How to Calm an Angry Person in 90 Seconds

How to Calm an Angry Person in 90 Seconds

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Mr. Biz Radio: How to Calm an Angry Person in <90 Seconds

Unedited transcription of the show is included below:


Welcome to Mr. Biz radio. Biz talk for biz owners during the next half hour, Mr. Biz, Ken Wentworth, a leading business advisor, and two time bestselling author will cover topics. That'll help business owners run their companies, more profitably, and more efficiently. If you're ready to stop faking the funk and take your business onward and upward, this show is for you. And now here's Mr. Biz, Ken Wentworth.


Welcome to another episode of Mr. Biz radio with myself, Mr. Biz, Ken Wentworth. And we've got a treat for you this week. We're going to talk with someone who is an expert on something that every single person listening right now deals with and experiences, and is challenged with on a regular basis. And that is along the lines of dealing with conflict and dealing with you know, difficult people, difficult situations, angry people. So this week, our guest is none of the Mr. Doug Noll. He is an award-winning author, speaker and trainer. And after 22 years as a trial lawyer, he became a peacemaker and mediator. And that's why we have him on the show. He's going to teach us how to be a peacemaker. So Doug, welcome to Mr. Biz Radio.


Hey Ken. Glad to be here. Yeah, I think I can teach people in about 10 minutes out of the peacemakers.


Good, good. Yeah, just it's real easy. Super simple. Really easy. Yeah. well I guess let's get started with talk, talk to us. I mean, I mentioned, you know, 22 years as a trial lawyer, talk to us about your entrepreneurial journey.


Sure. So briefly stated I grew up in Southern California and graduated from high school, went back east to college at Dartmouth college and then came back to California and went to law school, graduated from law school in 1977. So I kind of dating myself a little bit and worked for a judge for a year and then went into private practice. And I, I grew up in Southern California, but I didn't want to live down there and I didn't want to live in the bay area. So I moved to central California and, and it turned out to be that it turned out to be a great decision. The firm that I joined as a young lawyer in 1978, wanted me to become a big time trial lawyer. And so that's what they made me do. I joined the firm in September of 1978 and tried my first civil jury trial, a construction dispute in November of 1978, and then went on from there.


Just try, be just a big time financial and commercial trial lawyer. And our firm was known for being really theorist. And I was known for even being more fierce and tended to represent people from outside the region, suing the power, power, and money interests in the central valley, which is mostly agriculture. So it was a pretty interesting job for a long time, but through a series of events that I won't bore you with, I, I had a change of heart and in the mid late to mid to late 1990s, decided to go back to school and to get my master's degree in peacemaking and conflict studies. And those, my teachers and mentors completely changed my perspective about conflict and life and everything. So I left the practice of law in 2000. I did everything. I told my clients not to do no business plan, no money, just upped and left.


And, and, and I left $10 million on the table in my old firm. And I just walked away from it. I was sick of it, and that was the best decision I ever made. And so I started out as a peacemaker and a commercial mediator and an arbitrator and got some made my chops on some really huge cases that probably the most notable one was a half a billion dollar partnership break up and managed to help people get that resolved. And from there on, I was just handled all kinds of conflicts, thousands and thousands of conflicts. And then in 2010, with my colleague Laurel coffer, we, we created the prison of peace project and began working in maximum security prisons in California, teaching wipers. And long-termers how to become peacemakers immediately in the prison environment. And it started off as a pro bono project, but eventually we, in 2017, we, it was pro bono from 2010 to 2017 and we got some funding.


And by the time the pandemic hit, we were, were in 15 California prisons, a prison in Connecticut and 15 prisons in Greece. I mean, the thing that just took off. Wow. Yeah, it was amazing. And along the way, I've developed a unique set of skills, which we, we can talk about which you mentioned in your intro. And I teach those now I teach those both in workshops, live workshops, virtual workshops, and with online courses, teaching people two things, one how to calm an angry person in 90 seconds or less, which is the title of my fourth book and how to listen other people into existence, which is the same basic skill, but it's a, it's a, it has a broader effect. And these are skills that I've trained business people in and thought leaders in over the last probably 15 years. And it just changes. It changes everything. When you imagine being able to create instant trust, instant rapport, you're able to calm down an angry person in seconds and you know exactly what to say, how to say it. And when to say it every single time without fail and have the other person, thank you for listening to them, no matter how intense the situation is, pretty remarkable.


