Friday, August 24, 2012

Verbal Deescalation

Oftentimes, we encounter someone who is upset in the course of our week, be it at work or in the community. The person gets angrier and the situation starts to come to a head. What the end result may be  depends on the person bringing potential violence or simply making those in earshot uncomfortable. How do you calm a person like this? Perhaps you are the customer service representative, a police officer, or a concerned citizen.

Here are some simple and basic techniques for deescalation:

  • Talk in a calm manner that does not demean or belittle the person. 
  • Keep your voice even and speak a little softer than you usually would.
  • Use their first name; this keeps them grounded to you and the moment. 
  • Choose words that are short and simple. 
  • Nod and be agreeable, but not pandering.
  • Be vague instead of saying "no." Think of the movie The Negotiator. 
  • Work with the person, as best you can, and offer to help find a satisfying resolution. 
  • Stay until the problem is resolved. 
  • Be aware until the person has fully left the vicinity.

If the person you are dealing with has mental health issues (and there is no way you would know), these things may potentially deescalate a very bad situation and may help to stabilize the individual so they can be further processed by an authority figure.

Some states are requesting that police officers go through a 40-hour deescalation training, but it is not mandatory. Read an article on how this may have saved the life of a mentally ill man in Pennsylvania recently in the San Francisco Chronicler.

If you know someone often on the verge of angry outbursts, consider referring them for anger management. I counsel anger management for teens and adults, individually and in groups through a 10-week curriculum. Call for a consultation 954-612-9553.

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