How These 3 C’s May Escalate a Situation With Someone in Crisis

June 23, 2016
Younger hand holding an older person hand

It’s not uncommon that, at times, we all need a reminder to “pick your battles.”

However, when conducting Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® training for new and existing staff, I take this statement one step further, and ask the participants if they can think of a time when maybe their actions (or even reactions) have been responsible for escalating a situation. 

While we strive to always recognize each stage of the CPI Crisis Development Model℠, I go into a little more detail here when we’re discussing the Defensive and Directive stage. 

As we’re talking about how staff must remain in control of their own behavior, I take that opportunity to discuss what I call The Three C’s.

I remind staff that if they are ever motivated to do something for one of these three reasons, they are not only being motivated by the wrong approach—they are also at risk of escalating the situation for the individuals they’re working with, which in turn does not ensure Care, Welfare, Safety and Security℠ for all. 

The Three C’s are:

Control, compliance, and convenience.

I remind staff that what we mean by “control” as part of the Directive approach, is that we are in control of our own emotions and responses. We cannot control the behavior of others. And we must always remember, especially during this stage, that the caregiver and client relationship should never be about power. 

In order to find successful alternatives to these Three C’s, we must first identify what motivates the Three C’s.

The majority of the time the Three C’s arise as a reaction—rather than as a planned response. Maybe it’s because staff is tired, overwhelmed with life at home, working overtime, or just plain hungry! (Does the term hangry come to mind for anyone else?) 

While the list may go on, I encourage staff to first recognize what their triggers or their motives are. Once we have an idea, we can next work to find alternatives.

Instead of control, remember to provide choices.

This actually puts the control back in the hands of the individual who is in crisis. They now feel empowered and have the opportunity to make better decisions.

Instead of compliance, remember to set limits.

These limits must be clear and simple—so the person in crisis understands. And the limits must also be reasonable and enforceable so the person understands the consequences for their choices. We must remember that we can never force someone to comply or act appropriately. 

1. Instead of Controlling, provide choice. 2. Instead of forcing Compliance, set limits. 3...

Instead of convenience, remember to enforce those limits you just set! 

Say what you mean as a consequence, but remember to start with a positive choice and consequence first. When the person makes the right choice, reinforce that with a quick thank-you.

But remember, if we fail to enforce those limits, or if we give in for “convenience” sake, we are actually reinforcing that negative behavior and risk seeing it rear its ugly head even “bigger and badder” next time!

One last alternative I provide staff with are the Three C’s we should be using in our everyday interactions. And that is to be caring, calm, and consistent—which actually provides a smooth transition into Empathic Listening.     

Savannah Hampton is the Staff Development Officer for Southwest Community Services in Nevada, Missouri. Southwest Community Services is a state-operated program through the Department of Mental Health, dedicated to providing support for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities living in their own homes within the community.

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