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5 Ways to Defuse a Heated (and Potentially Dangerous) Confrontation

1. Scan for signs of tension

In order to deescalate conflict, security officers must first be aware of what that conflict might look like. Signs may present more obviously, with raised voices or cocked fists that may even draw a surrounding crowd, depending on the venue. Or, you may need to look more closely to identify physical signs of a disturbance. 

For one, facial expression changes as anger rises. Brows furrow, lips tend to form a thin line, nostrils flare and the face also may blush and turn redder as anger builds. You may also spot tension in the body with clenched fists, stiff shoulders and even sweating. All of these physical signs may indicate that a situation is heating up and requires intervention.


2. Establish authority and intention

Once a situation needs an authority figure, it’s important to establish from the start who you are and what you are there to do. Clearly define your role at the event or venue as a security officer and explain that you’re here to help. Remember, the first goal is to calm those involved without having to take any additional measures. Defusing a situation before it becomes a problem is far superior to reacting to violence as it occurs. 


3. Be calm in your voice and demeanor

Nothing tends to make a person more annoyed than telling them to calm down, so it’s better if you can show, not tell. Approach the situation directly, but calmly. Speak with a calm authority. You’re not there to soothe them with a bedtime story, but a cool, direct voice will most likely encourage a more positive response from those you’re dealing with. Once you have their attention, clearly outline the policy of the event or venue. For example, explain that yelling or violence is not permitted and ask that they speak with you one-on-one to resolve the issue.


4. Show them that you’re listening

Active listening is a great tool to help those around you understand that they are being heard. Most of the time, anger can subside when the individual feels that they are being listened to. Physical responses of listening include maintaining eye contact and nodding the head to show that the message is being received. 

Try paraphrasing what they are saying periodically so they know you’ve understood them and ask questions. This will prompt them to respond so you can better understand the situation and engage them in a conversation, letting them know you’re there to help.


5. Define a resolution

Once the parties are calm and collected, you can effectively work through a resolution to make sure things don’t escalate again. The hope is that the tension was caught early enough to allow each party to leave the situation and go about their business, without the risk of anger building again. The resolution may be to involve program organizers or a store manager for further assistance. 


Of course, solving a dispute isn’t always this simple. At times the situation may have already escalated and requires further intervention more than talking through a mild argument. The resolution may be that both parties must be removed from the area, facility or event in order to maintain safety. Regardless of the situation, the resolution and reasoning must be calmly and clearly explained to all parties.


No two conflicts are alike, and different strategies may be needed in order to resolve that specific dispute. Defusing the situation should be the first step before using other tactics that may intensify a potentially dangerous situation further. Security guards are specifically trained to handle potentially dangerous situations while keeping people safe and secure. 

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