Doug Noll De-Escalate

Audio Episode

Doug Noll and Laurel Coffer started the Prison Peace Project in 2009, which has trained over 1000 women and 1000 men to be peacemakers and mediators. The project has expanded to 15 California prisons, a prison in Connecticut, 14 prisons in Greece, and startups in Italy and Nairobi. The curriculum teaches inmates how to listen, de-escalate, conduct listening peace circles, make durable agreements, coach people, manage strong emotions, and morally reengage people who are morally disengaged. The project has had a 0% recidivism rate, and none of its students have reoffended. The speaker discusses their work teaching incarcerated individuals conflict resolution skills, which has led to a transformation in their behavior and a shift towards promoting peace. They explain their technique of cognitive empathy, which involves reflecting on someone's emotions to them, and how it can lead to a calming effect on the brain. The meeting discussed the use of "you" and "I" statements in communication, with the conclusion that "you" statements are ineffective and "I" statements should be used to express one's own emotions. The importance of emotional competency was also emphasized, with the distinction made between emotional intelligence (a measure) and emotional confidence (a set of skills). The meeting discussed how emotional incompetence is passed down from parents to children, causing emotional stunting in adults. The solution is to learn emotional competence and identify triggers through environmental cues and affect labeling. Doug offers public speaking, coaching, and workshops on listening skills and emotional confidence. His goal is to help people become better listeners and spread peace.


Action items

  1. Use "I" statements instead of "you" statements in communication.
  2. Learn emotional competence and identify triggers through environmental cues and affect labeling.
  3. Attend public speaking, coaching, and workshops on listening skills and emotional confidence offered by Doug Noll.

Bio Doug Noll

Author, Speaker, Peacemaker, Visionary
Douglas E. Noll, JD, MA left a successful career as a trial lawyer to become a peacemaker. His calling is to serve humanity, and he executes his calling at many levels. He is an award-winning author, teacher, trainer, and a highly experienced mediator. Doug’s work carries him from international work to helping people resolve deep interpersonal and ideological conflicts to training life inmates to be peacemakers and mediators in maximum-security prisons.

Doug Noll

[00:00:00] Doug Noll: Right. Here's something that most people don't know, they, at about, in the, at the beginning of the second trimester of pregnancy, of gestation, the, the fetus brain starts to develop. It's, it starts developing neurons at 100 million neurons per second from the second trimester until shortly before birth.

[00:00:23] Anything that gets in the way of that process is detrimental. And think about, um, of course, the people I work with in prison, they, they're, they're drug addicted, alcohol, alcohol laden mothers, completely screwed them up. So, um, you're right, it starts very early and it continues after birth. And it, it's exacerbated by the fact that parents being emotionally incompetent

[00:00:58] tend to abuse their children, unknowingly abuse their children emotionally. And that leads to the trigger episodes that you're talking about. And, and it can be a trigger, emotional trigger can be a smell, it can be a temperature, it can be a humidity level, it can be anything that triggers a, a old memory of a trauma event in childhood that causes you to explode as an adult. And you're right, it's all unconscious, it's outside of our control and it all creates high reactivity. And the antidote to all of that is to learn, is learning how to become emotionally competent, starting with learning cognitive empathy.

[00:01:43] Ed Watters: To overcome, you must educate. Educate not only yourself, but educate anyone seeking to learn. We are all Dead America, we can all learn something. To learn, we must challenge what we already understand. The way we do that is through conversation. Sometimes we have conversations with others, however, some of the best conversations happen with ourself. Reach out and challenge yourself; let's dive in and learn something right now.

[00:02:34] Today we're speaking with Doug Noll. Doug Noll is a visionary, a peacemaker, an author, and a lot more. Doug, could you please introduce yourself, let people know just a little bit about you, please?

[00:02:47] Doug Noll: Sure, Ed. Uh, I was a trial lawyer for 22 years and then through a series of interesting personal events and enlightenments, left the practice of a law in, uh, 2000 to become a peacemaker and mediator. And I did that because I had been working on my master's degree in peacemaking and conflict studies. And in that academic program taken in midlife, um, I, I learned all the reasons why people don't like lawyers and why I didn't like being a trial lawyer.

[00:03:22] Ed Watters: Interesting.

[00:03:23] Doug Noll: And no, I decided that I could,

[00:03:25] Ed Watters: That's a show, that's a show all to itself, Doug.

[00:03:28] Doug Noll: Right. I just decided, that's okay, I decided I could serve more people as a peacemaker than I could as a trial lawyer. And since I was all about service and am about service, that's what I decided to do. And that's how my real career launched. And since that time, it's been over 20 years, um, it's been an amazing journey.

[00:03:51] Ed Watters: Yeah. So the, the one thing that really caught my eye when your information came across the desk is, your project, it's the Prison to Peace project.

[00:04:04] Doug Noll: Right.

[00:04:05] Ed Watters: This is fascinating. You claim that there's 0% recidivism rate, could you explain what that is and how that is possible?

