Calming Upset People With The EAR Statement (Part 4 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.
What to Avoid About EAR
- Don’t Lie:
Upset people are often hyper-sensitive to lying. If you really can’t feel empathy for the person, find something that you can respect that he or she has done. If you really can’t respect the person, then simply pay attention. You can always just say: “Tell me more.” This calms the person, because it tells him or her that you will listen without needing to be persuaded to do so. If your body language shows you are open to listening, most upset people feel better and will calm down enough to tell you what’s going on.
- You don’t have to listen forever:
EAR doesn’t mean just listening. It’s a statement in response to the person’s upset mood, which you can use at any time. It can help you wrap up a conversation, if you need to do something else. High conflict people are known for talking endlessly. Keep in mind that high conflict people often don’t get a sense of relief from telling their story or talking about their pain – they have told it many times and it is stuck. Often, they are stuck trying to get others to give them empathy, attention and respect, so that if you just give them an EAR statement, they may not feel the need to keep talking or talk so long. You can interrupt an upset person much of the time, by saying how you can empathize with and respect the person.
- EAR doesn’t mean you agree or disagree:
Giving your empathy, attention and respect helps you connect with an upset person as a human being. It doesn’t mean that you agree or disagree with their point of view. Too often, people get stuck on arguing about an “issue.” But with high conflict people “the issue’s not the issue” – it’s their inability to manage their own emotions and, sometimes, their behavior. If you are challenged about whether you agree or not, simply explain that you care or want to be helpful.
- Maintain an “arms-length” relationship:
Giving your empathy, attention and respect to an upset person doesn’t mean that you have to have a close relationship. You can still maintain a professional relationship, co-worker relationship, neighbor relationship, etc. In fact, it is wise not to become too close to a high conflict person, so that you don’t raise their expectations of you becoming responsible for their welfare or planning to spend more time together than you intend.
Everyone gets upset some of the time. You don’t have to be a high conflict person to be upset. At moments of trauma, anger and sadness, we really need the human connection of knowing that someone has empathy for us, is paying attention and still has respect for us. You can give anyone an EAR Statement to help them calm down. Nothing in this article is intended to mean that only HCPs get upset.
Making EAR Statements – or non-verbally showing your Empathy, Attention and Respect – may help you calm or avoid many potentially high-conflict situations. It can save you time, money and emotional energy for years to come. But it takes lots of practice.
© 2011 William A. Eddy, LCSW Esq. High Conflict Institute.
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