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Reduce Emotional Hijacking with Emotional Intelligence

Understand how emotional intelligence can mitigate an amygdala hijack.


Understanding how emotional intelligence and your brain work together

What Is Emotional Hijacking?

Emotional hijacking is the experience of your emotions elevating to a point where you are no longer thinking rationally, hence ‘hijacking’ your decision-making skills.


Emotional hijacking doesn’t have to be informed by negative emotions; in situations where you are overwhelmed with joy or excitement, your decision-making is still affected.


How Does Emotional Hijacking Negatively Affect You?

We’ve shared before that emotional hijacking “is harmful to your relationships with others and your relationship with yourself.” Here are a few of the ways emotional hijacking will affect you at work.


Feeling Out of Control

This is where the phrase ‘hijacking’ becomes significant; when your emotions are in control, you are not. This can lead to you acting in ways you aren’t proud of, like raising your voice, snapping at the people around you, or being curt or rude.

Causing Short-Term and Long-Term Stress

When you experience emotional hijacking, your body goes through physical responses, releasing adrenaline and cortisol. Even if you’re upset in a relatively low-stakes situation, your body might not know the difference and will react accordingly.

Destroying Your Credibility

When you’re under stress and out of control, you can’t be presenting your best self to others. The people around you are going to notice, and that is going to affect your credibility.

If others perceive you as constantly losing your temper or having big, outlandish reactions, they are not likely to seek you out for collaboration or future opportunities. This kind of mistrust will negatively affect your day-to-day experiences as well as your overall organizational culture.


How Does Emotional Intelligence Combat Emotional Hijacking?

The good news is that the secret to overcoming emotional hijacking is to develop your emotional intelligence (EQ). Working on EQ doesn’t have to be difficult; just increasing your knowledge or documenting your emotions contribute to higher emotional intelligence.


If you want to take more serious steps to develop your EQ, you should take an assessment. Being able to measure something as tenuous as emotion is very beneficial; an assessment provides data and numerical scores to study and improve.


TTI Success Insights’ EQ assessment measures 5 dimensions of emotional intelligence: self-awareness, self-regulation, social awareness, social regulation, and motivation.


Self-awareness and self-regulation are very important for handling emotional hijacking because they are within your control. You can actively improve both and improve your overall EQ as well as your control over your emotions.


How Can You Increase EQ To Prevent Emotional Hijacking?

Be aware. The first step in improving any fault is identifying the need to improve it in the first place, and becoming aware of your emotions at any given moment is a process. Look for consistent situations where you find yourself stressed or quick to anger and simply become aware of them.


Jot down the times of day you find yourself becoming irritated or upset— is it timed with a frustrating meeting? Is your blood sugar crashing in the afternoon? Are you surrounded by chipper coworkers when you are decidedly not a morning person? Start paying attention to these patterns.


Step away and refuel. Once you identify your emotional triggers, do everything in your power to address them. That way, you are acting and not just reacting.


Go for a quick walk, bask in the sun, eat a snack, refill your water, and take ten minutes to stretch— all of these options will disrupt your current emotional state and help you reset.


Practice proactive empathy. Lead by example! Demonstrating the type of behavior, you want to experience from others will reveal possibilities for your workplace and your team.


If others see you modeling emotional intelligence and a calm demeanor, they might follow your lead and work on their own EQ as well.


Move Forward Without Emotional Hijacking

Emotional hijacking is a normal and unfortunately common experience. The good news is that just by reading this article, you have started to increase your understanding and improve your awareness of your behavior.


About the Author

Jaime Faulkner believes authenticity and storytelling are the keys to successful marketing. As a graduate from the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication, she loves finding and connecting narratives. When she's not at work, she's psychoanalyzing contestants on The Bachelor, painting, listening to podcasts, or playing tabletop RPGs.

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