De-escalation tips for everyday use that can help anyone
Updated: Nov 4
I was reading a security industry publication last week and came across some advice we train into our officers about de-escalation. It reminded me of times talking with officers who were concerned about physical altercations and if they had to restrain or "tackle" someone. The reality is that is not what security officers generally do. Physical altercation are beyond rare for security and are frankly the last, last resort. The truth is that excellent de-escalation tactics are way more valuable and executable for not only security officers, but everyday people at the grocery store, parking lots or ball games.
We have all been in or seen situations that quickly escalated because both parties wanted it to. If you are a sane-thinking person it is advised that you avoid physical violence at all cost not only for your health and safety but to avoid lawsuits as well. Simple use of the techniques below can help you avoid confrontation. While sometimes physical violence is bound to happen, any measure to avoid it would be well advised.
Staying calm in a potentially threatening or dangerous situation is a lot easier said than done. It’s completely normal for security guards or even everyday people to want to fight fire with fire and stand their ground. But this is only going to make the situation worse. If a guard responds aggressively, the person they’re dealing with will want to respond even more aggressively back.
These steps will help any security operation be better equipped to handle sticky situations and keep everyone safe. Again while developed for security situations some of these can help anyone in most situations
1. Be prepare for the situation
Having a plan for your teams to follow in threatening situations has a lot of benefits. Following a plan can minimize mistakes, give officers confidence, and keep them calm. Using past situations to help develop your plans will make them even better
Things to consider in these plans include knowing when to call for backup, when using physical force should be considered, and how to communicate. Once you have a solid plan in place, make sure all security officers are trained well to implement that plan.
Whether a security officer is trying to remove a homeless loiterer, a violent criminal, or an aggressive soccer mom, it’s important to look past the person’s actions. Looking at everyone as people first - even in tense situations - will make them feel like someone actually wants to help them.
If anything anyone says or does comes off as judgmental, the person they are trying to calm down will see the situation as a struggle instead of an attempt to find a solution. If the officer’s goal is to keep everyone calm, escalation is a lot less likely.
The #1 rule for listening is to not interrupt. But it’s more than just letting an angry person rant and yell. People need to feel like they’re actually being heard. Security guards dealing with an angry person should practice active listening.
Maintaining eye contact will keep guards focused and show the person that someone is paying attention to them.
Repeating what they say back to them makes sure the security guard knows what the person is trying to say, not just guessing.
Communication is not just about the words you say. Studies show that communication is only 7% verbal. The rest comes down to how things are said and body language.
Your security guards need to pay attention to every aspect of how they communicate. Doing things like keeping a calm tone of voice or standing further back will communicate that the security guard is not a threat and wants to help.
When asking questions, giving people plenty of time to respond can make a huge difference. Not only will the security guard be practicing patience and keeping calm, the problem person won’t feel rushed.
Even the most aggressive or threatening person is more likely to respond better when they feel like someone is genuinely trying to help them. Again, an officer’s main priority should be peacefully resolving the situation, not using force.
Using phrases like “let’s figure out how we can fix this problem together” shows that the officer is willing to work with the person. Asking questions to better understand why the person is mad in the first place can help the officer come up with the best solution.
Offering solutions to the problem based on what the person has said shows the security officer is actually trying to help or mitigate the situation.
Documenting a problem interaction can make all the difference. If the situation turns violent, having documentation can help later on in potential lawsuits or interactions with law enforcement. To keep the situation calm, it’s always best to ask or inform the problem person that they will be recorded. If they start to escalate in response, taking notes and/or making sure backup is nearby are good alternatives.
Talking about tense situations as a team is super important. Getting feedback from guards in the field can help update and improve de-escalation preparedness in the future.
This is a great time to get more buy-in from your security guards since they will get to play a part in developing strategy.
Praetoria Security is a local company in Tulsa, Oklahoma. We have specialized training and invest in our officers to give them the tools to handle difficult situations. Our de-escalations tactics can help protect your business and assets. Our staff will not only protect your property and employees, but be a strong part of your staff and company growth.
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