Do your employees work in a high-stress environment?

verbal de-escalation

Are they often confronted by customers, clients, or others in situations of conflict or hostility?

Do they need verbal de-escalation skills?

There are four steps to de-escalating a situation:

Step 1: Recognize and Assess the Situation

Your safety is paramount. You must first assess the degree of danger you are in. Ask yourself:

  • “Is there a path that can allow me to retreat?”
  • “Does the agitated person have a weapon or are they threatening to retrieve one?”
  • “Am I being threatened with bodily harm?”
  • “Am I confident I can interact with this individual without becoming defensive or angry?”

You should only proceed if you feel confident and safe.

Step 2: Respond Calmly

Human beings tend to mimic each other’s behavior, so don’t respond with anger, sarcasm, or inflexibility. Take a deep breath and access your thinking self, not your feeling self. This rational detachment is your ability to not take the insults or anger heaped onto you personally.

You must: project a calm appearance. Relax your facial muscles, use a low monotonous speaking tone, don’t be defensive, and don’t smile or touch the person.

Step 3: Listen with Empathy

Give the agitated person the chance to express themselves, even if that expression is to unload on you. Listen clearly to what is being said and acknowledge it, saying “I hear what you’re saying.”

Step 4: Validate and Show Respect

Start by being aware of your own physical stance. Stay at eye level with the person, allow for extra personal space, and stand at an angle rather than face to face. Avoid constant eye contact, pointing, shaking fingers, and keeping hands in your pockets. Keep hands open and empty of anything that could be interpreted as a weapon.

YOU are attempting to set the stage for a reasonable exchange.

Ask for their name, but avoid cliches, humor, sounding judgmental, and don’t answer abusive questions. Your goal isn’t to win the interaction, it’s to help the other person feel respected, so don’t try to argue with or convince them that they’re wrong.

Explain limits, rules and possible solutions. Help the person recognize their freedom of choice and that you respect whatever they choose.

Say kind things like:

  • “Thank you for sharing your concerns with me”
  • “I understand what you’re saying”
  • “You have every right to feel the way you feel”

Remember: You always have permission to retreat if you don’t feel safe.

When to Avoid Confrontation

Avoid a threatening interaction when you see the appearance of weapons or hear the threat of weapons, bodily harm, or personal insults and abusive language. Always trust your instincts: if your gut tells you that you are in danger, retreat.

Enroll Your Staff in Active Shooter Preparedness and Verbal De-escalation Training

TPOP’s verbal de-escalation course gives each learner the knowledge and confidence to manage workplace conflict — before it turns into workplace violence.

Let’s talk today about your training needs.