Yeah, no. I mean the, the, the project with the prisons I came, imagine how valuable that is and how I'm sure. I mean, not only that, I'm sure the prisoners are super thankful for it as well, but the folks working at the prisons, you know, gosh, that's a big part of their role is dealing with conflict a daily basis, an hourly basis, minute by minute basis for crying out loud.


We, we actually have received unsolicited letters from wardens and command staff with you know, corrections with corrections, people thanking us for coming in because we reduced our people are, our inmates literally stopped the violence in the prison. We started in the largest, most violent women's prison in the world in 2010 and 12, eight, about 18 months later, we got a letter from the ward and Ron Davis saying, you guys have completely changed this place. It is no longer a violent prison because of your work.


Yeah. I can't even imagine. I can't even imagine that. And that's a, it's a good tease actually, because those of you guys who listen to the show regularly know that during the third segment of the show, we always pick the brain of our guests. And that's what we're going to do today. Of course. And we're going to have Doug walk us through exactly what he had mentioned, the title of his fourth book. And that is “How to calm an angry person in 90 seconds or less”. Now, Doug, I have a somewhat serious, but also being a little facetious. Th is that work on yourself as well? Like, can I, can I, can I calm myself in 90 seconds?


I'm angry. Yes, you can. It's amazing. So let me tell a quick story of, I stumbled on this piece by pure accident in not in 2005, I obviously had a master's degree and a law degree, but nothing I learned really taught me how to calm, angry people down. And I was being paid big bucks to come into these huge family business conflicts where hundreds of millions of dollars where it's steak and get, get family members calm down. So they wouldn't end up in courts and spew their wealth out to lawyers or corporate disputes or partnership disputes. And I had no good tools. And in 2005, I had a really tough mediation and I stumbled on this idea of listening to emotions and that's how it all started. And it was just, it was amazing how it worked. And then it turned out that in 2007, Matthew Lieberman, a neuroscientist at UCLA did a brain scanning study and established why these ideas work. He showed what was actually going on in the brain when we listened to emotions. And it turns out that we can do third-party listening, which is called third party attic labeling, and also first-party ethic labeling where you can label your own emotions and actually calm yourself down in 30 or 40 seconds because of how our brains are hardwired. Absolutely amazing after.


Yeah. So guys, if that doesn't make you a wedge rapid tight for what we're going to talk about later yet in the show, I don't know what will cause you know, I know I deal with it. You know, I shouldn't say often, but you know, we all have frustrations now and again, so this will be invaluable for everyone listening. So again, this week we're talking with Mr. Doug, no, you can find out more at Doug [inaudible] dot com or he's actually created a specific page for our listeners, You can find out more so collect after the break. We'll get the Mr. Biz tip of the week. Continue talking with Doug Noll


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All right. Welcome back to the show and it's time for them specifically week. And this week's tip is actually a quote from none other than Mr. Mr. Shark tank guy, himself, Mr. Mark Cuban, and his quote that I actually love. And that's why we made it a tip for one of our tips of the week is wherever there is change and wherever there is uncertainty, there is opportunity. I think too often folks look at those, those, those where there's change and uncertainty as, as challenges, as opposed to looking at, you know, sort of that glass half full type of thing. And, you know, there's opportunity there to, you know, take, you know, be part of that change or, or help the uncertainty and make things more certain, et cetera. So that is the Mr. Biz tip of the week. All right.


So let's get back into talking with this week's guest, Mr. Doug Noll. So Doug so you, gosh, I don't even know where to start here. So you've done, obviously we've talked about you're a trial lawyer for a long time. I also know a little birdie told me that you are an aircraft and helicopter pilot, a ski instructor a second degree, black belt, a Tai Chi master all kinds of stuff. You got all kinds of interesting things going on. My question though is around the black belt and Tai Chi master. Did that play a part in this, you know, this sort of second career you have as being a mediator and peacemaker,


It, it, it, it was, it played, it was, it was the cause of the change. Let me tell you the story. Okay. So I, although I was born with a lot of disabilities I managed to overcome a lot of them. And one of the things, one of the things I'm still passionate about is skiing, Alpine skiing. And I was actually I'm a level three certified ski instructor with a professional ski instructors of America. But getting that certification is extremely difficult. And I had taken the exam three times and failed, not because of my teaching ability or my technical knowledge, but because my skiing wasn't strong enough. So I decided this was back in the eighties, I just started to start cross training. And this was before anybody knew what cross training was. And I decided to take up the martial arts. So I did, and I started studying a Northern Chinese Kung Fu style.


