Explanation of the skill

This skill is utilized after you as a mediator or facilitator of a conflict conversation have requested person B to reflect what they have heard of person A's needs. You have made this request and you hear person B saying something other than reflecting back the other's needs and experience (i.e. either self-expressing or reflecting only other's judgments). This brings you to a choice point of responding with "Pulling B by the Ears," or providing person B with "Emergency First-Aid Empathy " (see skill 4), or in some other way.

Pulling by the Ears addresses the challenge of supporting people in a conflict conversation to demonstrate their hearing and understanding of the other's experience when they do not seem to understand the mediator's request to do this, and you do not believe it's because they are too emotionally triggered to empathize with the other. This skill involves re-requesting the person to reflect back what they heard the other's needs to be, and possibly to also to reflect back what they heard the other say about their experience. Doing this may involve other skills such as Interrupting, Empathy, and Self-Expression (education).

Examples of using the skill

We often use some variation of the following for coaching and learning purposes:

"Excuse me, excuse me... I do want to hear what you are saying right now, however, before I do that would you be willing to say back what you heard person A say were his needs. I heard him say he has needs for respect and consideration. Would you be willing to tell person A that you heard him say that he has needs for respect and consideration? OR Would you be willing to tell person A what you heard him say about those needs?"

"Would you try it again and this time leave him/her out of the need. Try to identify the need that's not being met, without any reference to who or how it will be met."

"Thank you for your willingness to say what you heard. And I also heard her say [something in addition to what was already reflected]. Are you willing to tell her you heard her say that?"


Triad practice with skill of "Pulling by the Ears"


1. Set up role-play
2. Mediator asks disputants to reflect:
     •   What they heard the other person's needs to be and
     •   How they feel about what they heard
3. Disputants asked to not reflect other's needs when asked unless truly moved to, and instead either express or reflect back judgments