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Let’s face it.  During some negotiations, you may get angry at the other sideyou’re your blood pressure may go up.  The problem with that blood pressure is that it is not only bad for your heart, but it is also bad for your ability to negotiate effectively.  According to a Clemson University researcher, your ability to recognize emotional cues in is directly linked to your blood pressure.

The study by Clemson University professor James A. McCubbin reveals that people with higher blood pressure are less able to recognize angry, fearful, sad and happy faces and text passages.

“It’s like living in a world of email without smiley faces,” McCubbin said. “We put smiley faces in emails to show when we are just kidding. Otherwise some people may misinterpret our humor and get angry.”

Negotiations are complex situations that involve all types of emotions and issues.  It is critical that the negotiators are able to understand the emotional cues that may reveal the other side’s negotiating position.  In complex social situations like work settings, people rely on facial expressions and verbal emotional cues to interact with others.

“You may distrust others because you cannot read emotional meaning in their face or their verbal communications,” said McCubbin.  “You may even take more risks because you cannot fully appraise threats in the environment.”

McCubbin refers to this phenomenon as “Emotional Dampening.”  In other words, a person has a decreased ability to understand the emotional and social cues of other people.

This research confirms anecdotal research that people do not negotiate as effectively when they are angry.  They may make rash decisions and, as this study proves, they may misinterpret critical emotional cues which can change the dynamic of the negotiation.

Take for example, the joint session in mediation.  Many times, the parties come into the joint session angry already.  They are not ready to listen to the other side.  Then they hear something that they don’t want to hear and they become even angrier.  Now everything the other person seems hostile.  Indeed, there is a saying that we judge other people by their actions, and ourselves by our intentions.  Because of the impaired emotional vision, we interpret the other person’s actions negatively.  Many times in mediation, this anger-impairment cycle can lead to disastrous consequences.

So if you feel yourself getting hot under the collar because of a negotiation, consider using tactics to calm yourself down first before continuing the negotiations.


McCubbin’s study, published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, was supported by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and the National Institute on Aging, both parts of the National Institutes of Health.

The journal article was co-authored by Marcellus M. Merritt of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee psychology department; John J. Sollers III if the psychological medicine department at the University of Auckland; Dr. Michele K. Evans of the Laboratory of Immunology, National Institute on Aging; Alan B. Zonderman, Laboratory of Behavioral Neuroscience, National Institute on Aging; Dr. Richard D. Lane of the psychiatry department, University of Arizona; and Julian F. Thayer of the Ohio State University psychology department.

By Steven G. Mehta

By Steven G. Mehta

Many times a month, I will be in a mediation and an attorney will tell me that “it must be so much less stressful to be a mediator than be in the practice of law.”  Often, I respond by saying that being a neutral can be harder than being an advocate.  Well recent research has affirmed this belief.  This research shows that a neutral disposition can have a substantial toll on the body.

A study conducted by researchers from Rice University, University of Toronto, and Purdue University found that people  who must avoid the appearance of bias – such as journalists, health care professionals, social workers, lawyers, and law enforcement – suppress feelings and emotions more than other service oriented professions.

“Our study shows that emotion suppression takes a toll on people,” said Dr. Daniel Beal, assistant professor of psychology at Rice University and co-author of the study.

“It takes energy to suppress emotions, so it’s not surprising that workers who must remain neutral are often more rundown or show greater levels of burnout. The more energy you spend controlling your emotions, the less energy you have to devote to the task at hand.”

Another interesting finding was that clients who interacted with the “neutral” people gave lower ratings of quality of service and were less enthusiastic to the organization to which the employee belonged.  “When an employee is positive, it transfers to the client or customer they’re working with,” Beal said.

“Because of that good mood, the client or customer then would rate the organization better. But if an employee is maintaining a neutral demeanor, you don’t have those good feelings transferred. If an organization’s goal is to be unbiased, then that may trump any desire the organization has to be well-liked.”

According to the researchers, this study is the first of its kind to evaluate the effects of a neutral disposition.

The study confirms other studies that have found that exercising will power is mentally challenging and renders a person more susceptible to impulses.  Given that principle, mediators and neutral have to exercise a lot of self control in the mediation and arbitration process.  Unlike the advocates, they don’t have the luxury to advocate a position, and as such they use a great deal of mental energy.

I have found that after a particularly difficult mediation, I do not even have the willpower to go to the gym or to exercise – something I have promised myself to do daily.

Another interesting observation about mediation – as opposed to arbitration – is that being neutral doesn’t mean that a person cannot convey positive feelings to one side or another.  Neutrality doesn’t mean that you don’t express an opinion.  This is often a mistake made by recent mediators.  The reality is a jury or an arbitrator is supposed to be neutral, but at the end, they have to make a decision – which is theoretically no longer neutral because they are taking a side.  A mediator can be neutral and has to not take sides.  But that doesn’t mean that the mediator cannot recognize realities for both sides.  I often tell people that I look at all facts the same – I put them in the good facts category, or bad facts.  The process is neutral, the outcome can reflect reality.

