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Conflict: Preventing Our Perceptions from Hijacking Conversations

Have you ever been in the middle of a discussion, and you realize that the picture you are developing in your head about the conversation is guiding your responses?  When you combine this with your inner voice, the outcomes are not always positive.  The response generated by this inner dialogue might include shutting down and not listening to the person you are talking to at all.  It is easy to decide that the person you are talking to doesn’t think you know what you are talking about or cannot understand your perspective.  The pictures and voices in your head take over your ability to even hear what the other person is really saying.

Suddenly, most of the conversation is happening in your head and is driven by emotion and self-talk.  The results of this hijacking of your conversation and thought processes can happen so quickly you don’t even realize it for a while.  The discussion becomes more frustrating and can turn into a conflict that neither person can explain the root cause of.

Learn to Listen to Yourself

You can learn to stop the hijacking and stay in the conversation.  One of the first things you can do to prevent hijacking of your thought process is to take a moment to test your assumptions.  When you realize that you are getting upset, reflect to the other person what you thought you heard.  This gives them a chance to validate your thoughts or give you new information to process.  This can be as simple as saying, “I feel like you are saying that my perspective is not valid.”  You are sharing your thoughts without blaming the other person.  Whatever they respond with, you have the chance to listen to their answer and process it in comparison to your beliefs.  This may be enough to redirect the process going on in your head and enable you to focus on the conversation with the person – not the one you are having with yourself.

If you are not comfortable asking for clarification, you can ask for a few minutes to process what you have been discussing.  Take this time to consider what is being said compared to the conclusions you are making.  Your conclusions may be valid, but it is possible that you have added your own concerns and fears and have developed a belief that is not grounded in fact and is harmful to your success.


It seems that there are specific times when we are less able to redirect our thoughts.  It may be that you entered the conversation at a time when you were hungry, angry, lonely, and/or tired.  When you are in one of these states, you may find your resilience is greatly reduced and your emotions are more likely to draw you into a negative state.

Get to Real

Being able to move beyond the images and voices in our heads is not always easy.  Practicing how we listen to the voices in our heads and process the information we hear from others helps us when we are in a conversation that becomes more heated.  This also helps us to validate our thoughts before we become hijacked by them and turn a conversation into a conflict.


Learning to harness our inner voices helps us to be more effective both at home and at work.  We become more skilled at having real discussions and relationships.


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