Mark Toombs
University of Central Florida
Division of Continuing Education
“I understand a fury in your words, but not the
William Shakespeare
“Never impose your thoughts or words on those you
wish to reach.”
Abbie Hoffman
Consider that:
As frustration builds in the community it can sometimes spill
into the workplace. Most are upset with their situation and
not the person in front of them.
Employees most likely to experience verbal or physical
confrontation are those having frequent face-to-face
contact with many people.
4 in 20 people feel they can deal with angry people,
whereas 9 in 20 would rather run the other way. Give
yourself credit for being able to make a difference.
Possible sources of frustration and anger:
Perception of lost power or control
Diminished self-esteem
Feelings of failure
It is a learned behavior – it has worked for them
Displaced anger
Psychological/physiological causes
Limited or inadequate coping skills
Behavioral blindness
Are You Under Control?
Remind yourself:
Someone must maintain their composure; if they won’t, you
Put it in perspective – you’ve done this before.
Stay calm and confident in your ability to reach a successful
outcome. Use the skills you’ve learned.
It may not be easy but it’s necessary.
Watch for….
Red faced
Standing up or standing taller
Raised voice, verbal escalation
Direct, prolonged eye contact
Exaggerated gestures (flailing arms, etc.)
Watch for….
Threatening statements
Clenched fists
Rapid pacing
Any unusual or sudden change in demeanor
Permit verbal venting
Respect personal space
Establish limits
Take them seriously
Remind of them of
Avoid overreacting
Remind them of the
advantages of maintaining
Keep your nonverbal
cues non-threatening
Pace, Cadence
Words you choose
Sincerity (use their name, be genuine)
Be aware of any language barrier
Be aware of your body language
Be aware of their body language
Be aware of their personal space
Make appropriate eye contact
Appear calm, self controlled, and confident without
being dismissive or over-bearing
Be aware of your body language
Be aware of their body language
Be aware of their personal space
Make appropriate eye contact
Appear calm, self controlled, and confident without
being dismissive or over-bearing
10 keys to De-escalation
1. Recognize that anger is a choice of a wide range of behaviors
that could be used to get what one needs in a situation. It has
benefits for its user – feelings of control over people or
situations, avoiding difficult situations, or feeling more
2. The person interacting with the angry person must identify his
or her own emotions at any given point in time. If the helping
person is also experiencing anger, then that person will not be
very effective assisting others to manage theirs.
10 keys to De-escalation
3. When potential interventionists are experiencing anger, they
must be able to change what they are doing or thinking to get
their emotions under control or seek the assistance they will
need to manage the situation.
4. Perform a quick self-assessment:
Can I avoid criticizing and finding fault with the angry person?
Can I avoid being judgmental?
Can I keep myself removed from the conflict?
Can I try to see the situation from the angry person’s point of
view or understand the needs he is trying to satisfy?
Can I remember that, ultimately, my job is to help them?
10 keys to De-escalation
5. Recognize early warning signs. Many incidents of anger could
be prevented if those who are around a person about
to become angry notice the subtle change in the
person’s behavior. Quiet people may become agitated,
while louder more outgoing people generally become
quiet and introspective. Paying attention to these
subtle changes and simply commenting on the change
could help the individual talk about things so he or she
wouldn’t have to become angry.
10 keys to De-escalation
It is possible that you will do everything right and disruptive people
will still choose anger as the behavior for getting what they want.
When any of these situations occur, you may need to employ
one or all of the following five de-escalation skills.
Intervention Steps:
6. Active listening is the process of really attempting to hear,
acknowledge, and understand what a person is saying. It is a
genuine attempt to put yourself in the other person’s situation.
Active listening means attending not only to the words the other
person uses, but also the underlying emotion and the
accompanying body language.
10 keys to De-escalation
7. Acknowledgement. This occurs when the listener is attempting to
sense the emotion underlying the words a person is using and
then comments on that emotion. The person may say something
like, “I can see that you are frustrated.” By acknowledging and
really trying to understand what the other person is feeling, that
person is now able to release a lot of their frustration and move
toward the solution.
8. Agreeing. Often when people are angry about something, there is
at least a bit of truth in what they are saying. When attempting to
diffuse someone’s anger, it is important to find that bit of truth
and agree with it. When the listener agrees with the truth in the
angry person’s tirade, he or she takes away the resistance and
may eliminate the fuel for the fire. Obviously, this approach is not
always appropriate.
10 keys to De-escalation
9. Apologizing is an effective de-escalation skill. This does not
mean apologizing for an imaginary wrong, but simply
recognizing anything in the situation that was unjust. It is a
statement acknowledging that something occurred that may
not have been right or fair. This can have the effect of letting
angry people know that the listener has genuinely attempted
to understand their situation, which may lead them to stop
directing their anger at the person attempting to help.
10 keys to De-escalation
10. Anyone intervening in an emotionally charged situation should always
have a plan or an established way to get help if needed. An angry
person is generally someone capable of getting out of control. When
out of control people sense they are intimidating others, it can
increase their sense of power and control, resulting in an escalation of
the situation. You must stay calm and act as if you are in control of
yourself and the situation.
Even when utilizing the these ten keys, there may be occasions when
you are unsuccessful in the attempts to decrease the other person’s
anger. Your safety and that of those around you should be the primary
concern. Do not get between the angry person and his or her only
means of escape and don’t allow the angry person to block your only
means of retreat or safety.
Benefits of Success
What’s in it if we are successful?
Satisfied job-seekers, positive reputation for the
Self-satisfaction for a job well done
A safe and stable workplace
Lower stress and enhanced peace of mind for everyone
Minimized potential for situations to escalate into violence
Closing Thoughts….
“People who fight fire with fire usually end up with
Abigail Van Buren
“A good head and a good heart are always a formidable
Nelson Mandela