What’s Going on in Others’ Brains — and What You Can Do about It

When was the last time you needed to have a tough talk with someone?

A friend told me it was Saturday night in the grocery store checkout line. The woman behind her was with a tween-age daughter. The woman’s mask was below her nose, and her daughter was without one.

My friend asked the woman if she could please pull up her mask.

The response was volcanic. The woman began to shriek about it being none of my friend’s business. My friend tried to tell the woman that she happened to be immuno-compromised, and the woman replied, “You have no right to tell me what to do.” Then she took her mask off — so she could shout even more freely.

My friend turned away and tried to ignore her. The woman hollered that my friend had been threatening her daughter. Then she shoved her cart into my friend’s back.

Store staff started to gather. The manager asked my friend what happened, as others tried to speak with the yelling woman. When these employees asked her to put her mask on, there was more verbal spewing. Ultimately, the woman was escorted, cursing, from the store.

My friend began to second-guess herself as she spoke to the manager. “I probably shouldn’t have said anything.”

The manager shook her head. “This happens about once a day …”

As tensions run high all around us, it could help to take a look inside people’s brains and see what’s happening when we disagree with each other.

Now that you know what’s going on, use those three tips to help de-escalate sensitive situations.

Most people will never be convinced by an argument that doesn’t agree with their viewpoint (here’s a quick article on this, which is called “confirmation bias.”)

But we have a chance to break the cycle by using verbal and body language that avoids further inflaming someone’s brain.