[00:04:17] Doug Noll: Yeah. Uh, let me start at the beginning. In 2009, my colleague Laurel Coffer received a letter from a woman serving a life sentence without possibility of parole in the largest, most violent women's prison in the world, which at that time was Valley State Prison for women in Chowchilla, California. And while she was standing at her mailbox, Laurel called me and read me the letter and said, What do you think?

[00:04:42] And I said, I think we should do this. So, six months later we found ourselves in that prison training 15 women, all of them lifers and long-termers, how to become peacemakers and mediators. Laurel and I are both, uh, adjunct faculty members at the Straus Institute of Dispute Resolution at the Pepperdine University School of Law and are long-time mediation trainers and peacemakers.

[00:05:06] And we decided when we started this project that we would do a very different curriculum than the way most people teach mediation. We decided that we would start teaching some very foundational life skills, and that turned out to be genius on our part and transformational for the women. So to make a very long story short, because we've been at this now for, what? 13 years.

[00:05:32] Um, the, we were three years at Valley State Prison for women. By the time we were done, we trained over a thousand women to be peacemakers and mediators. The violence had completely dropped. It hadn't completely been eliminated, but it dropped dramatically. So much so, we got a letter from the warden telling us that. And then the prison was converted to a men's prison.

[00:05:52] So we started training the men and we got exactly the same results. I mean, we, the, we, we trained, in the next three years, we trained about another thousand men to be peacemakers. And that, that the men's prison was not violent, but tremendous changes. And then we got at that, by that time, this is 2016, the state began to recognize what we were doing and started funding us. So that by the time the pandemic hit, we were in 15 California prisons, a prison in Connecticut,

[00:06:22] we had a colleague doing 14 prisons in Greece, um, and we had startups in Italy and Nairobi. And then when the pandemic hit, we pivoted. We did distance learning for all of our incarcerated students and, and then hired a Hollywood film crew and filmed our entire curriculum, so it's now digital. Um, the numbers you were referring to, we keep track of people who were released

[00:06:48] and over the years we've had about 8,000 of our students released on parole in California. And to our, to our knowledge, and we do try to track this, we could be mistaken, but uh, we try to keep very close tabs on our people, um, none of our people have re-offended, zero recidivism. And many of our inmates have gone out, uh, and, uh, students have gone out and done amazing things in their communities. So it's been quite the project and it, it, it's obviously exceeded my expectations and is really gonna be a, a, a legacy project of mine and Laurel's.

[00:07:26] Ed Watters: Well, it's, it's very interesting. So the core is basically teaching these offenders basic core life skills and how to cope with anger, hostilities, conflicts, things like that?

[00:07:42] Doug Noll: Yeah. We're teaching them, we start out by teaching them how to listen, four levels of reflective listening. And the last level, affect labeling, is a skill you use to deescalate. In fact, my fourth book that you mentioned, De-Escalate, was written at the request of my incarcerated students. Uh, and so that fourth level,

[00:08:00] affect labeling, which we can talk about, is what really deescalates people. And we taught the inmate our, we taught our students how to do that and they successfully stopped gang riots, and assaults, and murders, and all kinds of stuff. I mean it, just by doing that, they would have the skills necessary to stop prison violence.

[00:08:18] And we've digitized the, the, the entire curriculum. But what we were talking about is, why does this work? What we do is we teach some very foundational life skills, we teach our inmates how to listen and deescalate, and then they learn how to be leaders as we teach them how to conduct what we call listening peace circles. And then we teach them how to make durable agreements, how to get somebody to do something when you want them to do it and make an agreement that'll work. How to

[00:08:43] coach people and help people solve problems without giving advice. How to manage strong emotions and how to morally reengage people who are morally disengaged, kind of a good thing to know in prison. And then when they master all those skills, we then train them to be mediators. So it's a long process.

[00:08:59] Uh, today in a, in a typical prison yard, it would take a year to take an inmate from ground zero to being a fully certified mediator. But they learn all these life skills and it completely changes who they are because all they've known all their lives is violence, that's what they were taught by their parents.

[00:09:20] And, you know, murderers aren't born, they're bred. And so these people, these people, all, the only conflict resolution method they knew was violence and anger. And yet, and they hate it, believe it or not. Uh, I haven't met any incarcerated person that didn't hate violence and would do anything possible to avoid violence. But they just didn't have the tools.

[00:09:41] And once you give them the tools, everything changes for them. And not only become non-violent, but they become, they start proselytizing peace because they see it as the only way to be, an amazing transformation.

[00:09:55] Ed Watters: So what got, what got you going into this? What, what drew you to the prison [00:10:00] and, you know, why, why choose to help those that have already offended?

[00:10:07] Doug Noll: Well, I developed this deescalation technique back in 2005 and it's based on neuroscience and it absolutely works. But it's very counterintuitive and counter normative so I was getting a lot of resistance from people. My peers, uh, were very resistant to these ideas and saying, This'll never work. And you know, this is

[00:10:30] touchy, feely BS, you know, all the, all the pejoratives. So when Laurel talked about the opportunity to go into a prison, I thought, here's the perfect opportunity to acid test whether or not these skills work. Because we're not gonna teach something that doesn't work the first time, every time without failure because lives will be at stake.

