Why It’s Necessary to De-Escalate Situations

Our natural inclination is to react, which typically happens due to a person’s needs not being adequately met. This could be a need to control the environment to feel safe, a lack of resources to complete tasks, a lack of information, or a lack of attention. All of this is a recipe for making a situation worse. Humans (and human behavior) are complex and don’t always make sense in crisis situations.

Other examples of what could cause an escalation in the workplace or school environment when working with colleagues or those you support include:

  • Not enough clarity on tasks and roles;
  • Clashing personalities and values;
  • Poor communication;
  • Overwhelming workloads; and
  • Exclusion and marginalization.

All of these factors can elicit reactions, which can cause the situation to escalate further. As emotions run high, sorting out everything can be a challenge during and after the fact. Signs to watch out for that a situation might be escalating into something more include:

  • Raised voices;
  • Increase of pitch;
  • Offensive language; and
  • Parroting.

A person in escalation can also give non-verbal cues, such as pacing, a flushed face, invading personal space, balling up fists, and clenching of the jaw.

Once you’ve made an assessment of the situation and recognized a conflict situation unfolding, it’s essential to use an evidence-based approach and tried-and-true skills to de-escalate.

How It Works

Managing challenging behavior can be difficult. De-escalation requires helpful discussion and relationship building—along with nonverbal communication like body language and appropriate eye contact.

The priority is to reduce the immediate threat by remaining calm and actively listening to the person experiencing the conflict. Making them feel heard and allowing them to let out frustration and feelings is healthy—at least to a point.

Being prepared for these situations is the best prescription for a safer, healthy environment. Here is a basic outline of how a typical interaction should operate, which is informed by our evidence-based training program:

#1. Communicate

Before intervening, it’s crucial to make a quick assessment to figure out the right way forward. The only way to do that is by communicating. Talk to the person experiencing conflict, and evaluate their responses. Give them your undivided attention, don’t judge, and make sure it’s clear that you’re listening.

#2. Focus on Feelings

No matter what the person says, give them a validating, feeling response. For example, “That must be frustrating.”

#3. A Moment of Silence Works

Even if the person doesn’t give you an answer straight away, it doesn’t mean they’re ignoring you. Give them a chance to think about the answer. If they look confused, repeat the question.

#4. Clarify What They Said

Make sure you understand the person by asking questions. Not everyone is on the same page, so don’t make assumptions.

#5. Remain in Control

Remain in control of your own behavior (Affirm your feelings and choose your behaviors™)

#6. Formulate a plan

Decisions made before a crisis are better suited to managing one. Visualize potential outcomes and plan accordingly.

#7. Work Together

It’s easier to stay professional (and have the situation remain stable) when you have a team to back you up.

#8. Remain Positive

Do not harp on negatives or offer scolding statements like, “I can’t handle this right now.” Stay positive and make sure that comes across to the person in crisis.

#9. Understand Your Limits

It’s vital to know when you should step back and let someone else handle it.

#10. Debrief

After an incident, get together with colleagues and talk about it. It will relieve some of the stress, and help you plan better for the next time a similar situation comes about.

What Is a De-Escalation Program?

This type of program involves training people to use proven communication and body language concepts to diffuse a situation before it escalates. It covers every interaction—from initial contact with the person or people during the incident to debriefing with others after the incident.

Prevention Is Better Than Cure

We’ve all been in a situation where emotions run high or challenges create tension between two or more people. Things can escalate quickly. Even body language and other forms of non-verbal communication may progress an already tense situation. The key here is always to support people, not just their behaviors™.

Training people in the workplace or other settings to de-escalate is essential. Prevention is always better than cure regarding conflict, and that is the goal of The Mandt System’s proven de-escalation tactics.

The Mandt System Solution

Verbal de-escalation concepts are invaluable in dealing with people who are in crisis in the workplace or at school. It’ll help build healthy relationships between people, better manage behavior, and promote a healthy environment (that’s safe for everyone) in workplaces and schools. In a healthy environment, it becomes easier to ensure the safety of everyone, including their emotional, physical, social, and psychological well-being.

When everyone’s needs are met, and there’s a straightforward way to de-escalate, it makes it possible to achieve organizational goals. The Mandt System has discovered a better way to handle challenging behavior and develop much-needed de-escalation skills for key staff. Talk to us about our approach, and how we can best match your training needs!

Are you ready to start training?

Our programs will help you build a safer, healthier workplace culture.

e-Learning In-person Training