Verbal Intervention

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Remain Calm.
Remember, the verbally escalating person is beginning to lose control. If the person you're intervening with senses that you're losing control, the situation will escalate. Try to keep your cool, even when challenged, insulted, or threatened.

Isolate the Individual.
Onlookers, especially those who are the peers of the verbally escalating person, tend to fuel the fire. They often become cheerleaders, encouraging the individual. Isolate the person you're verbally intervening with. You will be more effective one-on-one.

Keep It Simple.
Be clear and direct in your message. Avoid jargon and complex options.

Watch Your Body Language.
Be aware of your space, posture, and gestures. Make sure your nonverbal behavior is consistent with your verbal message.

Use Silence.
Ironically, silence is one of the most effective verbal intervention techniques. Silence on your part allows the individual to clarify and restate. This often leads to a clearer understanding of the true source of the individual’s conflict.

Use Reflective Questioning.
Paraphrase and restate comments. By repeating or reflecting the person’s statement in the form of a question, you’ll help the individual gain valuable insight.

Watch Your Paraverbals.
Any two identical statements can have completely opposite meanings, depending on how the tone, volume, and cadence of your voice are altered. Make sure the words you use are consistent with voice inflection to avoid a double message.

DVD: How to Excel at Verbal Intervention II
This newly updated DVD sharpens your verbal intervention skills. You'll learn:

  • How to organize an intervention strategy.
  • Whether to focus on short-term, median, or long-term goals.
  • How to assess an intervention for immediate danger and how to focus on safety.
  • Three types of limits and which one is usually the most effective.
  • To recognize the value of all verbal interventions.
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About the Author

“Every individual on this earth deserves to be treated with compassion, understanding, and the right to keep their dignity intact. This can be difficult to honor at times when someone loses control of their behavior, but that’s where Rational Detachment and not taking it personally really kicks in. What has helped me be able to do this well goes back to the first day I was introduced to Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® training. I was a participant before becoming a Certified Instructor (and before working for CPI), and over the years I have had so many opportunities to use what I learned way back then. Today, I live the skills automatically. It’s an honor to have been given those skills to live the philosophy of treating others the way I want to be treated.”