Ever had a time when you’ve ‘lost your head’ in a heated situation, only to regret your outburst moments later? Most of us have. It’s known as an emotional hijack – when the emotional part of your brain takes over from the logical.
Learning how to respond brilliantly
Whilst working with one of the UK’s largest retailers recently, I was tasked with teaching mind-set techniques to their people, to give them the ability to respond brilliantly to every situation, no matter how stressful; how rude a customer was; no matter how bad their morning had been.
We used a range of techniques, including one called the six second stop.
This simple technique gives the neo-cortex (thinking part of the brain) time to re-engage following a hijack from the limbic system (emotional part of the brain). Hence the term ‘I didn’t engage brain before I overreacted’ or emotional hijack.
Research suggests it takes 6 seconds for the emotional response to pass and the rational brain to kick into gear.
The techniques were well received at work. But the real impact hit us the following week when a Team Leader reflected on how she’d used the six second stop at home.
Her 10-year old son has obsessive compulsive disorder. If the smallest thing is out of place (such as someone else sitting on his bed), the screaming and shouting can become unbearable.
The next time her son was about to lose control, she simply said ‘name six characters from the Simpsons.’ The result was instant (he could name the whole cast) but more importantly, it was enough time for his ‘emotional hijack’ to pass, and whilst still upset, she was able to have a normal conversation with her son and resolve the issue.
You can’t underestimate the enormity of impact his simple and easy technique has had. Now the boy’s Grandparents have lists of ‘six things’ ready for when they are looking after him, and he himself has created lists of seven things (he had to go one better): favourite football players, characters in shows, places he likes…
In a room full of people, this story was told with such emotion by the Team Leader that we all felt a lump in our throats.
It always strikes me that so much learning and development is left in the classroom, or at work, when it could make a real impact in all areas of your life.