What's So Funny

While the list of interventions for crisis behavior is nearly endless, there are some that fall within the confines of Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® training, and some that are outside those parameters. For example, it could be argued that de-escalating someone with intimidation and threats is one way to go about intervening, but those methods certainly would not be consistent with our Care, Welfare, Safety, and SecuritySM philosophy. There are other interventions that fall into somewhat of a gray area. I have found that these methods are supported by some human-service professionals, but not by others.


One of these interventions is humor. Using humor to de-escalate a crisis situation can be tricky. While it may be useful with some situations or care receivers, it most certainly is not acceptable at other times or with other people. The "trick" part of it requires knowing when to use it and when not to use it.


Back in my salad days when I was taking acting classes, one particular class I took had quite an intense acting coach. He followed the accepted method at that time of verbally abusing and berating his students when they didn’t live up to his impossible-to-reach standards. With the two of us standing on stage in front of all my peers, he began to scold me and the whole class for not taking direction. The atmosphere was agonizing, and you could cut the tension with a knife. I don’t know what possessed me other than the desire to break the intensity of the situation, but I began to mock our instructor in front of everyone, mimicking his exact style of speech and mannerisms. While I knew I was going out on a limb, I also knew that our acting coach had a good sense of humor. He began to laugh hysterically at me and himself, which gave the entire group permission to laugh. I got the result I wanted.


I am absolutely not advocating for mocking people, especially in front of their peers; the point is simply that using humor to de-escalate a situation has to be used judiciously at the right time with the right people. It can easily backfire. So one safeguard to put in place is to use humor only if it is self-deprecating humor. Making fun of oneself has many benefits. It shows others that you don’t take yourself too seriously, and it gives people the liberty to laugh, which in turn can transform an intense situation into a harmonious one. Laughter has a calming effect on most people.


One example could be when a service user is making fun of you anyway with challenging questions or statements about your clothing, hair (or lack thereof), or authority. Simply turn it around and laugh at yourself with them. When they realize that they can’t push your buttons, they may reconsider their behavior and choose a calmer approach.


My next post will deal with another somewhat touchy intervention. It will consider the use of touch as an intervention technique. In the meantime, please add to the discussion of these gray-area methods by posting a comment below.

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