Read more about De-escalation in our printable Deescalation Guide (Specifically made for the Solidarity Share Fair, but useful everywhere)

When the person is out of control, highly agitated, has a weapon, or is drunk/high/mentally ill.

“Lose to Win”

De-escalation is used to calm the other person down. It can create opportunities to leave a dangerous situation. De-escalation is a strategy used to increase your or someone else’s safety. If you say something, it doesn’t mean it is true or you fully believe it (for example, you can lie, or apologize for things you don’t feel sorry about). It is just a tool.

A key element of successful de-escalation is maintaining emotional self-control. It is critical that we don’t make things worse because of our triggers – remember keeping yourself and others safe is where we want to center our energy.

  • Make a connection. Ask non-threatening questions.
  • Use “we” language – “let’s go over there.”  “ Let’s talk about what’s happening.”
  • Acknowledge their feelings – listen even if you don’t want to and don’t care.
  • Be unresponsive to hostile energy directed at you.
  • Give them options – put all options in the positive and only set limits you can enforce.
  • Listen actively: let them know you understand their point of view and reflect it back so they know you heard them. Wait them out.
  • Don’t shush them or tell them to calm down.

What escalates: blaming, shaming, humiliating, finger pointing, touching, ridiculing.


Project confidence: Neutral expression. Soft eye contact. Balanced posture.

Mirror Calm: BREATHE. Use minimal gestures

Position Yourself for Safety:

  • Stand on an angle, hands visible and with non-threatening body language
  • Keep 2 arms’ length distance at a bare minimum
  • Be aware of escape routes for you and the agitated person. You don’t want them to feel trapped or surrounded.
  • Be aware of barriers, weapons



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