And I was horrible at it, horrible at it for two or three or four years. And this is kind of my path, you know, I take up something and I'm really bad at it for a long time. And then click I'm really good at it. And that's what happened here. I got really good at it, like I'm and all my instructors were just sort of blown away. Like one day I'm horrible. And the next day I'm like a master. It's just how it works with me. I don't, I don't, I can't explain it anyways. Ultimately I got my first degree black belt, and then I got my secondary black belt about a year later. And my teacher main teacher of the dashi Fu called me in and said, you're done here. And I said, what? I said, yeah, you're arrogant. You're an. You're a lawyer.


You're a secretary black belt for you. You know, a fair fight is five guys with knives and you want armed and you'll take them all down. I know that you know that you're going to hurt somebody. And so before I teach you any further, you've got to go master Tai Chi. Well, that was a death sentence because you never master Tai Chi. So I did, I went down and I started studying Tai Chi and Tai Chi has two really interesting paradoxes. One is the softer you are, the stronger you are. And the other paradox is the more vulnerable you are. The more powerful you are soft to be strong, vulnerable, to be powerful. Well, Ken, this did not compute hardcore trial lawyer, hardcore secondary black belt. You know, war is my game. Violence is my game. And, but a weird thing happened again.


I was really crappy at Tai Chi for a long time. And then all of a sudden it clicked and I got it in the paradox has made sense to me. And I saw how powerful they were when I was soft and vulnerable. Even in martial arts, I just kicked everybody's and it was effortless. And so one day I was trying a case and I was cross-examining somebody. And the thought came to me, what the hell am I doing in here? And so I finished the trial and had a vacation plan, a whitewater trip up in Idaho with a bunch of friends. And I spent 10 days on the main salmon by myself, in my raft, thinking about how many people I'd really served as a trial lawyer. And I could only come up with five people with over 200 cases that have really came out of this system better than going in.


I know that's not a great result and I don't want to go another 30 years and only serve 15 or 20 people. So I'm done, but I didn't know what I wanted to do. And it turns out when I got back into town, I drove down out of the mountains where I live in the town and heard the one and only public service announcement for a new master's degree in peacemaking and conflict studies being offered at Fresno Pacific university, which is the west coast Mennonite university. And that caught my attention. So I checked it out and they were a little skittish about having a lawyer come into their program, especially somebody like me who had a pretty ferocious reputation. And I was a little skiddish about their orientation, but we just decided to give it a try. And it was amazing. The Mo one of the most amazing educational experiences of my life. And I spent three years as a full-time master's degree student. I was a three-quarters time law professor teaching at our local law school and a full-time trial lawyer. And that was the end of my first marriage.


So that's how it started. And I had talked to my partners about leaving trial practice and creating a problem solving practice, and they were horrified by that idea. So ultimately they forced me out, and that was the greatest thing that ever happened to me because I left. And like I said, in 2000 and opened my own peacemaking and mediation practice. And I'll say that since that time, I haven't made nearly the kind of money I made as a lawyer, but the satisfaction of my life and the thousands and tens of thousands of people that I've helped and made their lives better in the last 20 years far exceeds any dollar that I could ever possibly earn. It's an amazing life. And I just learned that having the big house and the big car and all the status stuff is not important when you're out there serving people and changing lives. And so that's, that's what happened. Yeah. I mean,


Oh gosh, what an epiphany you know, have you ever sat back and thought, you know, now that you've gone through this journey and you know, I guess somewhat of a transformation you know, what your life would have been, had you not gone through


You're right, Ken, I mean, I look at my colleagues, not that I see much during the pandemic, but they're all worn out husks and none of them are, and none of them are happy and I'm 70 years old. And I look like I'm 50 and I act like I'm 50. I it's amazing. When I stopped chasing the dollar and started following my heart, everything changed everything. And I make a decent living. And, you know, I live on 10 acres in the middle of the central Sierra, Nevada, and we isolate up here because of the pandemic, but it's just w my wife and I, we just never want to leave the property. We go, and we leave the property once, you know, once a week maybe, and I've got high speed internet. So everything I do is online and everything she does is online. It's, I mean, it's amazing. We work hard. I mean, we're entrepreneurs, we obviously work hard, but you know, it's an amazing life.


