Have you ever been in a conversation and felt like you have suddenly become completely hooked?
I don’t mean in a good way, rather in a way that you and another person are locked in some kind of emotional conflict that is difficult to pinpoint and harder even to break.
Sometimes it is because someone said something that just activated you in a big way.
Sometimes it is because someone did something that felt like a threat to your credibility.
Whatever the case, you probably found yourself thinking about them even when he/she isn’t there. Maybe you are even arguing with that person in your head.
In these moments, I like to think of my entanglement with people in the same way that Velcro works. If you aren’t familiar with the science of Velcro, it is a series of loops and hooks that allow for one side (loops) to stick to the other side (hooks).
(Mesmerizing video-if you turn off sound)
I like to think of people as having a series of hooks and loops as well. The hooks are all the ways that we try to engage people in our emotional world (i.e. I feel annoyed and want you to feel annoyed), and the loops are all the thoughts/beliefs that we hold dear and that get hooked into other people’s emotions.
Here’s how it works.
If my “loop” or thought is that I need people to think that I am perfect, then all that has to happen to get me “hooked” is for someone to suggest that I made a mistake. Since there are so many ways that I could imagine being perfect, there are also so many ways that we could get hooked with each other.
Note: You will know that you are hooked if you are still playing the conversation in your head five minutes later.
What to do about it?
Well, one of the ways that Velcro stops working is when the loops are broken. Without the loops, the hooks have nothing to catch onto.
1. Be aware of the beliefs and thoughts you identify with the most. (Hint: they will be things that you pride yourself on, like “I’m always prepared.”)
2. Notice when you are hooked by another person’s comment or action and see if you can follow it back to a thought/belief that you have already identified.
3. Be curious about what would happen if you let go of the thought. Often times we over-identifying with an idea about ourselves (i.e. I am never late or I am a hard worker) which can actually create a sense of insecurity because they are things that we have to protect or defend. If I change one word (I am almost never late or I am often a hard worker), I can break the loop.
If you find yourself getting snagged in your conversations with coworkers or partners, look for the loops that are getting hooked. (It is easier to manage your own self than it is to manage other people’s hooks.)
The fewer loops you have, the less stuck you will be.