[00:10:50] So I figured if I could go in and start training incarcerated people how to be powerful peacemakers, and we were effective at it, that who could gain say what I'm teaching, you know? I mean, these skills obviously work, so, um, you know, stop the criticism and learn them.

[00:11:10] Ed Watters: Yeah.

[00:11:10] Doug Noll: And that was, that was one of the motivating factors.

[00:11:14] Ed Watters: Yeah. One, one of the big things that I took away and learned from researching you is, empathy. You know, I, I thought I knew what empathy really was. I thought I knew how to, uh, manage it and, you know, identify it. But I found out there's two types of empathy.

[00:11:37] Doug Noll: Correct.

[00:11:38] Ed Watters: That's very important and it really awakens you to what empathy truly is. Could you talk about what empathy truly is?

[00:11:48] Doug Noll: Yeah, most people, most people, yes, of course, most people think that empathy is walking in another person's shoes or trying to understand them and, and that's a very broad but kindergarten approach to empathy. Empathy, empathy is a social skill that has to be learned and mastered.

[00:12:06] And there are two kinds of empathy, cognitive empathy and what's known as affective empathy. Cognitive empathy is where you start, that's what I teach. And in cognitive empathy, you're going to engage in a skill called affect labeling. All this is technical, I'll boil it down and keep it simple. So when, what we're really talking about is being able to guess at somebody's emotional experience that they're having in the moment.

[00:12:31] And then reflect back their emotions with a simple you statement, essentially telling somebody what their emotional experience is. And that sounds very, a very weird thing to do, why would I tell somebody what they're feeling? And even if I did tell somebody what they're feeling, is it likely that I'm gonna get punched in the jaw?

[00:12:48] Because somebody thinks I'm being patronizing or thinks I'm manipulative or, you know, or what, or rude. Answer to all that is, No. Um, so when you develop cognitive empathy, you develop the ability to read somebody else's emotions and then reflect back those emotions to them, which then has a profound effect on that other person's brain.

[00:13:08] And what the brain scanning studies show is that when I label your emotions, the emotional centers of your brain become inhibited, they quiet down. And at the same time, the thinking part of your brain, your ventral lateral prefrontal cortex, activates. So instead of being haughty, emotional and reactive, after I label your emotions, you become calm and can process and think again.

[00:13:33] And this is, this, every, every human brain is hardwired for this and it happens, this is why it happens every time without fail. You, your brain cannot not respond to this because it's the way it's built. So after you've done cognitive empathy for a while, you, you, you get to a point where you can, now I, instead of

[00:13:52] thinking about feeling your emotion, thinking about your emotions, I start to feel your emotions. So you're telling me a story and all of a sudden I start feeling what you're feeling, and that's called affective empathy. And it turns out that it's a lot, it's a lot faster then cognitive empathy and you can go a lot deeper with it and it just develops naturally.

[00:14:13] You know, I teach cognitive empathy and then you, if, as you practice cognitive empathy, you master, you learn automatically affect, affective empathy. So empathy, the technical definition of empathy is the ability to perceive, interpret, assimilate, and reflect back the emotions of another person, that's the pure definition of empathy.

[00:14:36] It's not walking a mile in another person's shoes, it's not , it's not sympathy, which is horrible, you know, it's, it's really literally reflecting back somebody else's emotions from their frame of reference.

[00:14:52] Ed Watters: So, and a lot of people, you know, they confuse sympathy with empathy.

[00:14:56] Doug Noll: That's correct.

[00:14:57] Ed Watters: Even, even the basic kindergarten

[00:15:00] Doug Noll: Right.

[00:15:00] Ed Watters: model of it.

[00:15:01] Doug Noll: Sympathy is, yeah. Sympathy is, is an anxiety reducing mechanism for the speaker. Ed, I'm really sorry about the loss of your ding bat, right? Well, usually when somebody says something like that, if you're the person who's grieving, when somebody makes an I statement, it just, it shuts you down and you say, uh, you know, you don't care.

[00:15:26] And that's the way we all feel. And so, but people will offer sympathy because they don't know what else to say and because they have to soothe their own anxiety. And it's a form of what I call emotional invalidation. When I talk about the fact that I'm sorry that, at your loss, I'm essentially making myself more important than you and I'm invalidating you.

[00:15:47] And that's why sympathy is so bad. The only real response to emotion, whether it's happiness or grief, is to reflect back the emotion to the speaker from the speaker's frame of reference. And so, so I would, I counsel people don't ever, don't ever offer sympathy, always offer empathy. Always reflect back emotions.

[00:16:10] Ed Watters: So, so you do that through you statements?

[00:16:13] Doug Noll: Correct. This is another thing that is counterintuitive and counter normative. Back in the nine, back in the 1950s, a student of the great humanist psychologist Carl Rogers, who is named Thomas Gordon, was a psychol, well he was a, got his PhD at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where Rogers was teaching. And he, Rogers wasn't too interested in listening.

