De-Escalation Tip of the Day: Avoid Overreacting

September 21, 2017
Two pairs of hands clasped together.

When I was thinking about what to share in a blog post about one of CPI’s top de-escalation tips—“Avoid overreacting!”—I instantly recalled a person who I consider to be an MVP in the Keeping Your Cool Hall of Fame*, CPI Meritorious Instructor and MPS safety assistant, Maria Navone.

In her interview for Episode 12 of Unrestrained, CPI’s podcast, Maria shared several powerful stories about working with children and adolescents in crisis. Amid a very gripping recollection of de-escalating a deeply traumatized child, Maria shared the following thought with host Terry Vittone:

I notice that when people are very upset at (a) particular time, the more limits you put on them, the more they want to act out. So I let them act out. I would rather you verbally act out and release all that ugliness than me have to put my hands on you because you’re trying to physically attack me. I’ve got all day as far as I’m concerned. When it comes to intervention, I can talk my way out of any situation because I’ve got all day. But when you make the decision to put your hands on someone, you take it to a whole other level that you have no control over.

Avoiding overreacting can seem easier said than done, but Maria Navone unlocks this ability by reminding herself that she is trained, experienced, and knows what to do if a situation escalates beyond the verbal spectrum. Her confidence in her training is what keeps her calm when she faces a challenging situation, and her connection to her fundamental compassion for young people helps her to see the person who is hidden behind the outburst:

I notice that some adults think they can speak to people any old kind of way. And to me, I don’t understand that philosophy. I understand that you might be the VP of a corporation, but if you don’t have interpersonal skills you can’t be a skilled intervener. You have to be approachable. You have to be kind, compassionate. You have to be able to step aside, build a bridge, get over yourself, first and foremost, because their malfunction has absolutely nothing to do with you.

I encourage you to take time to revisit Maria and Terry’s amazing conversation on avoiding overreactions, safe de-escalation, and finding compassion and hope in moments of crisis.

Additionally, here are some other resources about maintaining a calm and professional demeanor when confronted with challenging behavior:

  • In this blog post, CPI Certified Instructor Christopher Fernandes explains how the primal brain behaves in crisis, and how to remain calm and respond supportively.
  • In this free presentation, CPI associate training director and resource specialist Pam Sikorski offers strategies for effectively avoiding power struggles and setting limits.
  • Finally, these tips from the CPI social media community for managing stress and keeping your temper are still as useful today as they were when we first shared them!

*Okay, okay, this isn’t a real hall of fame. Yet.Avoid overreacing

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