Winning Conversations with ‘POISE NOW’: Step 5 - Emotions

Posted in : HR Updates ROI on 29 July 2016
Mary Rafferty
Consensus Mediation
Issues covered:

As we saw earlier, our negative emotional responses in conflict situations are linked to our own  thinking and perception about the situation or behaviour of the other person.

It’s not objective reality that causes our feelings, rather it’s the spin or interpretation we put on objective reality that leads us to feel angry, frustrated or hurt.  

We don’t like and prefer to avoid our own and other’s negative feelings. We fear that expressing or discussing them will lead to further upset or vulnerability.

Yet uncomfortable feelings are at the heart of any difficult conversation so we need to ensure they don’t hijack the conversation and get us head-locked in a no-win debate.

Raising contentious issues with people are likely to trigger negative emotional responses in others.

You need to plan for this—consider what might be at stake for them, how they might react and most importantly, how you will deal with this.  

use to avoid getting derailed emotionally is


Pause, Acknowledge, Clarify concerns

Pause Acknowledge Clarify


To keep the conversation from getting derailed emotionally, you need to be vigilant first of all of how you can become triggered and react emotionally.  

How are you feeling about the issue and situation that you have to raise? Are you in a calm and centred frame of mind?

If you are feeling angry, upset or afraid, take some time to reflect on the thinking that is causing you to feel this way. What is at stake for you? What meaning are you putting on this situation?  

Try and detach from your strong emotions so you can think more clearly and strategically about how best to approach the other person. 

Check pages 17 & 18 for more on how to reach a calm, centred state of mind.  

Before you start, have thought about what the other person might say or do that could trip you up or cause you to react.

What will you do to avoid reacting to their words or behaviour?


If the other person gets angry, then it’s a signal that the person is experiencing strong or overwhelming feelings. The emotional centres of the brain are running the show for them.

They have less access to rational and reasonable thinking in this state. So trying to talk about the issue or argue back is a waste of time and energy.

Instead, we need to find strategies that bring them back into a more rational state and de-escalate their mounting emotions first before trying to negotiate or problem-solve.  

The key needs the person has at this stage are to feel understood and heard. Refrain from responding and simply silently listening, letting them ‘vent’

Use some simple acknowledging statements to actively demonstrate that you are hearing and understanding their feelings. Some examples are:

  • ‘Look, I appreciate you are frustrated about…’
  • ‘I know this is upsetting for you…’
  • ‘I know this isn’t what you had hoped to hear…’

You need to formulate your own version in language that is authentic to you.

The most important part of this statement isn’t so much the words, but it’s the tone and attitude behind it. It can easily tip into being patronising, so use a calm, friendly and genuine tone.  

Be clear that in making a statement like this you are not in any way suggesting you agree with the person’s viewpoint or condone their behaviour. 
You are just trying to convey that you are interested and concerned and are making an effort to understand and help them.

When you have said this, allow the person to respond. They might continue to vent but you will notice that it is a little calmer. Simply nodding, listening further will help calm them further.

Clarify Concerns

Emotions are a signal that some need or expectation that the other person has is not being met. Once you have acknowledged their emotional response, you can follow this up with a question that invites them to consider what it is they are feeling annoyed/upset about.

You might say ‘I can appreciate you are finding this feedback difficult… what is it that’s hardest for you to hear?

‘I know this isn’t at all what you want to hear… would it be helpful if I explained…’

‘What is it that you are most annoyed about…’

Then use a closed, reflective statements and questions then to confirm with them what it is they are most upset about or what it is they are concerned about.

Frame this in a neutral and non-blaming way.

‘So have I got that right that you are annoyed because…. ? And you are concerned that your views aren’t being listened to... you think it’s important that... ‘


Make notes in the blank template:

  • What might the person say or do that will derail you or trip you up in this conversation?
  • How will you manage to stay calm and not react?
  • What might you be, say or do that will irritate or annoy them?
  • „How do you plan to respond if they get annoyed or upset?

Read the other articles in this series here:

Step 1 - PurposeStep 2 - OpenStep 3 - Inquire and Step 4 - Share

This article is correct at 29/07/2016

The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.

Mary Rafferty
Consensus Mediation

The main content of this article was provided by Mary Rafferty. Contact telephone number is +00 (353) 71 9651966 or +00 (353) 86 8252423 or email

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