Be a Calming Agent, Not a Logician
©2016 Megan Hunter, MBA
Do you catch yourself using LOGIC and EXPLANATIONS when interacting with most people? It's natural and routine. We expect people to respond to logic, but it doesn't always work and sometimes it backfires, especially with people who may have a high conflict personality (HCP). It's so tempting and so hard to stop, especially when you're not expecting a ramped up or hostile reaction, when you're taken by surprise or when your own emotions are hooked. I can't count how many times I've been in this situation.
I witnessed this exact scenario recently when visiting a friend's home. We'd just arrived at my friend's house after a long drive home from a week-long conference. Before reaching the front door, the next door neighbor popped her head over the wall and said she wanted to discuss something, then went on to complain about the dog being out too long, barking, out in the rain, and even intimated that she would turn my friend in for animal mistreatment.
My friend had two choices: 1) respond calmly without logic and explanation; or 2) respond with explanation and logic. Unfortunately, she chose the latter, resulting in two angry people who have to live next door to each other. My friend tried explaining that the dog was being cared for by a pet sitter and the dog was used to going in and out of a doggie door. This just escalated the neighbor who came back with more questions, accusations and arguments, to which my friend continued arguing back. Endless back and forth until both of them were ready to explode. My friend finally turned her back and walked toward the house. The neighbor shouted after her, "And your garbage can was out for five days!"
DON'T BE A LOGICIAN
HCPs are used to reacting impulsively, attacking people, and creating conflict and ongoing drama. They need to feel superior, attached, dominant and in charge and control. It's natural to be a logician right off the stick, but you must remember that HCPs don't hear logic until their defensive brain is calm. You can't put the cart before the horse. HCPs need to be calmed before they can find the bridge to logic.
I see this as the major stumbling block most of us have with upset people, whether they're high-conflict personalities or not.
BE A CALMING AGENT
How do you avoid this trap? Expect anyone to potentially be angry, upset, or high-conflict and be ready for it. Practice responding to everyone with an EAR Statement® (Empathy, Attention, Respect) or with a BIFF Response®. This will make you a Calming Agent.
Co-founder Megan Hunter is a speaker, author, and international expert on high-conflict disputes, complicated relationships, and Borderline Personality Disorder. She has over 13 years experience as the Family Law Specialist with the Arizona Supreme Court, and Child Support Manager of the Dawes County Attorney’s Office in Nebraska.