One Way to Minimize Challenging Behavior

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What do you do when someone in your care loses control of their behavior and starts screaming obscenities at you or making fun of your appearance, age, race, or gender?
It’s natural to get defensive, but a better way to handle rude comments and challenging behavior is to stay in control of your own behavior and maintain Rational Detachment. CPI training programs teach this concept, which involves staying calm and not taking things personally. By avoiding being defensive or argumentative, you can de-escalate a situation rather than escalate it. Here are some strategies to help:
  1. Have a plan of action. Think about the things that set you off and practice a calm response. Using this kind of strategic visualization can help you deal with insults and irrationality in the heat of the moment with professionalism and respect.   
  2. Think positively. Remind yourself that you’re probably not the real reason for the person’s outburst. You’re just a convenient target for the venting they need to do if they’re upset. Tell yourself, “This isn’t about us; it’s about something else in their life,” or “I can handle this. I won’t let it get to me. I have a choice in how I respond, and I’ll choose to be respectful.”
  3. Debrief. Debrief with your coworkers after an incident. Talk about how you felt during the situation. Think about how you can improve your response even more the next time you face a similar situation.
Check out our Behavior Intervention page for more strategies for handling—and preventing—problem behavior. And please share other methods that have helped you deal with outbursts and insults.
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About the Author

“I believe that more often than many people think is possible, we can prevent problems from getting out of control. We can make each other safer.”