Reducing emotion in our interactions

Dr Ian James argues that we could learn something from people whose job it is to successfully avert conflict and reduce emotion in others.

Police officers, shop assistants and hotel receptionists know how to connect with others to calm a situation. They have learned that arguing with or ignoring the views of customers is unlikely to lead to a resolution if there is conflict. Once they have made a personal connection, they will say something to acknowledge a person’s distress before seeking to put things right. This is the basis of good customer service.

They may use phrases such as:

  • “I am sorry I upset you”
  • “I am sorry you are right”
  • “I am sorry, I was trying to help”
  • “I am sorry this must be hard”
  • “I am sorry I didn’t mean to make you feel that way/silly”

(Suzannah Thwaites, based on Teepa Snow ‘five sorries’)

Do you think this approach might help you de-escalate emotional situations?

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