Verbal Diffusion and Subject Contact

When in contact with an individual who is displaying signs of anxiety, the escalation or de-escalation of a crisis may depend on a security officer’s ability to verbally intervene.

Verbal and other techniques can be used as a tool in helping persons to calm down; to discuss concerns; to regain an inner sense of control and to explore alternatives. As physical pain and emotional stress may reduce a person’s ability to cope, effective verbal interventions can help the person deal with feelings of frustration and fear, and ultimately help restore a sense of balance and control.

If at all possible, potentially violent individuals should be confronted with a team rather than alone. If a team is available to you, everyone on the team should under­stand that one person is the team leader.

The team leader is the ONLY person to communicate and verbally intervene with the disruptive person. The rest of the team works to be supportive to their leader and function as a resource for future help. This approach will provide the disruptive person with structure and help focus their attention. If more than one staff member is talking to the disruptive person, the chance is MUCH GREATER that the team will lose control of the situation.

Verbal interventions should be based on the emotional/behavioral response to a crisis, based on level of anxiety from mild to extreme. Following are examples of a disruptive person’s emotional behavior and symptoms, and the appropriate verbal interventions.

Mild Anxiety: Emotional/Behavioral Symptoms

Mild anxiety and tension; defensiveness; scanning the environment for threat cues; reduced communication; some sweating; mild shakiness; mild physical arousal.

Mild Anxiety: Appropriate Verbal Interventions:

  • What is your name?
  • My name is _________.
  • You seem upset. Tell me what’s going on.
  • How can I help?
  • What is it you’re concerned about?
  • It’s not unusual to feel so concerned. I’m sure I would feel the same way.
  • Let’s go over here and sit down and talk about it.
  • How might we work this out?
  • What would be most helpful right now?