Handling Emotions

Silke Hansen

Senior Conciliation Specialist, Community Relations Service

Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003

This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).

Each party has to recognize that the other party needs to voice their frustration. And they need to voice what they're angry about, and you know what, that will be helpful to you, too, because you need to understand what they're angry about to be able to deal with that other party more effectively. So I don't pretend to try to squelch the emotions or anger.

I can remember one Native American conflict. I had met with a Native Americans party and representatives, and they were livid! They were so angry! And again I heard a whole history. I had real concerns about what might happen if I bring this group together with the white establishment agency. But it turned out that it was almost like they'd gotten that all out of their system the day before so when we got the table, they were almost docile, to the point where I called a caucus and met with that group and said, last night, you were furious. What happened? Who's going to explain what you are so angry about here to the other party? They need to hear that. So in a much calmer way they brought some of that out. This also reinforces the value of just listening. Just because someone from the government had spent that long listening to what they had to say was a big step to getting them to think maybe we can actually fix this. Listening is not just touchy-freely sensitivity. It's actually a really important tool.