Cognitive Hijacking #2: Loss Aversion

Multiple studies substantiate that we humans feel the pain of loss more keenly than we do the enjoyment of gain. Remember Lance Armstrong? He apparently abhorred the pain of loss down to the core of his being. “I like to win, but more than anything, I can’t stand this idea of losing.  Because to me, losing means death.”  He did anything he could to avoid losing. After a long doping scandal, Armstrong was stripped of his … Read more…

Cognitive Hijacking

You might be more familiar with emotional hijacking than you are with the cognitive variety. Emotional hijacking occurs when we get scared or angry and diminish our ability to access the executive function in the prefrontal cortex. When this happens, we lose awareness, go on automatic (become mindless), and can infect others with these emotions. Cognitive hijacking occurs when we perceive, think and make decisions with unconscious biases and impaired functioning of the brain. This … Read more…

The Siren Call of Certainty

The human brain craves certainty. It likes to feel sure. When we feel uncertain about the future the more primitive parts of the brain go on alert and shift into self-protection. In this state, we search for and grasp anything that will make us feel safer and more certain. Unfortunately, our self-protective instincts are being evoked by siren songs from a number of presidential candidates. I get frustrated when I listen to them threaten us … Read more…

Speaking Inclusively

When we speak, we communicate our opinions. Unfortunately, we often think our opinions are “THE TRUTH.” When we convey them as such, we threaten people’s sense of safety and undermine our relationships. This is not helpful because working with others is the key to getting things done. So the question is how can we communicate what we think in ways that maintain or strengthen relationships so people can collaborate productively? Speaking inclusively is one way … Read more…

Each of us is Unique. None of us is Special.

How can we be both unique and not special? It’s a paradox. We are unique in many ways. No one has the same DNA, fingerprints, voice, or irises as you do. No one has the same life experiences that you do. No one has had the same opportunities and challenges that you have had. The world would not be the same without you. Our meetings at work or in our communities would not be the … Read more…

Good Intentions Do Not Pardon Bad Impact

We tend to judge ourselves by our intentions and judge others by their impact on us. In other words, we think we have good intentions and that our impact on others should be perceived as such. When someone else’s impact on us is negative, we may assume their intentions are bad. Intentions and impacts are often not clear. First, our intentions don’t always have the impact we intend. We can’t assume that what we intended … Read more…

2016: The Year of Pausing

We have pause buttons on our electronic devices. We need one on us that grabs our attention when we need to push it. Recently, in a conversation about a controversial issue with members of my family, I got surprised, hijacked by emotions, and forgot that I actually have a pause button. I was reactive (“How could you believe THAT?”) and got even more hijacked by being embarrassed that I was upset (“I know better than … Read more…

Hanging Out in the Unknown

Every year at the winter solstice, the rising sun illuminates the interior of Newgrange, the prehistoric monument in County Meath on the northeast coast of Ireland. I can just about hear the sighs of relief of those who gathered on this windy, cold hill nearly 5,000 years ago as they saw the sign that longer, lighter days were returning. So great is the human need to know, to be certain, that prehistoric people in the … Read more…

Requirements for “Bridging Social Capital”

Cultural Diversity Graphic

Last Wednesday in “Dealing with Difference” I describe “bonding social capital” and “bridging social capital.” I enumerate the serious consequences of too much of the former and make a case for more of the latter. Bridging social capital means developing social networks, norms of reciprocity, mutual assistance, and trustworthiness with people who differ from us. Bridging social capital is harder to build than bonding social capital because this tends to evolve naturally among people with common … Read more…

Dealing With Difference

Our survival in the past depended on being part of a family or tribe. Now it depends on relating effectively with those we perceive as being outside our tribe or group. To solve the complex issues we face at work and in our communities, we need to work with people with different backgrounds, experience, areas of expertise, and points of views. In other words we need to build social capital—social networks, norms of reciprocity, mutual … Read more…