Last Updated on October, 2023 by Edison
The following is a transcript of my YouTube Video
Necessity is the mother of learning. When we face difficult challenges, we are forced to use every drop of potential to overcome it. Potential we may not even know existed within us.
We tend to extract valuable insights about human nature during those situations.
In recent years, I was driven by necessity to read books – Mostly by psychologists and FBI Agents.
I wanted to understand how I can solve my issues and how to deal with people who have serious issues.
These lessons have saved me a lot of time, energy, and headaches.
So, in this comprehensive guide, I’ll talk about staying calm in stressful situations and how to deal with emotional vampires – People who don’t suck your blood but every ounce of energy.
Our brain has three layers that evolved for thousands of years.
The primitive reptile brain, a more evolved mammal layer, and a final primate layer.
The reptilian brain has been with us forever. It helps us react quickly to situations that are or might be dangerous by enabling the fight-flight-freeze system.
The mammal brain is the seat of our emotions. Call it our inner drama queen. It’s where powerful feelings arise – Love, joy, anger, grief, jealousy, pleasure.
The primate brain helps us make smart decisions. It collects information from the other two parts, analyzes it, and comes up with a plan of action.
What does this have to do with influencing people?
When you reach someone, you want to talk to the primate brain.
You’re in trouble if you try to reason with people who are feeling angry, upset, or threatened because the logical brain isn’t calling the shots.
Now, if you want to be someone capable of handling difficult situations and people… you need to manage yourself, first.
However, it’s not easy because there’s a war going on inside your head between the irrational and rational mind.
For starters, you’ll experience negative emotions and physical sensations.
You might obsess over these feelings and then behave based on them.
Now, here’s the problem…
In the short run, you become an easy target for emotional vampires.
They’ll make you angry, manipulate you, and use you whenever they see fit.
Plus, you’ll find it challenging to even think of achieving long-term goals let alone work on them because you’re constantly stressed… and probably spending most of your time catering to the needs of emotional vampires in your life.
You are in survival mode which is preventing you from thinking clearly.
It will also affect your physical health.
Those high stress levels will weaken the immune system and you’ll get sick more often.
In rare cases, people develop psychosomatic pain. It’s when you feel actual physical pain, but the cause is psychological. There’s nothing wrong with your body.
In other words, by giving power to the irrational mind, we’re training our brain to work against us.
The funny thing is that our brain has this amazing ability to adapt to new situations. In whatever path you CHOOSE to go into, the brain will figure out a way to live with it.
Here’s a simple way to picture it…
When you live based on what’s real, and you strive to understand yourself and others, you’re likely to be calm, healthy, and successful.
The reason is that you are looking at the world as it is which helps you make smart decisions.
That’s the secret of people like Charlie Munger, Warren Buffet, and Ray Dalio. They have created systems to make sure that they are looking at reality as it is.
The path of reality is not easy because our brains have evolved to fall for certain illusions. But as you continue to figure out ways to understand and improve yourself you’ll move forward despite the obstacles.
However, if you misinterpret reality. You know, when you feed the brain with false information or hold onto irrational beliefs… Then you deviate into a different path.
It’s a path where you don’t know what is real and what’s an illusion. So you often make irrational decisions and you’ll suffer.
Going down this path will hurt you emotionally, physically, and even financially.
For example, I was watching an interesting documentary called Shadowland. It’s about people who believe in conspiracy theories.
One of the stories was about a businesswoman who worked very hard to build a pizza restaurant.
But her business was at risk of failing due to government anti-covid measures.
She started doing her own research about the pandemic online.
She probably watched fair and balanced news on TV.
And next thing you know, she became one of the people who stormed the capitol on January 6th.
Now the initial issue was not her fault but the sheer misinterpretation of reality caused her to go from maybe I’ll lose my business to maybe I’ll lose my freedom.
She did spend 2 years in prison, which in my opinion, are nothing compared to the mental prison she has created for herself.
Since allowing the irrational mind to gain ground makes our life miserable…
How to strengthen the rational mind?
If we change how we think, we can change how we feel.
So we pay attention to our thoughts and beliefs. And we categorize them.
Is it valuable? Does it help me achieve my goals?
Yes, How? 1,2,3 benefits. Great, keep it.
