By, Sonya Blandford, Psychologist
Have you noticed that some people are more upset than usual during this time of social isolation? Matching their emotional level can lead to escalation of an incident and can affect relationships in a negative way.
The EAR statement (created by Bill Eddy) is one strategy that can help to defuse the situation and lead towards solving the issue. It can also help to improve connection between people.
An EAR statement is essentially a listening technique that will help to calm a person down. They will then hopefully be more able to communicate the issue better which could lead to preventing the problem occurring in the future.
EAR statements involve using the following techniques:
Empathy can be conveyed by creating a sense of ‘us’ working on this together. E.g. ‘I know this can be confusing’, ‘Let us see if we can work this out together’, ‘I can see how annoying this is for you’. It is not recommended to tell the person what they might be feeling.
Attention is showing an interest in what the speaker is saying. Good listening skills such as leaning towards the listener, looking interested in what they are saying and presenting a relaxed manner (even if you are also upset). E.g. ‘Tell me what is going on?’, ‘I really want to understand what is happening from your point of view’
Respect is acknowledging what the person has done to try and solve the issue (even if it is not your preferred method). You must appear to mean what you say when this is said. ‘I can see you have put in effort to solve this problem’, ‘You are an important part of this family/business and have skills that we need here’, ‘I can see that you are a hard worker’.
When using EAR, you don’t have to listen for a long time. The focus is on obtaining more information to help the person solve the current issues. This technique can be done quickly. It also does not mean that you agree or disagree with the person. You can use one or a combination of the statements to try and get through to someone who is upset.
If the person remains angry, it is recommended to let them know they can speak with you later if they want and then leave them alone if possible.
Bill Eddy is a lawyer, therapist, mediator and Chief Innovation Officer of the High Conflict Institute. He is the author of several books, including It’s All Your Fault: 12 Tips for Managing People Who Blame Others for Everything.
Dr. Phil Watts, Difficult People: Identifying and managing high conflict people before they destroy you (conference), 2020.