De-Escalation Part 2

Part One of our De-escalation discussion defined the different types of behavior that could lead to the need for de-escalation at the workplace. If you find yourself in an uncomfortable or threatening situation with an employee, these 10 de-escalation tips can help you mitigate the situation in the safest and best possible manner.  However, if you fear for your personal safety, do not hesitate to call your manager, other employees or 911 law enforcement.  No employee should ever be required to work in a situation where their personal safety is at risk.

TIP ONE – Be empathic and nonjudgmental.

When someone says or behaves in an odd or irrational way, try not to judge or discount their feelings.  Keep in mind that whatever the person is experiencing may be the most important thing in their life at that moment. 

TIP TWO – Respect their personal space.

If possible, stand 1 and a half to three feet away from the person who’s experiencing the escalation in behavior.  Allowing personal space tends to decrease a person’s anxiety and can help you prevent their acting out inappropriate behavior.

TIP THREE – Use nonthreatening nonverbal cues

such as eye contact, facial expressions, gestures, posture, body language and tone of voice. The more a person loses control, the less they hear your words and the more they react to your nonverbal communication. 

TIP FOUR – Avoid overreacting.

Remain calm, rational, and professional.  How you respond to their behavior can have a quick and direct effect on whether the situation escalates or defuses.

TIP FIVE – Focus on the person’s feelings.

Facts are always important, but how a person feels is at the heart of the matter or problem.  Some people have a problem identifying exactly how they feel about what’s happening to them. Watch and listen carefully for the person’s unspoken message. 

Try to say something like “can you give me an example or describe how the problem began?” Supportive words should let the person know that you are trying to understand what’s happening and lead to a positive reaction.

TIP SIX – Ignore challenging questions.

Responding to challenging questions often results in a power struggle.  When a person challenges your authority, redirect their attention to the real issue as you best understand it.

Ignore the challenge, but not the person.  Attempt to bring them back to focus on the problem and how you might work together to resolve it.

TIP SEVEN – Set limits.

If a person’s behavior is belligerent, defensive, or disruptive, give them clear, simple and enforceable limits.  Offer concise and respectful choices and consequences.  We will address this specific item in the next segment, “How to Set Limits.”

TIP EIGHT – Choose wisely what you insist upon.

It’s important to be thoughtful in deciding which rules or policies are negotiable and which are not.  For example, if your situation has an opportunity to accomplish a task in more than one way and still produce the required outcome, you might allow them to choose the method that they are comfortable with.

Allowing options and being flexible can often help you avoid unnecessary altercations.

TIP NINE -Allow some time for silence and reflection.

While it may seem counterintuitive to let moments of silence occur, sometimes it’s the best choice.  It can give them a chance to reflect on what’s happening and how she or he should proceed.  Silence can be a powerful communication tool.

TIP TEN – Allow time for decisions.

When a person is upset, they may not think clearly.  Give them a few moments to think about what you’ve said.  A person’s stress rises when they feel rushed.  Giving them some time helps calm a situation.

I hope you’ve found the above helpful and thought-provoking.  Please join us for the next all-important segment addressing how to best set behavioral limits.

And, if you should need any additional clarification or guidance, don’t hesitate to contact your local Express office. 

Until next time, this is Russ Moen for Express Pro Talks.