On the other hand, you have limiting thoughts and beliefs.
You ask yourself, do they help me achieve my goals? Or do they have any basis in reality? Are they real?
Of course not. Why? Because 1,2,3 reasons.
Alright, send them to the garbage can.
But what’s the exact process?
How can we get rid of these worthless beliefs?
1. Identify the irrational thoughts and beliefs
2. Gather evidence that disproves them
3. Recognize actions that reinforce these beliefs and do the opposite.
By acting against these beliefs, you are saying to yourself, “Look, so far I’ve been operating on false information, but I have learned new things about myself and I need to change.”
If you want to learn more, I’ve explained the process in details in the video below:
The bottom line is that it makes sense to strengthen the rational mind because, in the long term, it will help you have a better life.
In the short term, you’ll have the necessary tools to prevent being manipulated by emotional vampires.
They won’t be able to trigger a powerful emotional response called…
Think about a time when someone, your boss for example, unexpectedly screamed at you. And instead of responding calmly, you screamed back at him or simply froze in fear~ Here you experienced amygdala hijacking.
Amygdala is a small part of the brain that reacts when it senses you’re in physical danger. In those situations, it has the power to override the logical brain and instantly give an emotional response.
Here’s a simple illustration of how it works:
I hear something powerful… something that triggers irrational thoughts and beliefs I’m holding; Immediately amygdala lights up; It releases the hormones cortisol, adrenaline, and nor-adrenaline.
They cause some physical sensations in my body… my face turns red; my hands are trembling a little bit; the tone of voice is noticeably different.
Meanwhile, negative emotions like anger, fear, hate, or jealousy are created.
Pretty powerful experience. You are on high alert both physically and psychologically.
Alright, how can you prevent this from happening?
Well, you flip the general approach in life from focusing on emotions to focusing on logic. In other words, you want to strengthen the rational mind.
This is a skill that anyone can develop as long as you work on it.
Another important thing to understand is that we all have weaknesses. And no matter how hard we try to hide it from ourselves or from others… Eventually, we’ll get into a situation where those flaws will surface.
Talking from experience, it’s going to be ugly. When you’re under the influence of amygdala hijacking, you’re going to say or do things that you’ll regret.
By then, does that regret have any weight? I mean, you can damage a great relationship, lose a job, lose money, or even commit a crime just because you lost control over yourself for a brief moment.
Your greatest enemies are ignorance and inaction. When you’re not aware of your flaws, it’s going to cost you. Trust me on this.
It’s better to actively, voluntarily, seek out those flaws and fix them.
When you hear something that triggers you, you shouldn’t be mad at people… And you shouldn’t fixate on how their words are making you feel.
Instead, you should focus on what’s happening in your mind.
We know that emotions don’t spring out of thin air, they come from our thoughts and beliefs.
So, what am I thinking; what am I believing that is causing me to feel bad?
Alright, we have a good understanding of why we get emotional; and how we can manage ourselves. This gives us a huge advantage when it comes to dealing with anyone.
Now, there are various types of difficult people. But here we’ll discuss 3 of them – Drama Queens, Narcissists, and Bullies because we are more likely to encounter them. And you can use similar strategies to deal with other types.
We all have encountered people who have this ability to drain our energy with their never-ending dramas. Their life is like a soap opera – filled with exaggerated emotions and theatrics.
Since childhood, they’ve been reacting emotionally to a situation. So the threshold for them to get upset is very low.
Picture this situation…
You are arguing with a loved one, and you accidentally say something hurtful and they explode with anger.
You can see that they immediately went under the influence of amygdala hijacking.
Two things are likely to happen:
First, they hit you where it hurts the most. Your defence mechanisms go up; you hit back… and the conversation goes downhill.
Second, they start bringing up lots of different issues at once.
Think of the conversation as a tree where you’re not discussing the roots but you’re dealing with the leaves.
Here you get tempted to address each point or to guess why they’re so upset. But that’s a mistake.
You will waste your time and energy because at that moment they don’t want to calm down or solve the problem. They are just venting and you’re like a boxing bag.
So, how should we deal with drama queens?
Step 1: is to simply listen
As they vent, complain or whine… we don’t interrupt, disagree, defend ourselves, offer solutions, or dismiss their concerns.
We want to let them get their negative emotions out in the open.
