Avoid Dumping Onto OthersIf someone in a position of authority or influence over you has treated you poorly chances are good you won’t retaliate in kind, you’ll find someone else to vent your frustration onto. That only creates more misery for others and starts a chain of strain. A recent study suggests a way to break that chain and make life easier for others and may also help your clients control their emotions.

If a person acts unfairly in his or her professional or business life, that person can lose the loyalty of an employee or business partner. The subordinate subjected to this abuse often blows off steam by taking it out on their subordinates. Emotions can run high and the uninvolved and innocent outsider can be drawn into this chain of injustice according Prof. Dr. Bernd Weber from the Center for Economics and Neuroscience of the University of Bonn who was involved in a study on the issue, according to Science Daily.

Avoid Dumping Onto Others

This phenomenon is called “generalized negative reciprocity” because it involves “pay back” with unfair behavior inflicted upon a person who is uninvolved with the original interaction. The original perpetrator may not get this “pay back” because of fear of additional retaliation or other negative consequences.

A team of researchers at the University of Bonn discovered that one way to break this chain, regulate emotions and reassess the situation is by writing a message to the perpetrator. This suggestion comes as the result of an experiment involving 237 subjects playing the “dictator game.”

  • Some participants played the role of the dictators. They decided whether to share some money fairly with another participant or keep most of it.
  • 83% percent chose to keep most of the money for themselves.
  • The other players could do nothing about it and had to accept the dictator’s decisions.
  • This situation caused the short changed players to behave unfairly towards others in turn as an outlet for negative emotions.
  • To disrupt this process three approaches were tried: a three-minute break to try to create some emotional detachment, participants were asked to describe a neutral picture in order to distract themselves and the affected persons complained about the unfair treatment in a written message to the “dictator.”
  • The written complaint was the most effective way to control negative emotions even when the message was never actually sent. The subjects’ emotions were much more calm after writing the message and they behaved more fairly towards others.

Litigation can be filled with high emotions. If your client is emotionally wrapped up in the case perhaps your client should write a letter (but not send it) to the other party explaining his or her feelings and why he or she feels that way. Simply writing it down could help control those emotions, improve relations with their family and friends who may avoid getting the brunt of this anger and could be a good first draft to use in case your client has an opportunity to address the other party during a mediation or negotiation.