly react to dangerous tigers in the jungle, but less
useful now that we are "civilized." It is a "knee-jerk"
reaction that takes place fractions of a second before our
thinking brain engages. I know that if I can make myself
wait a moment, instead of reacting instantly the way I want
to, I will be able to think about the situation rationally.
a deep breath (my pause time) and asked her why she had
suddenly scolded me. She told me that she was just defending
herself from my unfair accusations! Another
brain-hijacking??? She was having a disproportionate
reaction to our conversation.
eventually discovered that whenever anyone implied that
Evelyn had made a mistake, she got furiously angry and
defended herself by verbally pointing out her "accuser's"
shortcomings-just as she had done with me. Evelyn learned to
recognize her own anger as a sign of a hijacking, and to
think before she lashed out at her (usually innocent)
accuser. She kept her job.
Coaching Tip: We
are not in control of our instant emotional reactions. We
can learn to wait (count to ten) before expressing those
Goleman discusses brain-hijacking in depth in Chapter One of
his best-selling book, Emotional
Copyright 2001, Empowerment Systems. May be
transmitted or reproduced in its entirety only, including
this copyright line.
Jonathan B. Weiss, Ph.D. and Laurie Weiss, Ph.D. have
helped thousands of people make significant changes in their
lives. Working together at Empowerment Systems for 29 of
their 40 years of marriage, they maintain a coaching,
consulting, and psychotherapy practice in Littleton,
· Colorado · 80120
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"Committed to helping people use all of
their inner resources
to create satisfying and fulfilling