Step 2: is to get them to talk more
We incorporate verbal agreements to make them feel heard such as:
I hear you when you disagree but you want them to continue
I understand you when you agree with them.
Another tactic is to repeat the last one or three words.
You can use an upward inflection of your voice (“The last 3 words?”) or a downward inflection (“The last 3 words.”)
With our tone of voice, we are replacing phrases such, “What do you mean by that?” or “Please go on”.
Step 3: Is to Create the Illusion of Control
It’s a powerful strategy I’ve learned from reading, Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss…
We ask calibrated questions to create the illusion of control.
As we said, confronting them is pointless because their logical brain is offline and you risk being sucked into their emotional vortex.
However, when they respond to your questions, they feel like they’re in control which helps calm them down.
And we are shifting the conversation from shouting and complaining to trying to solve the problem.
So we should ask open-ended questions, preferably starting with “How or What.”
Some examples are:
- How would you like me to proceed?
- What is it that brought us into this situation?
- How can we solve this problem?
- What are we trying to accomplish here?
- How am I supposed to do that?
- What needs to be done for you to feel better?
Another thing about drama queens… Only help them change if you care. Otherwise, it’s better to keep your distance.
But if you want to be super polite, simply ask questions and throw ideas about how they could fix their problems. After a while, they’ll stop complaining because you are not indulging them in their self-pity.
Look, we have a limited amount of mental energy. Be very conservative about it.
We all have narcissistic tendencies such as being self-centred, manipulative, having inferiority or grandiose feelings, or an excessive need for admiration.
But we struggle to keep it under control.
Narcissists do not have this struggle. They believe what’s good for them is all that counts. They don’t look at you as a person with your own needs, desires and talents but as a tool to serve their needs.
Now, if you’re dealing with a narcissist you need to be careful because even though they lack empathy, they can fake it and usually are very seductive.
And if you want something from a narcissist or want to change their behavior, always show how doing so, is in their best interest.
Actually, this is a good tactic to follow with people in general – appeal to their self-interest.
It’s important to understand that you cannot change a narcissist. They are who they are. So accept that they look at you as a source to fulfill their needs.
Psychologist Albert Bernstein, in his book Emotional Vampires wrote:
To be effective with Narcissists, you have to deal with them at their own level.
You must be coldhearted enough to barter whatever it is they want from you for decent treatment, and strong enough to make them pay upfront. If you can’t do this, or if you get angry because you have to, you’d better get out now because they will eat you alive.
Bullies try to dominate and intimidate others. They find tremendous joy in making people miserable.
But what happened to them that they turned out like this?
Research has shown that bullies are raised in a harsh environment – They may be victims of psychological, verbal, and physical abuse.
Imagine a little kid, trying to make sense of the world, and all he sees are people using their power to hurt others who are weaker.
So he grows up feeling powerless and inferior and he masks those feelings by being aggressive. And they attack people whom they perceive are weaker than them.
Now, it’s important to understand that bullies, like other emotional vampires, operate on lower levels of their brains.
This gives them strength because the adrenaline levels are high, and they have been in so many confrontations that they are in their natural habitat.
So, if you respond with fighting, running away, or freezing, you’ll lose. They expect you to scream back or just stay there taking all the abuse.
But their strength is also their greatest weakness.
You see, it doesn’t matter how smart and powerful they are… At that moment, they’re operating on the primitive brain.
They’re like an expensive computer, operating on Windows Vista.
Despite all the drama they’re creating you have to stay calm.
That’s the key to dealing with bullies. You have heard advice like ignore them; Be assertive, not aggressive; Don’t take it personally, etc.
All is good advice. But the problem is applying it.
That’s why it’s crucial to strengthen your rational mind. When you do that, it doesn’t matter how powerful he is, because you’re operating on the primate brain.
You’re at a much higher level than him.
What to do when a bully attacks you verbally!
You can make them stop yelling by simply not yelling back.
Make eye contact.
You can also say, “Please speak more slowly, I’d like to understand.”
They may comply with this request. Have you ever tried to yell slowly?
Act politely and a bit bored as if you’re thinking about something else.
Stand up straight, relax, and let your arms hang at your sides instead of crossing them defensively.
Often, this response makes bullies feel uncomfortable or even foolish and they back off.