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Author Topic: Calming pwNPD fast with EAR ~ Bill Eddy, LCSW, JD  (Read 876 times)
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« on: February 27, 2018, 11:21:30 AM »

Calming Upset People Fast with EAR

An EAR Statement can calm an upset or hostile person within seconds. These show Empathy, Attention, and Respect. This is especially helpful when you are dealing with someone who is really upset – possibly they are angry with you or someone else or they are sad, feeling helpless, or frightened.

EAR Statements touch people where they need to be touched when they are extremely emotional. These are especially effective with people who have high-conflict personalities because they are often terribly afraid or terribly angry. They can help you connect with such a person, so that you can then shift to problem-solving.

What’s An EAR Statement℠?

Essentially, an EAR Statement includes words and body language that show empathy, attention and/or respect for the listener. Ideally, these are done in-person or over the phone, but they can be put in writing as well. Here’s an example. Let’s pretend you’re talking to Cathy, who could be a family member, a friend, a co-worker, a client, or a customer:

      “I can see how frustrated you are by this situation, Cathy, and I want to help. Let’s talk about it so that I can really understand what’s happening. I have a lot of respect for the efforts you have made to deal with this problem.”

Let’s break this down:

“I can see how frustrated you are by this situation, Cathy, and I want to help.” This shows that you are connecting with the feeling that the person might be having, and also that you want to help. This shows empathy: caring and support, which high-conflict people especially are looking for. With high-conflict people, you need to go beyond reflective listening (repeating back the essence of what you heard) and give them something of yourself, such as your interest in helping them. You want to create a sense of “us” working together on a problem, rather than seeming to dispassionately distance yourself from the other person.    

“Let’s talk about it, so that I can really understand what’s happening.” By indicating that you are willing to pay attention to them and the problem, most people immediately calm down because they don’t need to persuade you to pay attention. This may be the opposite of what you feel like doing, but the more interested you are, the less amount of time this usually takes. Of course, this is where your body language comes in. You need to look interested, perhaps leaning in, nodding your head slightly while you listen, keeping good eye contact and having relaxed (rather than tense or angry) arms and body. When we do this in our training for High Conflict Institute, the feedback we get is that the listener’s full attention is felt more because of their body language and tone of voice, than by the actual words they say.

“I have a lot of respect for the efforts you have made to deal with this problem.” For a lot of people, this is what they really want: to be respected as a person and to be taken seriously when they have a problem. Whether you are a customer service representative, a friend or a stranger in a tough situation with an upset person, communicating your respect is often the key to moving forward to solve the problem. This can be really powerful if the person is upset with you, such as with high-conflict people who often attack those closest to them.    
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Any of these three
A good EAR Statement doesn’t even need to communicate all three of these. Just empathy is enough sometimes. Just paying attention often calms people down. Sometimes just giving a statement that shows respect is sufficient. Mostly, try one or more of these three types of statements (Empathy, Attention and/or Respect) and see how it comes across. From our experience, 90 percent of people calm down within 30 seconds of hearing an EAR Statement. Of course, this often takes some practice, but for many people, it works right away.

Some Words of Caution
Of course, this doesn’t work for everyone. Some people just want to stay angry and others are so overwhelmed it takes them several minutes of empathetic statements, concentrated listening and lots of respect to calm down. You can move on to using other methods if this one doesn’t work.

EAR Statements also don’t mean that you believe the person or agree with them. Some high-conflict people won’t let go until you say you believe them or agree with them. Don’t say that unless you really do. Otherwise, you will forever be held accountable for once saying you believed them or agreed with them. And they will tell the world that you are on their side, when this may be totally untrue. So, just say something like this: “I wasn’t there, so I’ll never know what exactly happened. What I do know is that I want to help you, so let’s see what we can do now.”

If you are in a dangerous situation, such as domestic violence or workplace bullying or sexual harassment, it may be best for you to just walk away and not even try an EAR Statement. Just get away! Safety first!

