Two cats fighting

Violent situations can happen anywhere: school, work, home, or on the street. Knowing how to de-escalate a violent situation can help you get through it safely.

Flaticon IconSigns of Escalation

If you witness the following signs in the body language of a person, you could be in in the middle of a violent situation waiting to escalate.

  • clenching fist

  • tightening jaws

  • pacing or fidgeting

  • rooster stance — chest protruding out more and arms more away from the body

  • disruptive behaviors — yelling, bullying, actively defying or refusing to comply with rules

Bull sneering and charging

What To Do ? !

When confronted with a violent situation, should you panic?

emoji: confused

If you’re upset, it will lead to further escalation of the situation. Calm down and begin to look at the situation and possibilities of intervening safely.

The Rock says, "Keep calm and stay in control"

But how to calm yourself down?

BREATHE.....

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Taking long, slow breaths helps the body to relax and reduce anxiety.inhale, pause, exhale, pause

Be Aware of....

Being aware of your surroundings is essential in case the situation further escalates. Keeping your posture calm and collected will help de-escalate the situation.

Your surroundings

  • see if there are other people in the room

  • check for the nearest exits (in case you need to escape)

  • check for any objects in the room which can be threatening (eg. sharp objects)

    Seth Meyer sitting and looking left, right, and up

Your posture

  • maintain a relaxed yet attentive posture

  • maintain eye contact and a neutral facial expression

  • don’t shrug your shoulders or point your fingers at the person

  • place your hands in front of your body

  • maintain a distance of 3 to 6 feet

Clint Eastwood with cigarette in mouth, nodding calmly

Do's And Don'ts

Many hands sticking sticky notes saying 'do, don't' , on a man's face.

DO'S

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  • move and speak slowly

  • focus your attention on the person to let him/her know you are listening

  • acknowledge the feelings of the other person

Peter Parker crying, saying

DON'TS

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  • challenge, threaten, or dare the person

  • make sudden movements which can be seen as threatening

  • reject all of the demands of the person from the start

  • try to make the situation seem less serious than it is

    Road to El Dorado, Tulio pointing Miguel and saying "I blame you"

Quiz

If someone is being confrontational and ranting at you, what would you do?

Be defensive

Stay calm and continue doing your work

Let that person vent and then talk

Give justifications

But What To Say ?

Flaticon IconCommunication is a key factor in de-escalating a situation. If you're not sure what to say, these statements may help you build a rapport with the person:

  • "What can I do to help?" (ask)

  • "I hear how angry you are about this situation." (empathize)

  • "In what way do you feel that I could help you?" (ask for suggestions)

  • "How can we work together to make this better and make sure everyone stays safe?" (ask for opinion)

Shalita Grant smiling and pointing, caption ' I feel you'

Asking open-ended questions and paraphrasing the response to clarify miscommunication helps. Empathizing with the person (even if they are wrong) will be helpful in the moment. Being non-judgmental will help the person calm down and build trust in you.

Quiz

What would you choose to do while de-escalating a violent situation?

Be an active listener

Explain how he/she can correct it

Make a promise to fulfil their need

Tell the person to calm down

Take Action

If your efforts are not helping de-escalate the situation, don't worry. No person, group, or set of conditions can guarantee de-escalation.

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Boy running in a hallway and slides to barely escapes through a closing garage door

If de-escalation isn't working:

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This Byte has been authored by

SP

Sara Pirani

Engineer, educator, life long learner