How to De-Escalate Emotionally Charged Situations
All of us certainly encounter circumstances at work or at home where emotions start to spiral out of control. Sometimes dissatisfaction or a perceived wrong causes pent-up feeling to bubble to the surface, resulting in a collision of ideas, misinterpretation, or miscommunication. Whatever the reason, we want to regulate any negative feelings as soon as we can to prevent them from escalating.
Expression of strong emotions can take many forms, such as people refusing to talk to each other or reacting furiously, hurling objects, pushing and shoving, and in some case, even assault.
It takes a little bit of science, art, and social diplomacy to learn how to defuse a situation, and it starts with you. This is so because we cannot assume that the other party will try to accomplish de-escalation, nor that they have the will and skills to do it.
De-escalation, which begins as a mental process, entails applying verbal and nonverbal communications, as well as social cues, to prevent emotional situations from spiraling out of control. In order to keep the problem from getting worse, it also takes resolve to see it through even though it can take some time to experience improvements.
Contact JarvisHypnotherapy to help you with issues related to emotion control or conflict resolution.
Here are the top 20 useful de-escalation tips you can use at work or at home:
Because every case is different, make sure your actions are in line with what is necessary in your particular set of circumstances.
1- Stay calm. Take slow, deep breaths and make an effort to stay aware, centered, and maintain your cool. Although it might seem simple, dealing with "in the moment" emotions could make this task difficult. By keeping cool and calm, we can influence how others view us and how they react.
2- Convey peace by using your body as a medium. Speak with a low tone of voice, make gestures with your palms up, slightly angle your body, relax your shoulders, create spatial distance, relax your face, and try even to smile. If appropriate, use your eyes to express that you don't wish to dispute or confront.
3- When they speak, pay close attention to the words they use, what they repeat, but most importantly, what they say first. Words indeed have meaning, and the predominance of some words even more so. No matter how ludicrous or overwhelming the argument, pay attention and admit that you understand what they are saying. That does not imply that you accept or concur. Begin the crucial step of validation by listening.
4- When calming down heightened emotions, validation is absolutely essential. It communicates to the other that what they have to say matters, you're interested in hearing them out, and you're empathetic. Even if you don't agree with them, validation shows you recognize them. Since we were young children, all humans desire acceptance and validation. If you are able, summarize what others stated in their own words in order to validate them effectively.
5- Try to put yourself in the other person's shoes by asking open-ended questions and displaying genuine interest in their views and experiences. Be empathetic. Something may have built up to this moment over time, no one may have ever listened to them before, or they may be experiencing psychological problems. In any case, show understanding.
6- Avoid passing judgment. That's not our job. Don't tell them they should feel a certain way, that they are wrong, or that their arguments are invalid. The most crucial thing you can do is to encourage them to talk and vent.
Read related: Venting at Work—a Double-Edged Sword
7- As difficult as it may be at times, leave your ego at the door. This is not a battle to win. Instead of being right, the goal here is to achieve emotional harmony. Your words matter. And your remarks in those priceless crucial moments will be remembered for a long time. A popular saying in the Netherlands goes, "Are you winning an argument or losing a relationship?" A very wise advice for all of us in this divisive time. Don't engage in a dig to mask your own aggressiveness. The so-called "microaggression" can sabotage even the best of intentions. To achieve emotional balance and neutrality, put aside any internal tension or even hostility. Put aside anything that does not help the situation.
8- When interacting with coworkers, keep in mind that you may have to work with them every day for years to come. Think of lasting harmony. Having such an attitude will make it easier for you to realize the long-term benefits of this approach. And this is equally relevant at home.
9- Show that you are listening and paying attention by nodding, raising eyebrows, or tilting your head while remaining silent. Where and when appropriate, a genuine smile can also make them feel more at ease and foster a lighter atmosphere.
10- Do not cross your arms or legs. Avoid appearing like you're creating a barrier between you and the other. These gestures can be misunderstood when negative emotions are present. Instead, strive to adopt a relaxed, open posture.
11- Offer assurance and support if the other person is anxious or uneasy. Tell them that you're ready to help and that you're concerned for their well-being. You might be tempted to leave when someone is shocked or sobbing in order to save yourself from discomfort and give them some space. But it's necessary to avoid doing so. Instead, remain in the same room as them and express your support by saying, "I'm here if you need me."
12- Avoid approaching too close and be considerate of the other person's personal space and belongings (desk, purse, backpack, etc.). With charged emotions, greater distance is always safer.
13- If the person is a stranger, try to get their name if you can. Address them with an honorific like “Ma’am,” “Sir,” "Doctor," or "Professor."
14- Don't feel as though you must remain in one place. Sitting outside, going for a walk, or sitting next to them on a bench can sometimes help to defuse a tense situation.
15- Consider taking a break if the situation is getting out of hand and feelings are frazzled. Nothing wrong with saying, "I have to go outside. I'll be back, but I need to think about what has been said." Let the other person know you want to re-engage, but you are human too, and you might need to think about what has just happened. Both parties may find it easier to cool off and approach the matter more logically afterwards.
16- To foster a more positive atmosphere, speak positive words. For instance, use "Let me see what I can do to help" rather than "I can't help you with that."
17- Find common ground or areas of agreement. This helps promote rapport-building and positive interaction.
18- If at all possible, propose a workable option or a solution that can help resolve the problem. This can show that you're willing to cooperate to reach a desirable outcome. Most importantly, don't go silent while you're trying to find a solution. Give the other updates.
19- Distance is your best defense if a weapon of any type is brandished. Even if they are armed with a knife or a gun, maintain your cool, use your voice, put yourself further away, and practice all the previously mentioned de-escalation techniques. Seek help if you can.
20- Remember to reward those who start to de-escalate by relaxing even more, by providing them with additional validation, by praising them for considering any solutions you may have suggested, and by being more at ease around them.
De-escalation requires a commitment to improving the situation. It can be achieved with a little patience and a few of the advice given here, as well as, some practice where possible. Finally, if all else fails, keep calm, and demonstrate empathy as you strive to resolve the situation positively.
Read related: 8 Things to Do If You're the Target of Hurtful Gossip
Talk to the experts from JarvisHypnotherapy if you need help regulating emotions and temper, learning positive interaction skills, or becoming a better listener.
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