Yeah, no, it sounds like it, I cannot even imagine how fulfilling that must be to have, you know, sort of gone down the path that you have. Again, this week we're talking with Mr. Doug Noll, you can find out more at His last name actually spelled N O L L, just like it sounds. And he also has created a page for us, for our listeners. So you can go to to find out more about what he has going on and some of his online courses his books. And that's what we're going to talk about in the next segment. We're going to almost coming up against a break here, but we're going to talk again about how to calm an angry person in 90 seconds or less, which, again, as I mentioned at the outset of the show is something that we all deal with weather, you know, as I sort of jokingly mentioned that you're with yourself, when you get angry, I just had a, maybe a bit of an incident yesterday, driving in the car and traffic. So I'll be curious to learn some of this myself. I can use it the next time I want to commute. Actually, we'd be in the car for a good bit tomorrow. So I'll be able to use some of these these, these new new skills. So come back after the break on Mr. Biz radio, we'll continue talking when Mr. Doug Noll,


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All right. Welcome back to Mr. Biz radio. And I cannot wait to hear some of this, Doug. I know you're going to have some things I'm going to be writing feverishly with some notes here. So as we've talked about, Doug is going to help us learn how to calm an angry person, 90 seconds or less, which again, as I mentioned is the title of his fourth book, go and check that out. All everywhere you find books on a regular basis, but Doug, talk to me, how, how can we calm an angry person, including ourselves in 90 seconds or less? Okay.


Secret is counter-intuitive. And that is you're going to learn how to listen to, and to reflect emotions, not words. So the three steps are number one, when you're confronted with an angry person or any emotional person, they could be happy. They could be grieving. It could be any emotion, but let's just stick with anger. Since that's common. The first thing you're going to do is ignore their words. We have all heard angry words before. There is no news here we can. We don't need to listen for 35 or 45 90 seconds. We don't need to listen to the words. We want to ignore the words for two important reasons. One, we don't want to get triggered ourselves. And if they're screaming in our face and spitting at us, they're so angry, we will get triggered and then we'll do something that we probably won't help the situation much.


The second thing that happens when we ignore the words, is it frees up bandwidth in our brain, does it to do the next few steps. So one of the hardest things people have is learning how to ignore words, because we've been taught since two years old, listen to the word. Well, you know, the research shows that words only consistent 7% of total human communication in an utterance. Only 7% of information is conveyed by words. We can afford to ignore the words. Step number two, we're going to listen to the emotions that the angry person is having in the moment. Obviously anger is right there, out in front. No question about that, but there are many other emotions that are underneath that. Anger is a presenting emotion, but typically underneath there's going to be disrespect. People are not going to feel appreciated. They're going to feel anxious.


They're going to feel maybe embarrassed or humiliated or shamed. They're going to feel that they might feel sad. They might feel frightened. There could be a lot of different emotions under that. And what we want to do is listen to what's going on underneath. And when people will say, geez, I hardly even aware of my own emotions, not going to be aware of somebody else's emotions. Well, the secret is that our brains are hardwired to listen to and read emotions. Human beings have only had speech vocabulary for less than 230,000 years. And for millions of years before then, hominids congregated did gather and clans and groups and families, and they communicate, but they communicate through gestures and signs and emotions. And so our brains became very adept at reading what other people were feeling and experiencing without the use of words. And we still have that ability.


The problem is that our, all of our educational training ignores that part of our brain. So it's never really well-developed, but we can develop it very quickly. All you do is sit in silence, somebody yelling at you, you sit there, you're ignoring the words and you just sort of relaxed and listen for the emotions. Then they will pop into your consciousness. As soon as the emotion pops into your consciousness, you're going to reflect it back to this angry person with a simple use statements. So I would say something like, Hey, Ken, man, you are really off. You really angry. You really upset. You feel completely disrespected. You've been completely ignored and you're completely unappreciated. And you're a little anxious because you're kind of depending on people to get stuff done and they're not. And it's just really frustrating to you. And you were a little sad because you feel like you've been betrayed and you feel like you've been abandoned and nobody is supporting you.


