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How do you tame the angry beast that has walked through your door?  Many people are afraid to deal with the angry person. Others want to fight fire with fire.  In reality, there are some sound methods for taming the angry beast that don’t require you to fight or to flight.

According to Dr. Nadia Persun, a licensed clinical psychologist, there are several proven techniques that will help to tame the beast; and in turn help to resolve the dispute.

Disengage and don’t take it personally.

“Big bullies have deeply hurt and vulnerable cores. They are expending their toxic energy to produce their angry display as a distorted way to pursue some goal related to their personal sense of safety and significance. Even though the content may be channeled at you, the driving force behind it is related to their personality, upbringing, and prior experiences.”

Avoid ego battles and rides to the past.

“Avoid discussing with them about who did what, when and why, and how it made them feel, but repeatedly ask how they propose solving this problem now.”

Choose calm and sanity.

Give out an imaginary cupcake.

“Listening and responding to these needs calmly and emphatically can serve as the key to getting more cooperation from emotionally agitated people.”

(See complete article, How to Switch off an Angry Person)

The following things can also be considered when trying to calm the angry beast:

  • Press the pause button.  Pause the interaction for a  moment or longer
  • Change the topic
  • Change the environment
  • Agree with the angry person.  Imagine that you must start off every sentence with, “I agree…”  You don’t have to agree with everything.  Just some things.
  • Talk about the forest and not the trees.

All of these concepts can be used in mediation or in any conflict scenario.

By Steven G. Mehta

By Steven G. Mehta

As a final discussion of cognitive distortions, it seems appropriate to discuss the fallacy of change.

Fallacy of Change.

This is one of the biggest mistakes made in negotiations.  We expect that other people will change to suit us if we just pressure or cajole them enough.  In the context of mediation, this fallacy comes to fruition because people feel that others will change simply because they wanted them to change.  Simply because one person desperately wants something to change does not mean that the other side will accede to this request.  If that were true, mediation would be unnecessary because the plaintiff simply wishes a change, and the defendant would accede.  These people often say, “tell the other side that I need the money,” or “tell them that this lawsuit is costing me too much.”

The Solution: These people need to understand that their wish does not come with a bottle and genie and two more wishes.  Explain that everyone, including them, does things for their own reasons.  Ask them if they will do something like dismiss the lawsuit or pay a lot of money simply because the other side wishes them to do so.  They need to be part of the discovery that their wish is not the other side’s command.  As they experience this issue throughout the  negotiations and your discussion, they may come to realize that they need to create reasons that the other side will understand and accept for a deal to be struck.  They must understand that people act for their own reasons, not yours.

By Steven G. Mehta

As a continued discussion of cognitive discussions, I thought I would bring to light the fallacy of fairness.

Fallacy of Fairness.

Most people are hardwired to understand a concept of fairness.  Even as children, we comment that something is or isn’t fair.  There is an obvious feeling of resentment when we percieve something as unfair.  However, some people take that feeling of resentment to an extreme.  They feel resentful because they think they know what is fair, but other people won’t agree with them.   These people get bogged down in the details of what is fair and what is not fair.  In an employment case, they may get bogged down in the unfairness of being an at will employee.  Or they may feel that it is unfair that they were sued.  As our parents tell us, “Life isn’t always fair.”  People who go through life applying a measuring ruler against every situation judging its “fairness” will often feel badly and negative because of it.

The Solution: First, a great degree of empathy is required to address this issue and before you discuss the issue, you need to make sure that they know that you have heard them.  Second, explain the difference between what should happen and what does happen.  Give lots of examples of unfair things happening to good people in the legal context.  In explaining how this unfairness applies to other people, you can create a sense of fairness in that it is not just happening to this one person, but to everyone.

By Steven G. Mehta

There are many cognitive distortions that clients make.  One that commonly happens in mediation is catastrophizing.

Making everything a Catastrophe

Often known as “catastrophizing”, this is when an individual expects the worst scenario to happen. For example, a client might say that every improvement or negotiating point in a mediation is terrible.  They may identify every question or issue as being completely out of hand and threatening to walk out because it will never work.  This person could also object to every thing that is recommend.  They may say that we will never settle this case, even if you are close.

THE SOLUTION: First, it is important to acknowledge the feelings.  More importantly, however, the key to such a person is to always think positive.  Before that person has a chance to place his or her negative view on the topic, identify the positive first.  Explain to them about the process that has happened before.  Let them know that this is a common reaction by others, but in those other cases, you were able to overcome this problem.   Change the topic to a positive topic or a fun topic that they enjoy such as vacations.

Steve’s Book

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