Apr 28, 2016 | 2 Minute Read

End (or at least Ease) Emotional Hijacking


Learn to recognize and deal with it effectively

It’s happened to all of us at one time or another.

Somehow, I wound up in the back seat when I’m usually the one driving. I thought we were heading home from church. Suddenly (when I looked up from my phone!), I realized that we were going in the opposite direction. I finally inquired, “Where are we going?” My wife responded, “Don’t worry, we are hijacking you. Just sit back and relax!” It’s kind of hard to relax when you are being taken to a place that you don’t want to go and you aren’t in the driver’s seat!

While that may be a humorous account, when it happens to you emotionally, hijacking is no laughing matter. A few minutes of losing control of your emotions and a relationship can be broken, a customer can be lost or even a life can be destroyed. The problem is that emotional hijacking happens to all of us at one time or another. The key is to recognize it and learn to deal with it effectively. What are some steps?

First, Know yourself 

Most people know what makes them tick and what ticks them off. What gets under your skin? Is it a co-worker? Is it someone else’s annoying habit? What are the stimuli that cause you to go off or have a short fuse? It’s important to explore the what and why.

TTI’s Behavior/DISC and Motivator/12 Driving Forces assessments are a great tool for this journey. Use them to dig deep into who you are and why you do what you do. Then, spend some time talking to a coach.

We all need someone else to help us pinpoint where we are and set a direction to where we need to go. The right person can help you learn what your triggers are so you don’t pull them (or let someone else pull them!) quite so often.

Second, Self-regulate 

Meditation has become all the rage but some shy away from it due to religious beliefs or the fact that it seems esoteric or ethereal in some way. I just call it deep breathing!

Two people who have done incredible scientific research in this arena are Herbert Benson in his book, The Relaxation Response and James Loehr in his book, Breathe In Breathe Out. Both are great resources. They’ll help you learn to use breathing to calm the swirling mind, regain control and focus on what matters. Using breathing to self-regulate could make all the difference in how you perform or what happens to that important business relationship.

Third, move

When we get emotionally hijacked, we have a tendency to freeze, lock our bodies up and quit moving. It is interesting to realize that, as Tony Robbins says, “Motion creates emotion.” He’s right.

Many years ago when I was doing more counseling and not coaching, I had a woman call me who was so despondent, I feared for her safety. When I asked her what she was doing at that moment, her answer didn’t surprise me. She was sitting in a chair, frozen in place while she continued in a downward spiral emotionally. I asked her to talk to me for just 10 more minutes but with one caveat, I asked her to get up and go outside while we talked. She agreed, got up and started walking around the back yard. It gave me enough time to get someone to her house and intervene. That simple change from sitting to walking gave her the necessary emotional shift.

That same strategy can work for any of us when things get emotionally charged. If you are sitting, stand up and stretch. If you need to take a walk, excuse yourself and go for a short stroll or even do some push-ups or jumping jacks. Move differently and you might just feel differently.

While we will never be able to eliminate emotional hijacking entirely, we can certainly begin to ease its negative impact on our relationships, health, and business. Using these tools can put you on the right track so that you begin to manage your emotional states instead of letting them manage you.


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Bob Sands

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