What Did You Say?/Martin Rosenfeld, JD

Posted on July 16, 2017


There are times where we find a need to respond to a “vicious hit”. It may be in our role as mediator or in a role as one negotiating in a mediation session. How does one deal with abrasive comments? There is no easy answer, but it is done with patience, wisdom and a positive mind-set. Some strategies for defusing tense situations are outlined below:

*Be patient. Count to 10 is the old saw. It still bears consideration. A hasty response is rarely a good one.

*Set for yourself and/or others a “cooling off” period.

*Establish the “50 Year Rule”. Is the biting comment so bad that it will be remembered in 50 years? If not, let it roll off your back now.

*Consider the harm to your self-respect if you let anger trigger a hot reaction to the comment that was made.

*Develop a form of self-discipline. Just stare at the offending party for 10 seconds. Respond only after you write a summary of the event. Walk around the table. Take a bathroom break.

If the above strategies aren’t for you, develop your own coping mechanisms. The rabbis of the book “Ethics of Our Fathers” stated the case concisely and effectively: “The way to safeguard wisdom is through silence. Try it when the need arises.