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Vengeance Shall Never Be Yours!

PGP Mediation Blog by Phyllis G. Pollack

In a recent post entitled “Listening for the Emotions“, I discussed that the best way to calm someone down is to address the emotion and not the words. I learned this in a training session with Douglas E. Noll.

However, I did not explain the theory behind this strategy. Again, Doug Noll explains it in his online article, “If you don’t Meet These Needs, You Will Never End the Drama.” According to Mr. Noll, he first heard this theory from Erica Ariel Fox who developed it with Daniel Bowling. According to them, in every conflict, there are six needs of each party that must be met before the conflict can be resolved. In discussing these needs, it is imperative to remember that EACH party- the victim and the offender, the plaintiff and the defendant, the employer and employee, the landlord and the tenant, et cetera feel victimized. Thus, EACH party to the conflict must have the following needs satisfied before she can reach closure. (Id.)

The first need is Vengeance. As Mr. Noll points out, this is an anticipatory emotion. In anticipation, our brains release dopamine which gives us a feeling of pleasure. Thus when we think about how good we will feel in obtaining vengeance, the dopamine releases, and we feel great. The problem is that the dopamine does not release with the actual act of vengeance. It releases ONLY in anticipation. Thus, when we do obtain our vengeance or retribution, we actually feel depressed or let down. No dopamine is released with the actual doing of the act. In reality, we will never feel better after obtaining actual retribution. (Id.)

The second need is Vindication. As Mr. Noll explains, this “… is the need to be right. Essentially, to be fulfilled, a victim must feel “I’m right and you are wrong.” ” (Id.) As Mr. Noll notes, there are very, very few situations in which any one person is 100 percent right and the other is zero percent wrong. Thus, both sides will rationalize and justify their conduct using various cognitive biases in the hopes of being vindicated. (Id.)

The third need is Validation. This “… is the need to be honored and respected as a human being.” (Id.) Each party to a dispute (being a “victim”) “… suffers injustice, betrayal… and [has] a need to be ….honored and respected….” Thus, this need is “deep-seated.” (Id.)

The fourth need is the Need to be Heard. Each party (again, aka “victim”) needs to tell her story, sharing her emotional experiences, hoping to be “deeply understood.” (Id.) For this reason, a party may often repeat her story several times during a negotiation precisely because she feels she has not been heard. Until the others acknowledge that she has been heard, she will continue to repeat the story. (Id.)

The fifth need is the Need to Create Meaning. We all have a need to make sense out of or to create meaning from the jumble of events that occurred or from our thoughts. We need to create cause and effect out of what just happened. This need to create such meaning is “… an attempt to achieve a sense of transcendence over the drama, which soothes anxiety and restores order to the universe.” (Id.)

The final need is the one to Create Safety. This need for safety is both in terms of physical safety as well as emotional safety. (Id.)

As explained in my recent blog, the way to meet these needs, especially the need to be heard (which is the most important of all) is to listen to the emotion, and “… to the core message of what is really being said”, and not to the words themselves and then respond to both the core message and the emotion being conveyed. (Again, using no “I” statements.)

Mr. Noll provides the following example:


“He kicked me out of his class because he doesn’t like me!

You, as the listener:

Reflect the Core Message:

“You feel like you [were] kicked out of class because Mr. Jones does not like you.”

Reflect the Feelings:

“You are angry, and you feel betrayed and disrespected. What you say and feel doesn’t matter to anyone.” (Id.)

So, when the next conflict in your life unfolds, be it in the context of a negotiation, mediation, or a family dispute, try the above! (All disputes are emotional! ) As I noted in my last blog, I tried it and it really works!

…. Just something to think about.


Phyllis Pollack

Phyllis Pollack with PGP Mediation uses a facilitative, interest-based approach. Her preferred mediation style is facilitative in the belief that the best and most durable resolutions are those achieved by the parties themselves. The parties generally know the business issues and priorities, personalities and obstacles to a successful resolution as… MORE >

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