Verbal Skill Management

Communication with words and gestures can be one of the safest, simplest, and most readily available interventions that people working with a potentially violent individual have available to them. The risks are few and the gains are many. Through effective verbal communication, problem resolution can be accomplished with minimum risk of injury. Verbal 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.

The escalation or de-escalation of a crisis may depend on a security officer’s ability to verbally intervene.

As previously stated, 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 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. Following are examples of a disruptive person’s emotional behavior and symptoms, and the appropriate verbal interventions.


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


  • What is your name?
  • My name is _________.


Moderate anxiety, heightened physical arousal; increased defensiveness; scanning area for defensive alternatives; evaluating consequences of threats and actions; increased talkativeness (asking questions); aversion to physical contact (Don’t touch me!); tightening of muscles, clenching teeth; urge to move about; growing resistance to direction.


Use diversion to redirect their attention.

  • Let’s get a soda and talk about this.
  • It’s difficult to cooperate with you when…. so please……
  • This is a tough situation right now, so how about sitting down and discussing what our alternatives might be.


High anxiety; assessing perceived adversary’s vulnerability; verbal threats; abusive language; personal threatening gestures; open refusal to cooperate; intimidation.


Set limits by consequences.

  • I know you are upset but you cannot continue to behave this way. Either you calm down and discuss the problem or we will escort you off the property.
  • Either you calm down or we will help you control yourself.

Never give an ultimatum unless you are prepared to “back it up” and follow through.

  • Either you go to your room like the nurses have asked or we will take you to your room.

All communication should be short, simple and to the point.