And that's just really the whole thing just really you off. And just by doing what I just did, you would be amazed how quickly you can calm down and be person you're looking for four things. You're looking for a nod of the head. You're looking for your speaker to say something like, yeah, or exactly. You're looking for a dropping of the shoulders. And you're watching for a sigh of relief, an involuntary relaxation response. The scanning studies I mentioned earlier. Now they're over 20 of them all show that when we reflect back emotions, we are literally lending our prefrontal cortex to the person who's angry because that person's prefrontal cortex is offline. We're lending them our prefrontal cortex for the 30 to 45 seconds. It takes for that pre frontal cortex to come back online. And what the brain scanning studies show is that as the prefrontal cortex comes online, the emotional systems that are now highly activated, actually deactivate and calm down. And it literally takes 30 to 90 seconds for this to happen. Our brains are hardwired for it. It all happens unconsciously. And the angry person doesn't even know what you're doing. And all of a sudden they feel calm and relaxed. And they're saying, thanks, thanks for listening to me. And that's the secret, that's how you do it. It's that simple. Yeah.


And it makes a lot of sense. I feel like, at least for me personally, I'm as I'm sort of reflecting myself in situations that I've been in is, you know, I think it's going to take some practice just like anything else. Right. cause I, I can tell you one of the things that I know that I'm guilty of and I don't, I don't think I'm alone in this, but when I'm dealing with someone who's angry or upset about something, I go instantly into fix it mode.


That's right. Problem solving. Yeah.


I want to make that. I want to make whatever situation I want to make it better for that person. I want to, you know, alleviate if you're upset and you're crying and I want to make, you're not crying, you know, if you're ticked that something didn't get done well, let's figure out how to get it done. And I can tell you and I don't know if it's yeah, I was gonna say, I don't know if it's gender specific, but I it's


Work. Especially with women.


I was just going to say, I've got three daughters and you know, between my wife and three daughters, you know, I've, I, my wife has even said it to me sometimes. You know, she'll she'll she said, can you just, can you just stop? Yeah. You know, and I'm thinking, gosh, I'm, I'm doing all this great stuff. I'm trying to alleviate the problem.


Let me get, let me, that is an extremely problem. So let me explain just a couple of things. One, the mantra is deescalate them. Problem solve. Never try to fix a problem until you've got somebody calm down. It doesn't matter whether it's man or woman calm them down first, by reflecting back their emotions. And then you can start finding out whether or not there's a problem that needs to be solved when people go to problem solving first it's because they're anxious about they're feeling anxiety around the other person's emotions and they don't know what to do. And there's this weird perverse thing that goes on our heads saying, if I can stop them from feeling anxious or upset or angry and mad, I'm going to feel better because they don't have emotions that are making me anxious. But it's the worst thing you can do. It's called emotional invalidation. And you want, you don't want to emotionally invalidate people. You want to emotionally validate them. You don't have to agree with them, but they're having an emotional experience, validate their emotions by reflecting a Mack. Then when they're calm, you can do problem solving extremely powerful. How old are your daughters?


21 almost 18


And 11. Okay. The 11 year olds. Perfect. So, so next time your 11 year old gets a little sideways. Just label her emotion. Say, dear, you're really angry. You're frustrated. You're sad. You feel disrespect, whatever. It might be. Just label her emotions very quickly, very conversationally and watch what happens. It will be a completely different result than anything you've ever experienced before.


Oh, I can imagine because I, and I'm not just saying this, Doug, as you were sort of giving that example earlier,


Right? You notice how calm you down. Right.


It calmed me down and I wasn't even, I know I wasn't even fired up, but I am me down. Yeah.


It's big for people who are listening to this. When I, when I ask that label, can you felt the same thing? You felt that relaxation? He said, oh my God, this guy's nailing it. He's getting exactly how I feel. And he does. And I'm on there in the audience, listening to him. It's how it works. It's the most powerful skill you can learn to master without a doubt.


Yeah. That's an absolutely amazing, oh my gosh. This has been absolutely fantastic. Doug. gosh again guys, we've been talking with Mr. Doug Noll, you can go out to or go for specifically for our listeners. Go out to You can find out all the good stuff he's got going on, including based on what you just heard. You might want to pick up a copy of his book deescalate, how to comment on person 90 seconds or less. Doug, I really appreciate you coming on the show. Fantastic. information.


Thanks so much. Ken has been a lot of fun. We'll do it again.


Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Guys, look, Doug gave us all sorts of golden nuggets there that are going to be valuable for all of us. So make sure you relisten to this bad boy. So thanks for listening guys. Have a great week and don't forget as always, you know what I'm going to say. Cash flow is king.


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