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By Steven G. Mehta

Very often, people will talk to me about the tough emotions that the plaintiff has to go through during a mediation.  At the same time the parties recognize those emotions, it is also frequent that the parties on one side will not recognize the emotions that may exist on the other side.  Take for example the context of health care mediations.  Often, plaintiffs are very emotionally connected to the case.  Perhaps it is their own personal injury or the injury of a loved one that was entrusted in the health care setting.  These emotions are real and must be addressed in the mediation setting.

But there are emotions on the other side also.  Often times a healthcare provider has a professional reputation.  He or she is worried that this case — whether right or wrong — may be a blemish on an otherwise successful career.  Other people feel that they did the best that they could under a difficult situation.  Others also feel that the blame is directed only one way — that the family failed to recognize critical issues about their loved one.

You would be surprised, but the reality is that businesses are run by people and people have emotions.  Even in a business situation, people often get emotional in mediation about the case.

It is important to understand that there are emotions in both rooms.  If you focus too much on one side’s emotions to the exclusion of the other’s, it is usually a recipe for a failed mediation.  In order to effectively resolve the case you must be aware of both side’s emotions and be willing to address the emotional concerns of both sides.

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By Steven G. Mehta

In mediation, there are frequent occasions where a party may feel genuine remorse and apologize for his or her actions.  However, in the cynical world of litigation, everyone doubts when the other side acts remorseful.  How can you tell when a person genuinely feels remorse?  Canadian researchers think they have the answer.

Leanne ten Brinke and colleagues discovered that when people are faking remorse, they giveaway “tells.” Signs of fake remorse include:

More emotions in a shorter period

Emotional mood swings (the researchers term “emotional turbulence”)

Speaking with greater hesitation

The researchers analyzed nearly 300,000 frames of taped interviews to investigate the tells. They found that people who displayed false remorse displayed more happiness, sadness, fear, disgust, anger, surprise, and contempt — than those who were genuinely sorry.

The researchers found that people who were genuinely remorseful did not often swing directly from positive to negative emotions, but went through neutral emotions first. In contrast, those who were deceiving the researchers made more frequent direct transitions between positive and negative emotions, with fewer displays of neutral emotions in between. In addition, during fake remorse, people hesitated more in their speech patterns.

By its own admission the study is limited in scope.  However the discovery regarding emotional states being tells of remorse is fascinating and requires further observation before we can set it into reality.

Research Source:

ten Brinke L et al (2011). Crocodile tears: facial, verbal and body language behaviours associated with genuine and fabricated remorse. Law and Human Behavior; DOI 10.1007/s10979-011-9265-5

http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2011/02/10/can-you-fake-feeling-remorse/

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

How people verbally fight and address conflict can have a direct consequence on their stress levels.  New research shows that the way you argue has a direct connection to the amount of stress you create from that argument.

A professor of biobehavioral health suggests the use of thoughtful words during relationship conflicts can mitigate health problems caused by stress. The latest research from Graham et al. (2009) shows that couples who are more considerate and rational during a fight release lower amounts of stress-related proteins. This suggests that rational communication between partners can ease the impact of marital conflict on the immune system.

Individuals in a stressful situation — as in a troubled relationship — typically have elevated levels of chemicals known as cytokines. These proteins are produced by cells in the immune system and help the body mount an immune response during infection. However, abnormally high levels of these proteins are linked to illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes, arthritis and some cancers.

When people used words in a conflict-resolution discussion that suggested a thoughtful discussion — words like think, because, reason, why — the researchers found lower amounts of cytokines, the stress-related proteins. The researchers suggest it is because these kinds of words suggest that people are either making sense of the conflict, or at least thinking about it in a deeper, more meaningful manner.

This is important for mediation and other areas of conflict resolution because it helps people from increasing or escalating the tension or stress levels in a dispute.  It is helpful as a mediator to try to invoke such words and rationalization so as to also limit the amount of stress hormones.  By doing so, the entire argument or conflict can move towards the path of de-escalation to ultimate resolution.

Research Source:

Graham, J.E., Glaser, R., Loving, T.J., Malarkey, W.B., Stowell, J.R., & Kiecolt-Glaser, J.K. (2009). Cognitive word use during marital conflict and increases in proinflammatory cytokines. Health Psychology, 28(5), 621-630.

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