[00:16:38] But Gordon picked up on the idea that , what Rogers was really doing was, was listening. And Gordon also picked up on the idea that a lot of conflict is caused by blaming and shaming. So he created a, a, a methodology of using I statements to, um, to try to reduce conflict. And he made a whole industry out of it in the fifties and sixties,

[00:17:02] he was going all over the place teaching this stuff. Well, the problem was that the Human Potential Movement that started in the late fifties and sort of blossomed in the sixties took Gordon's work and completely misconstrued it and misunderstood it. And so we got into this really weird active listening stuff.

[00:17:19] Where you would say something like, What I hear you saying is X, or what I think you're feeling is X. It's all bullshit, it has never worked, it doesn't work today and it won't work in the future. And yet it's still taught, it's taught at Pepperdine, it's taught, my, my niece just got her Psy.D and she was taught this crap as a, at a doctorate level in psychology.

[00:17:43] There's no science to support it. It doesn't work, it never has worked. And so what does work are you statements, you know? And, and, and so when I say, Ed, you're really angry, you're really frustrated, you're really pissed off, man. Nobody listens to you, you're ignored, you feel unappreciated and unsupported.

[00:18:03] You're a little worried about all this, you're sad. You feel abandoned and betrayed, you don't feel loved. That is much more powerful than saying, Gee Ed, what I think you're feeling is X, Y, Z.

[00:18:15] Ed Watters: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, you, you can even just feel that.

[00:18:19] Doug Noll: You can feel it

[00:18:19] Ed Watters: As you said there, yes, as you

[00:18:21] Doug Noll: You felt it.

[00:18:22] Ed Watters: figure that out you can feel it.

[00:18:24] Doug Noll: You can feel it.

[00:18:25] Ed Watters: It's a big difference.

[00:18:25] Doug Noll: It's a huge difference.

[00:18:26] Ed Watters: Incredible. Yeah.

[00:18:29] Doug Noll: And, and

[00:18:31] Ed Watters: Go ahead.

[00:18:31] Doug Noll: I was, it drives me crazy that all these people in my profession and in the other therapeutic professions refuse to read the neuroscience. They refuse to look at the science and they, they persist in this old way of being and you know, it's, and they're, they're doing a lot of damage because I statements do a lot of damage. Now, the time you do use an

[00:18:50] Ed Watters: it shames a lot of time.

[00:18:51] Doug Noll: Yeah, exactly. The one time when, now the, what, what Gordon got right, was that you use an I statement to speak to, about your own emotions. So what I could say is, Hey, Ed, when you leave your dirty sock on the floor, I really feel disrespected and I feel like I'm not getting any support and it really, I really get upset by that. So that's a good use of I statement, I can talk about my own emotions. So I use you when I talk about your emotions. I use, I when I talk about my emotions. That's the distinction.

[00:19:22] Ed Watters: Yeah. That, that it, it is kind of counterintuitive to your brain.

[00:19:28] Doug Noll: It is.

[00:19:28] Ed Watters: Uh, another thing I really wanna talk to you about a little bit is the difference between emotional intelligence and emotional competence.

[00:19:42] Doug Noll: Yeah.

[00:19:42] Ed Watters: But, uh, what is the difference and why is it so important to know the difference?

[00:19:48] Doug Noll: One is a measure and the other is a set of skills. So you cannot learn emotional intelligence. I can't make, I, I can't teach you emotional [00:20:00] intelligence because it would be like saying, I can, I, I can teach you IQ, I can, I can teach you the Stanford- Binet IQ test. What people don't get, and this is a, partly a huge distortion by Daniel Goleman and all the people out there who tout emotional intelligence training, is that emotional intelligence is a form of social intelligence and it's a test and there are a couple of major different, uh, different strands of this. But Mayer and Salovey and Caruso's emotional intelligence test is probably the, the gold standard for this.

[00:20:35] And you take, you take their test and it tells you, it measures your emotional intelligence. Just like if I took an IQ test, it would measure my IQ. If I did a Watson Glaser critical thinking test, it would measure my critical thinking skills. And everybody gets all caught up on learning emotional intelligence.

[00:20:53] No, no, no, no, no, no, no. What you wanna learn are emotional competency, and there are three basic skills to be mastered. Emotional self-awareness, emotional self-regulation, and empathy. And here's where everybody gets screwed up. I, I, first of all, first of all, if you ever ask an emotional intelligence trainer,

[00:21:14] What, what is an emotion? They, every single one of them can't give you a good definition. They don't know what it is, they don't have any science. I've, I do, and I can give you a definition if you're interested. But the, the point being that, number one, they don't know what emotions are. Two, they don't understand that the fastest way to develop emotional self-awareness and self-regulation is to learn empathy, cognitive empathy, affect labeling.

