More Tips To Defuse Anger and Hostility (Part 2)

May 16, 2017

More Tips To Defuse Anger and Hostility (Part 2)

by Ian Scofield

Last week we had an article about defusing anger and hostility and in that article, we mentioned there would be another article this week.  Well, here it is.  Defusing a situation can help ensure that you won’t need to go hands on and can help make an encounter safer.  Without further ado, here are more tips for fighting anger and hostility.

Words To Avoid

When you encounter an angry or upset subject there are a lot of ways you can handle the situation.  You probably should avoid utilizing the following words, they often worsen the situation instead of making it better.

  • Calm down
  • Be quiet
  • No one cares
  • Be reasonable
  • Be rational
  • Remain calm
  • Get ahold of yourself

Variants of these words are also important to avoid.  These words are probably ones you already know to avoid but it’s always worth going over them.

Humor As A Tool

Humor is a wonderful way to defuse situations.  Making someone laugh doesn’t just give them a brief smile, it has been shown to help lighten your mood.  It also helps to burn calories and break tension.  Knowing a few great jokes is always a good idea.  Try to find some clean jokes and keep them in your mind.  Executing them at the right time is important.  Using them right away might make the person upset.  Deploy your jokes after you have talked for a bit and you are at a lull.  You should also be able to feel when it is appropriate to use humor.

Keeping your jokes clean and ensuring that you only use them at the right times is important.  Failure to do so could result in a write up or complaint.  

Master Your Body Language

Your body language communicates just as much or more than your words do and whether people realize it or not, they know how to read body language subconsciously.  Keeping your body language in the back of your mind and working on controlling it is a skill that takes training but it can work wonders.  

It also helps to take the time to learn to translate the different signals that the body sends.  There are plenty of books on body language, from the most basic introductions into the micro actions our body makes that take an amazing amount of focus to control.  Knowing to read body language allows you to tell when someone might be ready to throw a punch or if maybe they are hiding their sadness behind anger.

Do Not Avoid

Avoiding someone’s anger or hostility is a good way to make them worse off.  Do not pretend to not hear the person.  Engaging them is half the battle.  Avoidance makes them feel ignored and worthless and if the subject is suicidal it can make the situation worse.  Same for those with homicidal ideation.  

Do Not Be Afraid To Apologize

In today’s world of liability and lawsuits, it is understandable that you wouldn’t want to take responsibility.  That doesn’t mean that you can’t apologize.  If all else has failed or if you feel it is appropriate, you can apologize to the person for their circumstances.  This does not mean that you are taking on liability, it just means that you are expressing sympathy for their position.

Sometimes this helps to break down barriers and is all someone is looking for.  In the wrong situation though it has the potential to make someone upset.  You need to judge as the officer in the situation whether or not it is appropriate.

Know The Resources Available To You

There are plenty of resources available to you on de-escalation.  This can include classes (that you might be able to get your department to pay for).  It also includes websites like APTI.  As we have mentioned in other blog posts, MOAB is a great course to take if you haven’t already completed it at the academy.

Resources for crisis counseling in your area are also important to carry on you This can help you for when you encounter someone who is homicidal, suicidal, or having a panic attack.  

Recognize When You Are Not The Right Person

There is no shame in admitting when you aren’t having luck with de-escalating a situation.  We can’t always do it and sometimes a situation might require force.  It doesn’t always require it though.  Sometimes you can switch out with someone else who might have more luck.  A second officer might have different tactics or might get better results.

In Management of Aggressive Behavior (MOAB) you learn to tap on someone’s shoulder if you notice that they are not having luck working with a subject.  Make sure that those you are working with know what the tap means, if they don’t know, the tap won’t do anything.  Also ensure that you give a fair amount of time for their plan to work.

Now you are armed with even more de-escalation tactics.  Try to add these to your tactical mental toolbox so that you can better accomplish defusing of angry or hostile subjects.  You will notice that you have an easier time at work and maybe get into less physical confrontations.  Going home safe is always important.

About the author:

Ian graduated Seattle University with a Bachelor's in Criminal Justice with a Specialization in Administration of Justice. He has held positions as an Auxiliary Department of Public Safety Officer, a Security Patrol Supervisor, and as an in-house security officer for a major medical center. Through all of this he has picked up a wealth of experience, training, and education that he is happy to pass on to others. Ian can be reached at ian@iandscofield.com.





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