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Emotion as motivator/demotivator for conflict resolution

Emotion as motivator/demotivator for conflict resolution

Author: Marlene Johnson

At the end of this tutorial, the learner will understand that people seek out pleasurable emotional states and try to avoid painful ones

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Emotion as Motivator/Demotivator for Conflict Resolution

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People are motivated by a variety of factors. I think it'll be safe to say, however, that if we looked at all the factors and distilled them into two basic things, it would be pleasure and pain. We're all motivated to move towards things they give us pleasure, and away from things that cause us pain. We call this the pleasure pain motivational factor. I'm Marlene, and in this tutorial I'd like to talk with you about how pleasure and pain are powerful motivators in the conflict resolution process.

So let's define it. Pleasure pain motivation, the most basic way of describing human motivation. A tendency to seek to obtain things which give pleasure, and avoiding things which cause pain.

So we all seek out emotional experiences they feel good, that make us feel good. So when you look at this list, I think it's fair to say, we would all prefer the states on the right hand side. Feeling happy, confident, satisfied, grateful, content, we all seek emotional experiences where we can feel that way. As opposed to annoyed, angry, sad, scared, helpless, desperate, these are all words we'd rather avoid. Emotional states that would create, that we don't want to be in those emotional states.

So typically having our needs satisfied will cause us to feel closer to this side. Happy, satisfied, grateful. So we do things to spend time with loved ones. We accomplish things, perhaps we have hobbies, whether it be gardening or building something. In fact even doing those things that to think about them are a little unpleasurable, like household chores, they have to be done. We muster ourselves to get up on a Saturday morning to do the chores. I hate vacuum cleaning. I mean for whatever reason I don't like to vacuum, but when I finish vacuuming I feel good. I feel happy. I'm glad that the floors clean.

So accomplishing something, doing something that will create a pleasurable feeling, is something we move towards. Because I know I will not feel good if I don't vacuum.

So what does this have to do with conflict resolution? It has a lot to do with parties who find themselves in conflict. Because when two parties come into a conflict resolution session they're probably feeling more like one of these words. They're closer to the side. Annoyed, angry, frustrated, scared, helpless. They've agreed to come in good faith and sit down with the other party to resolve the conflict.

So the process itself can encourage people to move towards resolution by allowing them to experience getting their needs met. Which will move them closer towards feeling good. Feeling one of these more pleasurable emotions.

For example, one of the very first things that happens in a conflict resolution session is that each party does get a chance to speak and be heard. The very process of being acknowledged, being allowed to speak and share your experience of the situation, can move someone from feeling perhaps helpless or desperate more towards feeling satisfied, hopeful. The person may choose the wrong word, but there will be movement from a negative, more painful feeling, to something more pleasurable.

As part of the process, the person who has spoken will also be listening to the other party. And that could also create movement. Because there may be a prospective here that you're hearing for the first time. You may be hearing a part of this story that you weren't aware of. And that will allow you to gain more understanding of the other person's position, their interests, what they need. And that can move you from feeling mad, perhaps, to a little more satisfied, content. Because now you have more of an understanding of that person, what's motivating them.

So this process of speaking and listening can do a lot to move people towards an emotional state that's more pleasant than painful. Actually sitting down and crafting an agreement, when two parties do that in a conflict resolution setting, they will move forward. Each little agreement gives them an opportunity to move forward towards accomplishing their goals. Having their needs met. Each time a need is met, whether it be small or large, there is a pleasurable feeling. There's a new movement away from these negative emotions towards these positive emotions.

So emotion is a positive and powerful motivator. We do want to move towards things that feel pleasurable, that make us feel good. The conflict resolution process in and of itself is designed to give people opportunities to move away from more painful emotion to pleasurable emotions as they see their needs being met. As they listen to and are heard by the other party.

So I've enjoyed being part of this tutorial with you. And I look forward to next time.

  • Pleasure/Pain Motivation

    The most basic way of describing human motivation -- a tendency to seek to obtain things which give pleasure and avoid things which cause pain.