Practice what you preach. Be the change you want to see in others. Change starts with you.
The above statements are all commonly heard throughout our ADR lives. Today, I suggest reflecting on them in the capacity of being “Cool As A Cucumber”. Before and during heated exchanges or outburst in a negotiation, as the negotiator and possibly more importantly as the mediator, displaying a calm and cool demeanor has the ability to de-escalate the situation.
Based on personal experience it works. It works in violent confrontations, neighbor disputes, and co-worker misunderstandings (plus everything else!).
Methods I use to try and prevent myself from getting caught up in a heated exchange is preparing for what to do if someone tries to bait me, make accusations or be confrontational. Preparing myself helps diminish the opportunity for negative situations to arise as I firmly believe exhibiting a cooperative and collaborative approach is contagious. I remind myself to remember to respond not react.
In Beyond Reason: Using Emotions as You Negotiate, Fisher and Shapiro mention possibly options to cool your emotional temperature.
- Slowly count back from ten.
- Breathe deeply three times, in through your nose, out through your mouth.
- Adopt a relaxed position: sit back, cross your ankles, let your hands rest on your lap or table.
- Let upsetting or offensive comments fly by and hit the wall behind you.
For those interested in learning and possibly practicing more breathing and relaxation techniques, within the next month I am going to post a brief introduction to meditation and some simple exercises that anyone, regardless of religious preference, can use to help be mindful during their mediations and negotiations while also acknowledging the emotions that are present in both yourself and the other party(s).
If you find Fisher and Shapiro’s tips helpful, I suggest purchasing their book to get the full list mentioned above as well as other powerful advice for handling emotions during negotiations or mediations.
Finally, who would ever have thought a cucumber would be in your ADR toolbox? Now you will never look at a cucumber the same way again!
 Roger Fisher and Daniel Shapiro, Beyond Reason: Using Emotions As You Negotiate (New York: Penguin Books, 2005) 150.
Jeff Thompson, Ph.D., is a professor at Lipscomb University, researcher, mediator, and trainer. He is also involved in crisis and hostage negotiation as well as a law enforcement detective. His research includes law enforcement crisis and hostage negotiation in terrorist incidents. He received his doctorate from Griffith University Law School having researched the impact nonverbal communication has in conflict situations with respect to developing rapport, building trust, and displaying professionalism.
Dr. Thompson has presented and trained on the topic of conflict, mediation, (crisis and hostage) negotiation, communication and nonverbal communication internationally for a variety of audiences including police personnel, government officials, judges, attorneys, physicians, sales people, business professionals, and both graduate and undergraduate students. He has also been published in numerous professional and academic publications.
He is the co-chair of ACR's national Crisis Negotiation Section, and he is an ad-hoc reviewer for multiple academic journals. He received his MS in Negotiation and Dispute Resolution from the Werner Institute, Creighton University School of Law.
(All posts by Jeff Thompson represent his personal reflections and opinions and not that of any organization.)