You’re in a meeting, practicing how to listen like a pro. You’ve started to actively listen for what other people are really saying – the facts they cite and their interpretations of those facts. You’re a little less mentally tired because you’re becoming an expert at sorting as you listen.
Then it happens: the brain hijack. You get swept away by an emotional reaction to something someone has said. Before you know it, your mind is saying, “Wait, I don’t think that fact is the whole story!” or “Hold on, that’s a pretty self-serving interpretation of those facts!”
Except your mind isn’t gently whispering those statements. It’s screaming them, like my friend Jeff often texts me – IN ALL CAPS.
You know why this hijack happens. You have your own interpretations of the facts, your own set of stories you tell yourself that drive how you think and feel and behave. This other person’s interpretations may be different and even in conflict with yours. And before you know it, your mind has been hijacked.
When this happens, it doesn’t matter how well we’ve paid attention in listening school. We may be able to plaster a neutral smile on our faces, but our minds are screaming, “This person is a threat!” We reflexively look to run or fight or freeze in place.
When that happens, forget listening like a pro. We’ll be lucky to listen at all.
It would be great if we could avoid all brain hijacks, but that’s not realistic. Instead, learn to recognize it for what it is. See it. Notice it. Smile slyly at it.
Then get ready to take the hijacker down.