Verbal De-escalation Techniques
Many job roles, especially those that work remotely, often interact with people outside of their own company, such as customers or even the general public. This can present worker safety issues, namely the possibility of workplace violence. Employees that regularly interact with the public such as social workers, home health aides, utility workers and more should always be urged to recognize threatening situations and agitated individuals and take the appropriate de-escalation measures to mitigate the situation before it becomes dangerous. This blog post will present some effective methods for doing so using verbal de-escalation techniques. Should an employee recognize that the person with whom they are interacting is becoming heated, they should consider the following.
Ask them to relay how they feel
Many agitated individuals tend to speak about situational facts that have caused them to be angry. Instead, employees should direct the conversational focus to that person’s feelings. Why? The facts that have occurred in the situation cannot be changed. It is how the person in question FEELS about these facts that can cause conflict and potentially dangerous situations. Employees should ask open-ended questions about how the individual feels about what has occurred. From there, the employee can then ask what actions that the two of them can take together to improve how the agitated individual feels about the situation. It is pertinent that during this time that the employee express empathy and show that they understand why the person may be upset.
Keep the discussion to the present
It is not uncommon for someone who is angry to distract from the current situation, either by bringing up instances from the past where they feel that they have been done wrong or simply by challenging the employee’s authority across all situations. The employee should always redirect issues to the current situation since this is the situation that can be addressed and acted upon. The employee and the individual in question should discuss how they can work together to better the situation at hand.
Clarify and paraphrase
Employees should indicate that they are actively listening by asking clarifying questions and summarizing what was said to them back to the individual to make sure that they are truly understanding the their point. This will indicate that he/she is really listening, cares about how they feel, understands how they feel and, most importantly, respects them. Additionally, using the person’s first name during responses and clarification periods is a good technique for making an interaction more personal and capturing the individual’s attention.
Allow for silence
Providing periods of silence will allow both the employee and the individual in question to reflect on the issue and think about how to react before doing something rash. Pausing to reflect enables both individuals to process their feelings, lessening the likelihood for angry or even dangerous responses.
Set boundaries without barking orders
If the person with whom the employee is interacting with begins to display out of hand behavior to the point of disruption or harm, the employee must let them know that this is not acceptable behavior in a respectful manner. The employee can avoid simply handing out orders by presenting the individual with choices on how they can act and by stating the consequences that will result if they do not choose to act this way.
By practicing these verbal de-escalation techniques, an employee has a much greater possibility of gaining control of a potentially dangerous situation before it gets out of hand. For more de-escalation tips, such as recognizing a threatening situation, how to use spacing as an advantage, non-verbal de-escalation techniques and knowing when a situation is past the point of de-escalation, download our free guide, “How to De-escalate a Threatening Situation.”