Research Source:

By Steven G. Mehta

In Los Angeles, the courts have been using the “one day, one trial” system for quite a while.  As part of that system, the pool of jurors has increased dramatically.  Before that system was enacted many professionals such as architects, lawyers, accountants, and doctors avoided jury service because of some claim of exigent circumstances.  No more with the one day one trial system.

However, with such greater diversity comes different issues when people from a higher socio-economic class become members of a jury.  One recent study found that although higher socio-economic class people have many economic and educational opportunities, they may be worse at reading the emotions of others.

The new study published in Psychological Science finds that lower socio-economic class people are better at reading the emotions of others.

The researchers theorized that for lower socio-economic class people, they must rely more on other individuals because they cannot afford to buy the service or good, and therefore, they must develop people assessment skills for survival.  For example, if you can’t afford to buy daycare service for your children, you have to rely on your neighbors or relatives to watch the kids while you attend classes or run errands, says Michael W. Kraus of the University of California-San Francisco.

Over the course of several studies involving computer images and job interviews, the research consistently revealed that people with more education performed worse on the task of determining people’s emotions and mental state than people with less education.

These results suggest that people of upper-class status aren’t very good at recognizing the emotions other people are feeling. The researchers speculate that this is because they can solve their problems, like the daycare example, without relying on others — they aren’t as dependent on the people around them.

Interestingly, the researchers conducted a final experiment where subjects were made to feel that they were at a lower social class than they actually were.  In that circumstance, the people got better at reading emotions. “It’s the cultural context leading to these differences,” says Kraus.   He says this work helps show that stereotypes about the classes are wrong. “It’s not that a lower-class person, no matter what, is going to be less intelligent than an upper-class person. It’s all about the social context the person lives in, and the specific challenges the person faces. If you can shift the context even temporarily, social class differences in any number of behaviors can be eliminated.”

This research is interesting for several reasons.  First, attorneys are among the highest educated attaining at least 7 years of college and graduate education.  Often attorneys are making judgments about the credibility of witnesses and parties.  It is helpful to recognize that as attorneys – because of their socio-economic class, that they may not be as good as they think they are in judging the mental state of others.

Second, it is interesting to note that many people believe that the higher socio-economic factors lead to more conservative jurors.  It could be possible that those jurors are more conservative in their decisions because they are not as effective as reading the emotions of the parties and witnesses and therefore err on the side of being conservative in their decisions.

Finally, all is not lost.  According to the research, the ability to read people can be learned. There is much literature on how to read people, how to read non-verbal gestures, and other such items.

Research Source:

M. W. Kraus, S. Cote, D. Keltner. Social Class, Contextualism, and Empathic AccuracyPsychological Science, 2010; 21 (11): 1716 DOI:10.1177/0956797610387613

By Steven G. Mehta

We have all heard of Type A personalities.  We may have even heard of type B personalities (the lesser known cousin because it is the type that has a healthy expression of feelings, commitment to something, and desire) but have you heard about a Type C personality?  A new book discusses this new type of personality and its effects on the person.

Michael Jawer in the book he wrote with Marc Micozzi, M.D, Ph.D., called “The Spiritual Anatomy of Emotion: How Feelings Link the Brain, the Body, and the Sixth Sense,” discusses the new Type C Personality.  Here is a brief excerpt of their description of that personality type:

In recent years, a cluster of personality characteristics has come to be identified as the Type C personality, someone who is at heightened risk for a slew of afflictions, from colds to asthma to cancer. In contrast with the Type A person (who angers easily and has difficulty keeping feelings under wraps) and the Type B person (who has a healthier balance of emotional expressiveness), the Type C person is a suppressor, a stoic, a denier of feelings. He or she has a calm, outwardly rational, and unemotional demeanor, but also a tendency to conform to the wishes of others, a lack of assertiveness, and an inclination toward feelings of helplessness or hopelessness.

This is the sort of personality that Canadian physician Gabor Mate has studied extensively. Over his years of family practice, Mate relates, he began to notice a pattern: individuals who were unable to express anger, who didn’t seem to recognize the primacy of their own needs, and who were constantly doing for others, appeared to be the ones most susceptible to a slew of ailments, from asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus to multiple sclerosis and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. These conditions are all autoimmune disorders. Mate claims that, when an individual engages in a long-term practice of ignoring or suppressing legitimate feelings–when he or she is just plain too nice–the immune system can become compromised and confused, learning to attack the self rather than defend it.

Emotional expression, in Mate’s view is absolutely essential because feelings serve to alert the individual to what is dangerous or unwholesome–or, conversely, to what is helpful and nourishing–so that the person can either take protective action against the thread or move toward the beneficial stimulus. If someone never gets angry, this reflects an unhealthy inability or unwillingness to defend personal integrity. Such “boundary confusion” can ultimately become a matter of life and death. If someone just cannot say no, Mate argues, his or her body will end up saying it in the form of illness or disease.

I have seen this personality type in mediation, and the expression of emotion is a very important one for resolution of the case.  If that emotion is not expressed, often the case cannot get settled because the person doesn’t recognize that they need to let go or express the emotion.  As a mediator, it is important for you to be able to recognize this personality type and help them understand their own needs, which will in turn help them resolve the case.

Steve’s Book

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