[00:21:37] When I, this is what we saw in the prison when I taught these hardcore gang bangers, murderers how to read and reflect back emotions. Guess what? They developed empathy and then what happened? They developed emotional self-awareness and then what happened? They automatically began to self-regulate themselves and started changing as human beings.

[00:22:01] And we took some hardcore, uh, I'll never forget the first group of students I met at Corcoran State Prison, which is one of the supermaxes in California, we got two of them. These guys were former gang bangers and my first three classes, they were in shackles and cages. I had 12 cages semicircle around me.

[00:22:20] I'm teaching these guys in cages, that's how intense it was. Uh, and they all changed, every single one of them, and have amazing stories to tell. Uh, through the process of learning cognitive empathy through affect labeling, they then, that automatically grows they're emotional competency and they score well on emotional intelligence tests.

[00:22:47] Ed Watters: Interesting. So give us the definition of

[00:22:51] Doug Noll: Emotions?

[00:22:52] Ed Watters: emotion,

[00:22:52] Doug Noll: Yeah.

[00:22:53] Ed Watters: yes. Also identify for us what affect labeling is.

[00:22:59] Doug Noll: I will. Uh, in fact, I'm, I'll kind of take you through the process cause the definition of emotion has a lot of profound implications. So this is not my definition, this is the definition by neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett at Northeastern University, who I think is one of the deepest thinkers on these topics today. And she's just frigging a genius. But anyways, emotions are defined as biologically based patterns of perception, experienced physiology, action, and communication that are culturally created in our brains, that's a lot. But what does this really mean? It's the last phrase culturally created in our brains, we are not born with emotions.

[00:23:43] Ed Watters: Yeah.

[00:23:43] Doug Noll: We create emotions, we construct them and we begin constructing them at about 18 months of age. What we are born with is something called affect, A F F E C T. And affect is this, is basically the physiological experience of pleasantness and unpleasantness, it's very basic. There are a number of different models of affect. The one that I use is the one developed by psychologist Silvan Tomkins in the 1960s, his nine affect model. And basically we've got two positive affect, one neutral affect, and six negative affect. Now, imagine affect as colors. And so an artist could take these primary colors and mix them and get various intensities and hues almost in an infinite combination.

[00:24:34] It's the same thing with affect. We have these nine affect and we are, have the ability as human beings and this is what makes us human not rationality. So, so what our brains do with this is, at, starting at about 18 months of age, we, we have these nine affect and we start correlating different combinations of affect into things that we call emotions.

[00:24:55] These biologically based patterns of perception, experience, physiology, action, and communication. And so we start developing emotions at about 18 months and people say, Well, what do you mean we're not born with emotion? Well, the truth of the matter is the emotional centers of our brain do not even begin to start maturing until about 18 months.

[00:25:16] So we don't even have the capacity for emotions physiologically until then. So when we talk about affect labeling, it's really, affect is used in a little broader sense when we talk about affect labeling, but we're really talking about reflecting back somebody's emotional experience. So when I talk, I'm gonna label your emotions as we talked about before.

[00:25:40] You're, you're angry, you're sad, you're frightened, you're anxious, you're happy, whatever it might be. And you just, you're gonna label those emotions until you get a nodding of the head, a yes. Some people will usually say, Yeah, or Exactly, they'll drop their shoulders, and they'll exhale, they'll sigh. They'll be, they'll be relieved.

[00:25:58] These are all relaxation responses showing you that the emotional centers of the brain have been calmed down and the thinking part of the brain, the ventral lateral prefrontal cortex, has been activated. So we start with affect, we're born with affect, we learn to create emotions. Unfortunately, that is not a process that works very well in most families.

[00:26:22] So here's the challenge that we have, we've got, we're supposed, we're theoretically supposed to learn this thing in childhood. But the problem is our parents do not, since they're emotionally incompetent, they can't teach us how to be emotionally competent. And so we just pick up what they have, they're incompetency. And we pass it on to the next generation.

[00:26:43] And as a result of that, most people stop emotionally maturing between six and eight years old. So we grow up into being functional adults, but we have all these layers to hide all the emotional insecurities we have behind us. And, but whenever we get into conflict or stress, we, we revert back to where we were at 6, 7, 8 years old when we stopped, stopped growing emotionally.

[00:27:09] And the reason it happens between six and eight is because that's when kids first understand that they are living in an emotionally unsafe environment. Up until six, you know, kids are coddled and they're loved. And in a normal family, they're loved and coddled. But as, as they start to separate from mom and dad and start getting their own individual stuff, now mom and dad think they've got to toughen the little kid up.

[00:27:34] So they emotionally invalidate, don't, be a big boy, don't cry, don't be a sissy, don't be a girly girl. And, and basically telling kids to stuff their emotions. And so in many families, it's not okay to, to show negative emotions. You can be happy, but you can't be angry. If you're angry, you go to your room. So what are you taught?

