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What is de-escalation?

The purpose of de-escalation is not to win the argument – it’s to de-escalate the conflict.  You may not get to a resolution or the end of the discussion. You are not trying to convince your opponent to change their mind.


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  • Minimize body movements (excessive gesturing, pacing, fidgeting, weight shifting). These are indications of anxiety and will tend to increase agitation.

  • Appear calm, centered, self-assured even if you don’t feel it. Your anxiety can make others feel anxious and unsafe which can escalate aggression.

  • Keep a relaxed and alert posture.

  • Stand up straight with feet about shoulder width apart

  • Angle your body about 45 degrees in relation to the individual & when approaching. This stance not only reduces your target size in the event of an attack, but also prepares you to escape if necessary.

  • Avoid the "cowboy standoff".

  • Never run anywhere.


  • Place your hands in front of your body in an open and relaxed position. This gesture appears non-threatening and positions your hands for blocking if the need arises.

  • Avoid crossed arms, hands in the pockets, or arms behind the back since it can be interpreted as negative body language as well as putting you at tactical disadvantage if an attack occurs.

  • Do not point or shake your finger.

  • Do not touch even if some touching is generally culturally appropriate and usual in your setting. Cognitive disorders in agitated people allow for easy  misinterpretation of physical contact as hostile and threatening. In the context of a demonstration, touching is considered assault.

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  • Maintain limited eye contact.

  • Loss of eye contact may be interpreted as expression of fear, lack of interest or regard, or rejection.

  • Excessive eye contact may be interpreted as a threat or challenge.

  • Maintain a neutral facial expression.

  • A calm, attentive expression reduces hostility.


  • Calm, nonchalant, assertive and respectful.

  • Maintain an even normal vocal volume (unless practicing “The Match”)

  • No swearing.

  • Speak slowly.

  • Sound confident that you can resolve the situation.

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  • I have time for you

  • You are an important person

  • Together we can make things better

  • Let’s talk about it

  • I am willing to listen and hear

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