This week I will be completing the series by discussing how we handle emotions in others.
There are so many excellent approaches out there however each situation is different and although techniques are useful it is worth bearing in mind that we need to adjust our
approach to fit the person.
Do we need to handle all emotions in others?
Often all we need to do is experience and share emotions in a natural way. Few people ask me to help them manage “joy” in others for example!
Usually my clients want to know how to handle emotions such as anger and it’s cousin aggression. At other times I am asked to help deal with tears, anxiety and fear.
If we take anger as an example I often start by sharing a couple of metaphors with my client. For example, what do people have in common with volcanoes?
The answer, they erupt sometimes unexpectedly and we can’t stop them once they start we just have to get out of the way.
Now consider a second metaphor, the pressure cooker. Recently I have had problems with this metaphor, I presented it to a group of fast track graduates in a company recently and
they all looked at me blankly. Finally one of them asked “what’s a pressure cooker?” It seems they were too young to know!
If you don’t know please look it up on google!
Anyway back to the metaphor. Taking the lid off a pressure cooker full of steam is very dangerous. If, however we turn off the heat and release the steam first it is easy and
People are much the same we need to allow them to release the steam before we can move forward. The following approach is based on the grief model. The Stages represent the
transition the angry person makes as they move through their emotion.
The Four Stage Approach
- Denial and Shock
- Use active listening skills, this means the other person needs to get that you are listening based on your non-verbal communication.
- Match intensity not emotion. This concept comes from NLP. Listeners who are calm and relaxed may appear patronising or detached. We need to match the energy and keep that energy balanced and positive. This creates rapport enabling the next step in the process.
- Lead into a calmer state using pacing. Once rapport is established if we gradually change our non-verbal behaviours to reflect a calmer state the other person will come with us. In NLP we often use the pattern, pace, pace, pace, lead. In other words we need three times as many paces as leads. If we try to move a person on in their process too quickly they are likely to resist. This will tehn sabotage the process.
- Avoid offering solutions at this stage. When people are angry they tend to reject even good ideas.
- Avoid interrupting as this just cranks the emotion back up. Those of you with a “Hurry Up” personality style need to pay particular attention to this step!
- When displaying emotion most people are using their Natural Child (NC) or Rebellious Child (RC) ego state (this comes from Transactional Analysis0.
- Use Nurturing Parent (NP) behaviour run by your internal Adult in your communications. This will allow a positive complementary transaction to develop.
- Offer reassurance and support without agreeing inappropriately.
- Show empathy rather than sympathy.
- Use strokes (see stroke models of Transactional Analysis)
- Check for any unexpressed issues before moving on. Failure to do this could result in the whole process re-booting!
- Continue to use NP to NC/RC as your channel of communication and then gradually introduce Adult transactions if appropriate.
- Avoid reacting to accusations and blame statements, return the focus to feelings.
3. Bargaining – by this point the emotion will have dissapated.
- Paraphrase and reflect
- Summarise your understanding of their position.
- Ask factual questions – this encourages people to move into Adult
- Offer solutions if appropriate –Use push or pull influencing strategies.
- Agree the next step
Interestingly enough an adaptation of this model seems to work with most emotions even over the top joy!
I am hoping to have a guest post in the next couple of weeks from Cliff Lansley on Evaluating Truthfulness and Credibility. Cliff is the licensed provider in the UK of
training courses designed by Paul Ekman.
Do remember if you would like to talk to me about your own development I am always happy to chat. Contact me in the first instance on firstname.lastname@example.org