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Emotions as Signposts

Emotions as Signposts

Author: marlene johnson

At the end of this tutorial, the learner will understand that parties' expressed emotions can help to indicate or clarify their needs and concerns in a conflict.

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Video Transcription

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When we are in a conflict situation, our emotions are good indicators of whether or not we perceive a need's going to be met or not. I'm Marlene, and in this tutorial, I'd like to talk with you about emotion and how they are signposts in a conflict resolution process.

So let's start out by defining signpost. A signpost when we're regarding conflict resolution and emotion is an indicator of a need or interest in the form of a display of emotion. So two parties are in a conflict resolution process, and emotions are surfacing and being displayed. And those emotions are signposts.

Now, each person expresses emotion differently. Some people are more demonstrative in the way they express things, others less so. But everyone tends to feel things deeply. Whether or not they express it, they may be feeling something more deeply than something else depending on its significance to them. So intensity of emotion is important to note.

Now, the intensity of emotion is the degree to which a given emotion is felt or experienced by a person. So note I'm talking here about the feeling and the experience the person is having, whether or not they necessarily display it so that it is obvious to everybody. And I think we all know that we probably have people in our life who are very demonstrative in the way they express their emotion.

Oh, it's fabulous. This was great. It's the best thing ever. And someone else might be feeling pretty good about something, but that's how they'll express it. Well, it was pretty good. And you know that when that person says pretty good, they mean fabulous. So people don't always use the same words or express emotion, whether it's negative or positive, in the same way.

So it's the role of the conflict resolver to get at the emotions, to be able to look at these signposts, as it were, to see what's important in the conflict and what are the real underlying needs here. So let's look at some ways that that can happen. So, people are expressing things differently. Some people are demonstrative, and there might be an outburst of some sort during the conflict resolution process.

Someone may yell, or they may cry, or they may express alarm. And those are strong emotions. The person is expressing them strongly. So the mediator, the conflict resolver wants to acknowledge this expression of emotion and get out perhaps what's underneath it. Questions can be helpful in doing this or simply acknowledging, it sounds like you were very nervous at that point. So what did you do?

Or, tell me more about that. It sounds really important to you. What led you to say that? So you're asking questions. You're acknowledging the emotion. You're letting the party know that you're present. You want to hear more about what's happening here.

At this point, there may be other things that come up, other emotions that have not yet been expressed but that are important signposts in terms of what is the real need or interest here to the party. Now, you might have somebody in the conflict resolution process who is not expressing emotion. They're silent around that. Maybe they can't find the right words.

So then as a conflict resolver, it's important to ask questions of this person. Ask them how they felt about something. Ask them to tell you their experience. Or what matters most to you here? How does this concern you? How did that make you feel?

So you can draw out the person who is not expressing their emotions perhaps with such intensity or so readily as someone else might be. I want to say it's also important to acknowledge all the emotions in the room so that if someone is more demonstrative than another person, that person doesn't get all the air time. So you want to acknowledge that there may be different emotions present in the room.

You've got a number of signposts here. So as the conflict resolver, you bring all the emotions present. You allow everyone to speak. You draw everyone out so that the real needs and interest at the root of the conflict will become evident. So, I've enjoyed being part of this tutorial, and I look forward to next time.

Terms to Know
Intensity of Emotion

The degree to which a given emotion is felt/experienced by a person.


Regarding conflict resolution and emotion, an indicator of a need or interest in the form of a display of emotion.