The Art of De-escalation - 5 Simple Ways to Prevent an Attack

Let's say you're faced with a situation that is quickly escalating. This could be anything from an argument with your significant other, to some random in-the-moment situation like road rage, and of course, we are talking about when we are faced with a potential attacker.

The best technique, if you can't get away safely, is to understand the art of de-escalating the emotional situation. This takes setting aside our egos, our need to be right, and focusing on how to calm the emotion down. Always start with this in mind. So many assaults are truly avoidable by thinking de-escalation first.

We’re going to focus on those times when you find yourself in a random situation like road rage, or an upset drunk person at a bar. We handle these very differently than if someone sought us out with the intention of putting our lives in extreme danger, which I will be covering in a separate blog.

Body Language

One of the first things to think about is your body language. After all, it's known that 55% of our communication to someone else happens through nonverbal elements like facial expressions, hand gestures, and our body posture. Only 7% of any message is conveyed through words, and the other 38% is all about how we use our words.

First Tactic - A Common Mistake

When we are confronted, this may seem obvious, but I see one very common mistake often. It is way better for de-escalating a situation when your hands are up and open rather than in what looks like fighting fists. You can feel the energetic difference between these two gestures. One will increase tension, while the other decreases tension.

On a subconscious level, they won’t feel as threatened by you if your hands are open, and it can settle their intensity. This is also something I teach to children in handling a bully.

Second Tactic - Confident yet Friendly

There is so much power in showing confidence, yet also remaining friendly.  You don't want them to feel threatened, but you also don't want them to sense any fear. Research shows that people who are escalated with anger tend to escalate even more if they sense fear in you.  This does not mean be cocky or belligerent toward the person.  It is simply a cool, calm and collected approach that can work like a charm.

Third Tactic - Don’t Face Them

We also don't want to stand facing directly at the person. If you can stand off to the side, or turn your body a tiny bit, this has been shown to avoid things feeling like a confrontational standoff. Even with dogs who are known to be aggressive, it's better to show them your side because they tend to escalate out of fear or dominance when you face them directly. This same concept applies to upset humans!

FouthTactic - Light Touch

You have to let your gut guide you on this one, but sometimes it works to gently and physically comfort the person. There are thousands of research articles on how physical touch can help settle people’s nervous systems. A light touch on the lower arm while showing empathy could do the trick.

When doing this, move your hand slowly toward them with your palm open and facing upward. If you move too quickly, and with a somewhat closed hand, you may actually be giving off a more aggressive vibe inadvertently. It’s important to assess their openness to this, and to be gentle yet confident in your approach.  

Fifth Tactic - Repeating

One of the best techniques is literally almost repeating what they say back to them. On a subconscious level, this can have the person feeling very heard and understood. An example is if they say something like, "I'm going to beat the crap out of you...who drives like that!!!!" can respond with "Look, I know you want beat the crap out of me, BUT it's not worth it. We could both go to jail, and this just isn't worth that.  I know I made a mistake, and I’m really sorry." You're acknowledging them, and if you do ‘take on the fault’ it's a much better route than risking getting in a physical altercation. You're just looking for a way to reason with them in that confident, yet understanding, polite way.  It's said that whoever controls the discussion, controls the situation. Don't allow yourself to get baited into the argument. Simply drop your ego and stroke theirs. This works so well to calm situations like these right down. Your safety is the most important thing to keep in the front of your mind.

Wrapping It Up

Not every single attack happens from a random creepy man jumping out at you in a dark alley.  Many attacks happen from heated discussions that escalate drastically.  Master the art of de-escalating these situations my sweet friend.  It’s simply another way to wipe yourself off the victim list of a potential attack, and it is within your control to have this happen.  Always remember, you are worth saving. Don’t ever forget that.

I’m here for you always.

Much love and respect beautiful lady,