5 Verbal De-escalation Techniques

December 6, 2021
Richard Lilley
Woman with head in hands

We might not be able to control how the individual responds to us, but what we can do is control our response.

The concept of integrated experience is that behaviour influences behaviour; the more we can focus on positive engagement, the more likely we are to influence a positive outcome.

Verbal De-escalation Techniques:

Use your knowledge of the individual: Be person centred

  • What do they enjoy doing? This could be used as a distraction, allowing them to focus elsewhere and de-escalate themselves.
  • What are the things that are important and meaningful for them? Favourite objects may provide comfort for them.
  • Think about known precipitating factors. If we know words or phrases that are likely to escalate the situation we can avoid them.

Try and remain calm

  • Try to rationally detach in the moment so that we can remain calm and consistent in our approach. This will allow us to maintain our positive value base. We can avoid being drawn into power struggles by not taking the behaviour of the individual personally.

Set limits

  • Try and offer the individual choices. This helps to give the individual control over the situation. The choices that offer must be delivered in a respectful way, using simple language and must be reasonable. If we are going to offer something we must be able to fulfil that offer.

Use simple language

  • The more that the situation escalates the less rational the individual will become. When we aren’t thinking rationally, we cannot process large amounts of new information. Simplifying the message increases the chances of it being understood.

Use positive paraverbal communication

We can emphasise the positive impact of the words we use if we can say them in best way. Use a calm and consistent tone of voice, ensure that the volume is appropriate for the situation and be mindful of the speed of our speech. If we are anxious about the situation then we are more likely to speak quickly, which may be misinterpreted.

Find out more about CPI's Verbal Intervention programme.

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