“In an argument, ignore the words, focus on the emotions”: Douglas E. Noll, mediator

A screaming child, a political argument with a family member, a domestic conflict with a partner, a confrontation with a co-worker.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
18 September 2023 Monday 10:24
6 Reads
“In an argument, ignore the words, focus on the emotions”: Douglas E. Noll, mediator

A screaming child, a political argument with a family member, a domestic conflict with a partner, a confrontation with a co-worker... In our daily lives, conflict can erupt in many and varied situations, and knowing how to deal with it is part of maturity. emotional and well-being. According to Douglas E. Noll, empathy and understanding emotions and how they develop is the key.

Noll is one of the world's leading experts in conflict mediation, having been named Best Lawyer in the United States in 2014 (Best Lawyers in America) and Best Mediator in the United States in 2018 (The National Academy of Distinguished Neutrals). He has worked with large companies, in the US Congress and in maximum security prisons. He now publishes Desescalar in Spain. How to calm an angry person in less than 90 seconds (Harp). He serves La Vanguardia from his home in California.

Humans are emotional beings, he says in his book, and much of our behavior is automatic. Is this key to knowing how to manage any type of conflict?

Yes, I teach that what makes us human are our emotions, not our ability to reason. All conflict is emotional. Therefore, it is logical to resort to emotional tools for emotional situations. Logic and reason have never worked to resolve the conflict.

Emotional incompetence leads to death and illness, according to you. What happens in our body when our life is full of conflict?

Unresolved conflicts create stress for us. Stress increases cortisol, which prepares our body to fight or run away from danger. Digestion slows, the immune system shuts down, and more blood begins to be pumped to the heart and lungs. Different studies show that if stress becomes chronic, illness occurs. Therefore, eliminating fights, arguments, and conflict is a powerful tool for reducing stress, building intimacy, and generating connections.

To manage an argument you have to learn to ignore words and pay attention only to emotions. Amazing advice!

It surprises you because we have been taught that words are more important than non-verbal information. We transmit much more nonverbal information than verbal information, and in emotionally intense situations, we must ignore words for the brief time it takes to calm the other person. In an argument, ignore the words, focus on the emotions.

Regarding romantic dates, he states that labeling or describing affections and emotions builds the sense of intimacy very quickly. Before even being in a relationship, this has a powerful effect… Can you explain it?

All human beings have an innate desire to connect and love, and - even more valuable - all human beings have a need to be listened to carefully and understood deeply. When you describe and acknowledge the emotions of someone you are on a date with, that person feels heard and validated. This leads to intimacy, trust and bonding very quickly.

What facial or body gestures can give us clues about the emotions of the person in front of us? Redness and tense shoulders are a sign of anger. Let's give some examples...

All of this non-verbal information gives us clues about the emotional experience of the speaker, and the most important comes from the eyes and tone of voice. Simon Baron-Cohen developed a test for autism, the Reading Mind In Emotions (RMIE). The subject is shown a series of 34 eye-only faces and is asked to select the appropriate emotion that he is expressing. Research shows that our eyes transmit an enormous amount of emotional information.

Emotional disqualification is common, and according to what he says, it is something toxic and abusive for everyone, especially for children. What effect does it have?

Emotional invalidation tells the child not to experience emotions, criticizes and judges them for feeling them, and creates an emotionally unsafe environment. Children learn between the ages of six and eight that they live in an emotionally insecure world, they tend to close down, which blocks their emotional maturation. They learn to put on a good front, but deep down they have the emotional maturity of a child. That's why when you see a 40-year-old fighting, you could say she's acting like she's six years old. At that time those adults are six years old because they are returning to the last point of emotional growth. Studies show that when children's emotions are labeled rather than invalidated, after 10 years, they are far ahead of their peers academically, more mature, and more sociable.

What should we take into account in conflicts with children?

In my opinion, children should not be punished until they calm down. As long as they escalate, they will take any punishment as judgment or criticism, rather than a learning moment. That's why I teach how to reduce tension and then solve problems.

And what advice would you give for dealing with teenagers at home?

Create as much emotional security as you can by validating their emotions. Understand that teenagers are extremely emotional and try not to show those emotions for fear of appearing childish or weak. It encourages appropriate emotional responses, both positive and negative, and teaches teens how to label their own emotions to develop granularity and emotional competence.

Our work life is very conditioned by the emotional intelligence of our bosses… Right?

If you have an emotionally dysfunctional boss, your work life can sometimes be painful. Bosses lacking emotional intelligence tend to avoid conflict, they have not developed the ability to deal with uncomfortable situations, and they find the easiest thing to do is to disconnect from you. They blame you when things go wrong, even though they were absent when their leadership was most needed. They may have learned to behave this way in their childhood, or perhaps it has worked as a strategy for them in their professional career. Listening to a boss is a delicate task, I recommend that you label your own emotions as you experience them to maintain your own emotional balance. In appropriate contexts, label your boss's emotions, but keep in mind that this must be done with some subtlety and nuance. I don't recommend using your skills at this level until you practice in easier situations.