I am a certified crisis intervention/de-escalation specialist and instructor, so today I thought I would share some insight on those topics. Specifically, I would like to focus on how the presence and involvement of people who are not involved in high anxiety situations can make matters worse.
Let me start by saying that control and de-escalation are not the same thing. Some people who work in law enforcement focus on controlling a situation, which is often the opposite of what those situations (and the people involved in them) need.
When was the last time an angry person heard, “Calm down!” and actually calmed down? Has it ever worked for you? I didn’t think so. It doesn’t work because when we are escalated, we are in survival brain, aka fight, flight, freeze. As I’ve said many times, people who are in survival mode are not capable of critical thinking in that moment.
De-escalation requires space and time. The close presence of bystanders can – and often does – amplify the problem. We see this play out on the internet all the time when random people insert themselves in conversations and “poke the bear”, thus escalating feelings that are likely already close to the surface.
If you are not trained in de-escalation, it’s crucial to tread very carefully with potentially volatile interactions. Inserting yourself, even if it is just to add your $.02, can shorten already minuscule fuses. I’ll go so far as to say that if the situation does not directly involve you, your $.02 is irrelevant and you should keep your mouth shut even if you mean well.
Never forget that I love you, and that excludes no one.