[00:27:55] You're taught that emotions are bad, they're evil, they make you vulnerable, that you shouldn't feel emotions, that they're irrational. And as a consequence, that part of your brain never develops. And so we, were left as, uh, emotionally stunted adults, and you see it everywhere, everywhere. I mean, I mean, the reason that I'm, as a peacemaker, what I've come to realize is that all conflict is emotional. And it's largely because of a lapse in emotional development of people so that they are, they are not emotionally competent. And they're especially not competent, emotionally competent in high conflict situations.

[00:28:38] I mean, that's the definition. If they were emotionally competent, they wouldn't be in a high conflict situation. So I get called in and one of the first things I have to do is work with really intense emotions, which is how I got into all this.

[00:28:55] Ed Watters: Uh, uh, yeah. A lot of this is, uh, basically subconscious behaviors that we're dealing with. And it, it's interesting because I, I often think about how much of this is prenatal when the fetus is still in the womb and they're around in a, and sensing the conflict. And,

[00:29:25] Doug Noll: That's right.

[00:29:26] Ed Watters: you know, because they, they sense and they have feeling, even though they can't make sense,

[00:29:34] Doug Noll: They have affect. Right. You can call them,

[00:29:37] Ed Watters: Exactly.

[00:29:37] Doug Noll: They have affect.

[00:29:38] Ed Watters: Exactly, affect.

[00:29:40] Doug Noll: Here's the thing,

[00:29:40] Ed Watters: So,

[00:29:41] Doug Noll: Yeah.

[00:29:42] Ed Watters: Yeah. I, I find it fascinating because I, I see it firsthand both on my wife and myself and dealing with conflict as, as we do sometimes. We, we have to [00:30:00] realize these things that, some of the things that we're dealing with and the trigger points that sets it off is not always noticeable to us because we, we don't even realize we were put in that position, it's prenatal. Uh, your parents throwing and slamming things around, and arguing, all of this.

[00:30:24] Doug Noll: You're right. Here's something that most people don't know, they, at about, in the, at the beginning of the second trimester of pregnancy, of gestation, the, the fetus brain starts to develop. It's, it starts developing neurons at 100 million neurons per second from the second trimester until shortly before birth.

[00:30:48] Anything that gets in the way of that process is detrimental. And think about, um, of course, the people I work with in prison, they, they're, they're drug addicted, alcohol, alcohol laden mothers, completely screwed them up. So, um, you're right, it starts very early and it continues after birth. And it, it's exacerbated by the fact that parents being emotionally incompetent,

[00:31:23] tend to abuse their children, unknowingly abuse their children emotionally. And that leads to the trigger episodes that you're talking about. And, and it can be, a trigger, emotional trigger can be a smell, it can be a temperature, it can be a humidity level, it can be anything that triggers an, an old memory of a trauma event in childhood that causes you to explode as an adult.

[00:31:48] And you're right, it's all unconscious, it's outside of our control, and it all creates high reactivity. And the antidote to all of that is to learn, is learning how to become emotionally competent, starting with learning cognitive empathy. And then as you learn that you can start, then you take the time to start,

[00:32:06] I teach this in my courses, my client, my coaching clients, I teach them how, how do we identify our triggers? And then how do we reprogram our brains to get rid of those triggers? And it's very effective and it, you know, it, it takes, it doesn't take that much time if you're willing to work at it. Amazingly enough, you can completely shift everything in your life by learning some fundamental skills and doing a little bit of work on your triggers. And you'll never be in a fight or argument again, it's kind of phenomenal.

[00:32:39] Ed Watters: Yeah. Yeah, I, I find it very difficult sometimes to find out what's actually triggering.

[00:32:46] Doug Noll: You have to really think about it.

[00:32:48] Ed Watters: Yeah.

[00:32:49] Doug Noll: And so for example, I, here's, here's how, here's how you can do it. Think about the last time you got triggered. And by triggered, I mean, you, you, you, you reacted quickly and spontaneously for reasons that you're not even sure of but it turned into anger or upset of some kind.

[00:33:07] Either at yourself or at somebody else, or a combination. What you want to, the first thing you wanna do is start thinking about the environmental facts. Where was I? What time of the day was it? When was the last meal? What was the last meal that I had and what did I eat? What did I smell at this time?

[00:33:24] What did I, what did my perception, my, my sensory skin organs, what did, what was I feeling? What did I see? What did I hear? What did I taste? And what you really wanna do is get very granular about the entire environment . What, what memory came into my mind? I, what was said to me? And then what memory came into my mind? And I want, I, what I'm feeling

[00:33:45] got, what emotions got triggered the moment somebody said something? And you take all those environmental cues and then you say, Is this, is this, do I see a trend here? In other words, when I'm in this place, at this time, in this situation, after doing this with these kinds of environmental cues, am I likely to get triggered?

[00:34:05] And if the answer is yes, you've identified your trigger. And now you can start becoming aware of the fact that, alright, if it's six o'clock at night and I've had a beer or two and I'm tired and the sun is at a certain level and my wife says to me, X, y, z, am I likely to get triggered? Yeah, that's something that probably started back when I was three or four years old.

