Calming Upset People With The Ear Statement: Part 3 of 4)
EAR stands for Empathy, Attention and Respect. It is the opposite of what you feel like giving someone when he or she is upset and verbally attacking YOU! Yet you will be amazed at how effective this is when you do it right.
Why EAR is so Important
Upset people, especially high conflict people, may not be getting empathy, attention and respect anywhere else. They have usually alienated most of the people around them. It is the last thing that anyone wants to give them. They are used to being rejected, abandoned, insulted, ignored, and disrespected by those around them. They are starving for empathy, attention and respect. They are looking for it anywhere they can get it. So just give it to them. It’s free and you don’t sacrifice anything. You can still set limits, give bad news, and keep a social or professional distance. It just means that you can connect with them around solving a particular problem and treat them like an equal human being, whether you agree or strongly disagree with their part in the problem.
Many HCPs also have a hard time managing their own emotions. Since brain researchers have learned that we “mirror” each other’s emotional expressions, it makes sense to respond to upset people with a calm and matter of fact manner – so that they will mirror us, rather than us mirroring their upset mood (which is what most people do much of the time – and it just makes things worse).
Managing Your Amygdala
Of course, this is the opposite of what we feel like doing. You may think to yourself: “No way I’m going to listen to this after the way I’ve been verbally attacked!” But that’s just your amygdala talking, in an effort to protect you from danger. Our brains are very sensitive to threats, especially our amygdalas (you have one in the middle of your right brain and one in the middle of your left). Most people, while growing up, learn to manage the impulsive, protective responses of their amygdalas and over-ride them with a rational analysis of the situation, using their prefrontal context behind the forehead.
In fact, that is a lot of what adolescence is about: learning what is a crisis needing an instant, protective response (amygdala) and learning what situations are not a crisis and instead need a calm and rational response (prefrontal cortext). High conflict people often were abused or entitled growing up, and didn’t have the secure, balanced connection necessary to learn these skills of emotional self-management. Therefore, you can help them by helping yourself not over-react to them. Just use your own prefrontal cortext to manage your own amygdala – which will help the upset person manage theirs.
It’s Not About You!
To help you stay calm in the face of the other person’s upset, remind yourself “it’s not about you!” Don’t take it personally. It’s about the person’s own upset and lack of sufficient skills to manage his or her own emotions. Try making E.A.R. statements and you will find they often end the attack and calm the person down. This is especially true for high conflict people (HCPs) who regularly have a hard time calming themselves down. All of the E.A.R. statements above are calming statements. They let the other person know that you want to connect with him or her, rather than threaten him or her. It’s their issue and you don’t have to defend or explain yourself. It’s not about you!
© 2011 William A. Eddy, LCSW Esq. High Conflict Institute.
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