The Storm Out: What Is It, and Why Do We Do It?

{3:45 minutes to read}

Sometimes in divorce negotiations, whether it’s a mediation or collaborative session, someone gets upset or feels unappreciated or insulted. Or they can’t believe what the other person just said and they feel very strong emotions, at which point they just get up and storm out.

The storm out is a physical, non-verbal communication.

The main point is “why?” Why do people storm out? We’ve all done it; it’s part of the human response. Storming out intentionally is most often a way to express the deepest possible feeling that the other person has gone too far.

I stormed out of my own divorce mediation. I threw all my materials, my little notebooks and my papers at him and stormed out. I intentionally left my purse behind, so it was clear I was coming back. My intention was not to end the negotiation; it was to make the point that what my ex-husband was saying was intolerable, and I wasn’t going to stay in the room.

It could be debated that after one party storms out, they cannot go back because going back loses face. However, that is not necessarily the case. Sometimes the strong emotional statement needs to be made. Going back in after making such a strong statement will often work to get the attention of the other person because the point has been made. Not only did I leave myself a safe way to go back in by leaving my purse, I left it so I had to; I made myself go back in.

People storm out of negotiations for a number of reasons. Sometimes people storm out because they’re just flooded-emotionally overwhelmed. Sometimes it is intentional, telling the other person they are prepared to leave if they have to. One thing is very clear about the storm out: it obviously indicates a high level of feeling – such a high level that it cannot be expressed in words.

In a future blog post, I’ll discuss how, as professionals, we should handle the storm out and be sensitive to what it means for the person in the context of the moment.

Katherine Miller


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