[00:34:31] All right, so now we just gotta unpack all of that and figure out what it is. And then you reprogram yourself by deciding, okay, what behaviors would I prefer to engage in when this happens again? And you start programming yourself to behave differently. And you coupled that with,

[00:34:49] Ed Watters: So, what

[00:34:51] Doug Noll: I was gonna say, you couple, you couple that with affect labeling, practicing cognitive empathy, and in a period of weeks you can, you can change yourself quite dramatically.

[00:35:01] Ed Watters: All right. So what were some of the difficulties in, in your personal life that made you find and relate these things into your system?

[00:35:13] Doug Noll: Yeah. Well, I wasn't born into a happy life, unfortunately. I was born into affluence, I was born into a upper, very upper middle class family so, and lived in a very nice part of Southern California. But I was born, uh, nearly blind, deaf, crippled, two club feet, couldn't walk until I was three years old, left-handed, bad teeth, I mean, I was a mess. And back then, uh, the people didn't know how to deal with a kid like me. I wasn't so far gone that, you know, I was a special needs kid, but I was far enough gone that they couldn't understand why I wasn't normal.

[00:35:53] In fact, they, they didn't even test my eyes until I was in the fourth grade. They couldn't understand why I was not doing well in school. And they test me and I've got 2400 vision, I can't see. They put glasses on me, big thick Coke bottle lenses, you know, everything's a total turn off to the girls. I mean, it destroyed me from a, from a peer acceptance kind of thing. But all of a sudden now I could see and read and, you know, I, I advanced two grade levels in one summer. And, you know, it was, um, it was rough and my parents didn't know how to deal with it.

[00:36:29] And they were, uh, you know, I love them, my dad's past, my mom is elderly now, but I love her dearly. But they were emotionally incompetent. And even today, she, today she'll, she'll admit that we didn't know what to do with you. So I had all this emotional baggage that I carried with me. And it wasn't until, and of course I went into a profession that attracts people like me, right?

[00:36:49] The law where you can be arrogant and aloof to hide all your insecurities and, you know, knowledge is power and all of that stuff. And it took me, you know, it wasn't until I was past my 50th birthday that I was able to start work, and left the practice of law, got out of that environment where I was able to really start working on, working on myself and learning affect labeling and then practicing it and all that.

[00:37:16] It, it took time for me to figure it out, but it really, it made a huge difference. And now I teach it in a way that people don't have to go through nearly the learning curve that I did. I can teach, teach most people in four to six weeks how to do this and they, their lives change forever, dramatically.

[00:37:31] Ed Watters: That's the beauty about sharing your information with others.

[00:37:36] Doug Noll: That's right.

[00:37:37] Ed Watters: Uh, what is it I wanted to talk to you about? In the late sixties, I believe it was early seventies, there was Professor Milgram, Stanley Milgram.

[00:37:54] Doug Noll: I, I'm very familiar with his stuff, right.

[00:37:56] Ed Watters: Awesome. Uh, this is, this is very important, especially in our world today.

[00:38:02] Doug Noll: Right.

[00:38:03] Ed Watters: People taking ownership of their own actions and identifying that they have to be in control of that, even under pressure.

[00:38:13] Doug Noll: Right.

[00:38:15] Ed Watters: Give us your outtake, your description of what this experiment is and why it is important for people to understand the outcome of the experiment.

[00:38:28] Doug Noll: Milgram was a psychologist at Yale University. And he was very interested in, in the 1950s, not even a decade, towards the end of World War II, he was very interested in why people were able to follow the authoritarian dictates that led to the Holocaust and things like that. So he, he got very interested in that and started devising a series of experiments to test how, where, how many people would disobey authority. And without going in, I can go into the details of what, what his most famous experiment was, but basically he found that about 60%

[00:39:10] of a normal adult population with no indication of psychopathology would actually follow an authoritarian figure's instructions to do great harm to another human being. And so he started a whole scholarly endeavor, academic endeavor on looking at moral engagement and moral disengagement. How are people morally disengaged by authority?

[00:39:37] And the answer turns out to be very complex. Uh, one, it, it has to do with our cultural malo that we're in. You know, in the fifties especially, people we're taught that authority is important and you've gotta obey authority. People were looking for certainty and they wanted safety and security, which has gone through,

[00:39:55] you know, the, that gener, our parents' generation had gone through, um, [00:40:00] a huge depression. Their grandparents had gone through World War I, and then a craziness, and then the Great Depression, and then World War II, I mean, for, for two, two generations it was nothing but existential threat. And so certainty and safety and, was par, a paramount desire and order. So authoritarianism was, was, um, a big deal in the 1950s. I mean, I remember seeing signs for haircuts saying, The authorities say these, these are the official haircuts for men, right? Total BS.

[00:40:38] Ed Watters: Wow.

[00:40:39] Doug Noll: But, uh, so Milgram started studying that and he found out that people, people who are looking, who want safety and security and order are willing to do evil things in order to secure those emotional needs.