What to Avoid
 Bullet: important point (click to insert in post) Don’t Lie
 Bullet: important point (click to insert in post) You don’t have to listen forever
 Bullet: important point (click to insert in post) E.A.R. doesn’t mean you agree

Maintain an “arms-length” relationship. Manage Your Amygdala

Of course, this is the opposite of what we feel like doing. You may think to yourself: “No way I’m going to listen to this after how I’ve been verbally attacked!” But that’s just your amygdala talking, in an effort to protect you from danger. Our brains are very sensitive to threats, especially our amygdalas (you have one in the middle of your right hemisphere and one in the middle of your left). Most people, while growing up, learn to manage the impulsive, protective responses of their amygdalas and over-ride them with a rational analysis of the situation, using their prefrontal context behind the forehead.

In fact, that is a lot of what adolescence is about: learning what is a crisis needing an instant, protective response (amygdale) and learning what situations are not a crisis and instead need a calm and rational response (prefrontal cortext). High conflict people often were abused or entitled growing up, and didn’t have the secure, balanced connection necessary to learn these skills of emotional self-management. Therefore, you can help them by helping yourself not over-react to them – use your own prefrontal cortext to manage your amygdala.

It’s Not About You!

Remind yourself it’s not about you! Don’t take it personally. It’s about the person’s own upset and lack of sufficient skills to manage his or her own emotions. Try making E.A.R. statements and you will find they often end the attack and calm the person down. This is especially true for high conflict people (HCPs) who regularly have a hard time calming themselves down.

All of these are calming statements. They let the person know that you want to connect with him or her, rather than threaten him or her.

From parenting, to coaching, to leadership, using a simple EAR Statement can usually calm an upset person enough to talk about solving a problem or help an upset person feel better. You can use it when setting limits on misbehavior or a difficult conversation. You may have to use these statements more than once in a difficult conversation, but they can become quick and easy. They make your life easier. We have had success with EAR Statements for over a dozen years in several different countries and cultures. It’s a very human way of connecting.

An EAR Statement can be very brief and doesn’t cost you anything. It can help you connect with almost anyone. It’s even helpful when delivering bad news, such as a parent, a manager or a judge. You can use one in a business meeting, while managing a difficult relative, or when ending a relationship. It can be used to keep situations from escalating in the workplace or in the neighborhood. If more people would regularly use EAR Statements—even in response to hostility—it might just make the world a better place for all of us.  

Bill Eddy, LCSW, JD, is a lawyer, therapist, mediator, president of the High Conflict Institute based in San Diego, and the author of several books including 5 Types of People Who Can Ruin Your Life (2018).
« Last Edit: April 27, 2019, 11:45:30 AM by Harri » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: March 16, 2018, 10:53:39 PM »

I like it.  It's more helpful than my initial (internal) response to a narcissist. 

    “For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.” ― Rudyard Kipling
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« Reply #2 on: March 25, 2019, 11:07:01 AM »

I have two people that have difficult personalities that can be frustrating to f you don’t know how to handle them. My dad has narcissistic traits while my ex has BPD traits, SET works for her I recall she said that it was too good to be true that I was talking to her that way.

Im a logical thinker which can be hurtful to the people that are emotional thinkers. SET for one and EAR for the other my dad is coming up this summer so I’lll have to try this. I do like that it sets limits he is the type that won’t stop talking and that you don’t have to undermine your values because of someone else.

"Let go or be dragged" -Zen proverb
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« Reply #3 on: March 25, 2019, 11:39:24 AM »

I think that Bill Eddy’s tool is very important. The “respect” part of it works especially well for some high conflict people.The amygdala part of the article works especially well.

