Calming Upset People with an EAR STATEMENT (Pt 2 of 4)

Once in a while, you may find yourself in a high conflict situation where emotions are elevated. Communicating with Empathy, Attention and Respect during those highly charged will lead to a successful outcome. Here’s a great read from one of my favorite resources on connecting with and communicating better during those high stress moments. As always, I hope you find value in it, this is part 2 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.

The Importance of Empathy

Empathy is different from sympathy. Having empathy for someone means that you can feel the pain and frustration that they are feeling, and probably have felt similar feelings in your own life. These are normal human emotions and they are normally triggered in people close by because emotions are contagious. When you show empathy for another person, you are treating them as a peer who you are concerned about and can relate to as an equal in distress.

Sympathy is when you see someone else in a bad situation that you are not in. You may feel sorry for them and have sympathy or pity for them, but it is often a one-up and one-down position. There is more of a separation between those who give sympathy and those who receive it. But, you don’t even have to use the word “empathy” to make a statement that shows empathy.

Here are some examples:

  • “I can see how important this is to you.”
  • “I understand this can be frustrating.”
  • “I know this process can be confusing.”
  • “I’m sorry to see that you’re in this situation.”
  • “I’d like to help you if I can.”
  • “Let’s see if we can solve this together.”

The Importance of Attention

Getting attention is one of the most important concerns of high conflict people. They often feel ignored or disrespected and get into conflicts as a way of getting attention from those around them. Many have a lifetime history of alienating the people around them, so they look to others – professionals, friends and new acquaintances – to give them attention. Yet they rarely feel satisfied and keep trying to get more attention. If you show that you are willing to pay full attention for a little while, they often calm down.

There are many ways to let a person know that you will pay attention. For example, you can say:

  • “I will listen as carefully as I can.”
  • “I will pay attention to your concerns.”
  • “Tell me what’s going on.”
  • “Tell me more!”

You can also show attention non-verbally, such as:

  • Have good “eye contact” (keeping your eyes focused on the person)
  • Nod your head up and down to show that you are attentive to their concerns
  • Lean in to pay closer attention
  • Put your hand near them, such as on the table beside them (Be careful about touching an upset HCP – it may be misinterpreted as a threat, a come-on, or a put-down)

The Importance of Respect

Anyone in distress, and especially HCPs, need respect from others. Even the most difficult and upset person usually has some quality that you can respect. By recognizing that quality, you can calm a person who is desperate to be respected. 

Many high conflict people are used to being disrespected and being independent and “not needing others.” This characteristic often leads them into conflict with those around them, who don’t wish to see them as superior and are tempted to try to put them down. This just makes the HCP even more upset.

Here are several statements showing respect:

  • “I can see that you are a hard worker.”
  • “I respect your commitment to solving this problem.”
  • “I respect your efforts on this.”
  • “I respect your success at accomplishing ____________.”
  • “You have important skills that we need here.”


© 2011 William A. Eddy, LCSW Esq. High Conflict Institute.

Katina Farrell, CDRE is an experienced Realtor & Managing Broker who specializes in real estate transactions, with expertise as a trained Certified Divorce Real Estate Expert and a Certified Negotiation Expert. To schedule a complimentary chat and discover more ways Katina can help you resolve the real estate challenges plaguing your divorce cases, call: 720-295-8848 or email: [email protected]


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