[00:40:59] And, you know, and this, he tested this, this was tested and replicated across cultures and it was the same thing everywhere. People, uh, a large percent of the population who looked for safety and order and certainty would obey an authority figure and engage in an evil act. And 30%, about 30% said, No. No way, you know, and, and disobeyed.

[00:41:25] Ed Watters: Wow.

[00:41:26] Doug Noll: But it was much harder to disobey than it was to, to obey. And that is the danger of a, of authoritarian figures is that, and people who follow them. And we see this today, and people who follow authoritarian figures are fundamentally feeling unsafe. And they, and they, and they're feeling insecure and they're looking for order, and they're looking for safety and certainty. And they don't have to think,

[00:41:49] they just want people to tell them what to do. And they think that that is going to give them what they look for, safety. But it's really not because when you give up your freedom and your democracy, you lose everything. And now you have no control whatsoever. And you give power to an authority figure and the authority figure is gonna do everything in his or her power to maintain power, position, and privilege, which means the press.

[00:42:08] I mean, look at what Putin's doing in Russia. All you'd have to do is look at that. So, so the lure of authoritarianism is, as Milgram pointed out, is that it creates a false aura of safety and security. The authority figure promises to be the big daddy who will take care of you. But the danger is that when you give up your freedom, it's lost forever. And now the authority figure can punish you hard for, for no reason whatsoever and you have no redress.

[00:42:40] Ed Watters: Yeah, it's a funny world that we live in. Uh, so, our time is coming to a close. Do you have any call to action for our listeners?

[00:42:53] Doug Noll: For, for anybody who's interested in looking at my work, I actually created a, um, I created a, a webpage for everybody. And the webpage is I'll put it in the chat for you. Um,

[00:43:13] Ed Watters: All right.

[00:43:14] Doug Noll: And that way you can, and, and on that page are, um, four things. Let me put, let me put this in, There we go. Uh, on that page are four resources. The first resource is a, is a free ebook that will explain affect labeling and this idea of cognitive empathy.

[00:43:39] And talks a little bit about how I developed it and why it works and then gives you examples of how to, how to apply it. Um, so it's just a good overview of what we've been talking about. The second thing you can buy is, you can buy my book De-Escalate off of Amazon through my link, which I think last time I saw it, 13 or 14 bucks in the US, pretty cheap.

[00:44:01] Then you can also buy a couple of my video courses, online video courses that can teach you how to deescalate an angry person in 90 seconds or less. And the other courses are my emotional competency courses. So if you really want to develop emotional competency, you can take these courses and it will teach you everything that we've been talking about today.

[00:44:21] Ed Watters: Yeah, I wanna say thank you for the special link for our listeners. It's very helpful when people do the extra for listeners. Because helping people is an art, Doug, and you do it very well.

[00:44:39] Doug Noll: Thank you.

[00:44:40] Ed Watters: I wanna say thank you for being part of the Dead America Podcast. How can our listeners get ahold of you, besides your website?

[00:44:50] Doug Noll: My email,

[00:44:51] Ed Watters: Tell them

[00:44:52] Doug Noll: Yeah.

[00:44:52] Ed Watters: the services that you also provide.

[00:44:55] Doug Noll: Sure. My email is and I answer all my own emails. I'm a solo practitioner, I don't have an entourage, I don't have virtual assistance. If I, you email me, you'll get a reply back. I, I do a lot of different things. Uh, obviously I'm a mediator and a peacemaker and an arbitrator. So if you have disputes that are significant enough, you can engage me to come in and help you resolve all of that. Um, I also, of course, do public speaking and keynotes on these topics that we've been talking about. And I train and coach. I do a lot of, uh, workshops, both virtual and in-person workshops on these skills.

[00:45:34] So if you have a group that want, or an organization that wants to learn these skills, you can contact me about, uh, uh, doing online training, virtual training over Zoom or some other, any other platform. And then I, I also do one-on-one coaching and group coaching. So if you're, for example, an executive, or somebody in the listening professions like a lawyer, or a financial advisor, you wanna learn how to listen to your clients or your prospects, um, then I will teach you, coach you how to do that.

[00:46:05] And we, we work very intensely for four to six weeks to develop those skills. And sometimes I have, at various times during the year, I have groups where I have a group of people will come in, say 10 or 15 or 20 people, and we will work as a group on all of these skills. So there are all these different modalities I've developed for helping people develop themselves to become better human beings, better listeners, more empathic, more emotionally competent. And every time that happens, it's like dropping a little pebble into the pond of peace and these ripples spread out. And my, my goal is to spread as many ripples over the pond of peace as I possibly can.

[00:46:47] Ed Watters: I'm with you on that mission, Doug. I, I love it. Thank you for being part of the Dead America Podcast.

[00:46:53] Doug Noll: Thank you, Ed.

[00:46:58] Ed Watters: Thank you for joining us today. If you found this podcast enlightening, entertaining, educational, in any way, please share, like, subscribe, and join us right back here next week for another great episode of Dead America Podcast. I'm Ed Watters, your host, enjoy your afternoon wherever you may be.

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