I had a borderline mother and narcissistic father. Author of stop walking on eggshells, The stop walking on eggshells workbook, the essential family guide to borderline personality disorder, and the upcoming book stop walking on egg shells for partners
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« Reply #4 on: March 26, 2019, 07:26:42 AM »

This is good stuff. Maybe this is the right thread to address a concern. I attempt to use these newly learned tools with S4’s mom. But they’re not working. She sees the difference between the unhealthy  way we used to communicate and tells me I’m being fake in so many words, which devolves into arguments and unnecessary communication that can become quite colorful and hurtful. How do I overcome this and make the tools work for both S4’s mom and myself? Great article and advice.
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« Reply #5 on: March 26, 2019, 12:49:29 PM »

personalizing our statements, and authenticity, are essential with any and all of the communication techniques.

members report this all the time, that their loved one calls them out for sounding fake, condescending, or "like a therapist". speak how you speak.

its like learning to write with an essay format (which is always awkward at first). ideally, the words are uniquely yours and sound like how you talk. they are organized, not dictated, by the format.

for me personally, with most of the people i know, if i borrowed the exact words from this statement id get a funny look:

“I can see how frustrated you are by this situation, Cathy, and I want to help. Let’s talk about it so that I can really understand what’s happening. I have a lot of respect for the efforts you have made to deal with this problem.”

its not how i talk, and the people that know me, know that. i might say something closer to "its a pretty frustrating situation thats happening to you. i know youre doing your best with it."

with another person, i might use completely different words. or perhaps, as the article suggests, i might just use one of the sentences. but if i treat the communication techniques like a script to be used on a person, thats all thats going to come across.

     and I think it's gonna be all right; yeah; the worst is over now; the mornin' sun is shinin' like a red rubber ball…
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« Reply #6 on: March 26, 2019, 01:33:31 PM »

Ok. I need to learn how to use the tools while being myself. Wordsmithing in an honest way. To be productive.
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« Reply #7 on: March 27, 2019, 08:32:21 PM »

For a lot of people, this is what they really want: to be respected as a person and to be taken seriously when they have a problem
This is tough because you can appear condescending when offering help even if you're not thinking it like that.

My dad does that often, I offer help and he takes it as a challenge. I know now to encourage him instead, the "respect" comes from showing I trust him to do the thing and that I'm there for him even if I'm not actually "helping".

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« Reply #8 on: March 28, 2019, 09:17:26 AM »

Another really useful tool... thank you Skip!

All three are powerful, especially respect. I think anyone, non or BPD, responds positively to respect.
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« Reply #9 on: March 28, 2019, 12:42:00 PM »

Thanks, sounds good.

This may resolve a temporary blow up, the pwNPD as we know it does have an “agenda”, temporary measures are just that, to bring about a somewhat civilized ending or soft landing to a NPD reaction..

I’m negative about it bringing about the very necessary self examination that’s required in order to build a base.

I have used every tool and on occasion they worked, other times I was seen as having the agenda of calming her down with caused further upset.

It is good in general. Good intentions, true heartfelt intentions sometimes have negative consequences.  Nothing new to me and this board. There is a world outside of this board that’s wonderful.

Just because you think it, doesn't make it true.
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« Reply #10 on: April 22, 2019, 07:22:03 PM »

What a great article to read.  I read it last night and I can really see how EAR will fit in with the tools we already have here.

It is good to have a tool that will help when people are already dysregulated.  Obviously, as with every tool, there will be some exceptions, but I like having more options and a tool that I can use as a follow up.  Example:  I can see me using this after not JADEing or in conjunction with don't invalidate and even SET.

    “…we cannot be in the present moment and run our story lines at the same time!”

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« Reply #11 on: April 22, 2019, 11:19:30 PM »

Thank you, this is another helpful tool for the toolbox. When dealing with someone who is emotionally dysregulated, it may help us to not get caught in that dysregulation while hopefully encouraging them out of it.

I agree with comments above that we may need to find our own natural wording for it, so it doesn't sound scripted, but I imagine with practice this happens, and the more we are able to implement it the more natural it hopefully becomes. I'll try to put this into practice the next time I'm in a situation that warrants it. Thanks!
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