Peacemaking & Deescalation
“The root word for courage and heart, coeur, is the same. To de-escalate and calm others requires both.”
If you are approached, greet them. Ask their first name. Tell them yours if you want to. Change this encounter into a conversation if possible.
Don’t try to win; try to establish peace.Try to resolve the situation so they can separate with their pride intact, increasing the likelihood that, even if they have not achieved their original goal, they will at least have a certain amount of respect for the way you handled the situation.
[There are times when you must win. If there is truly danger, make this your intention: “I will win. I will go home to my friends and family.”]
Make haste slowly. Your attitude is an essential component of de-escalation. The other individual may be feeling urgency. You must believe there is more time to solve this problem. Try to move into the situation with the attitude that you have all the time you need.
Maintain a powerful calm in your attitude and your actions. Sudden moves may be interpreted as an attack. With your calm, help the other catch that calm. Breathe smoothly, speak clearly in a low voice, move in smooth coordinated ways.
Maintain emotional distance from the other and his/her supporters. Don’t try to befriend them. Establish limits, be respectful, move away if the other cannot do so as well. Take shelter if you are afraid. Expect a reaction to the conflict you have experienced.
Use understandable words and keep it simple. No long, run-on, multi-leveled paragraphs.
Create a somewhat private space if possible, without an audience. Draw the person aside if they want to argue with you. Enraged persons may be excited by the crowd or begin to attack others. Try to get them to sit down with you on the ground.
Don’t touch the irritated person, hoping to calm them down. There are very few times when touching an angry person makes the situation better.
Demonstrate empathy. This is a huge challenge. You can express your own opinion and feelings, and demonstrate an understanding of the other’s opinion and feelings. Those two things are not mutually exclusive. Ask questions for understanding. Remember understanding is not the same thing as agreement.
If you notice your questions are making the person angrier, stop!
Filter out the static and leap ahead to the objective. The purpose of the gathering is to demonstrate publicly and in solidarity with others against injustice. Return to your purpose as soon as possible. It is a time-limited opportunity. Invite them to do the same.
Create an exit plan for both of you.Your hope should be a peaceful resolution of the encounter, with both sides respecting the others’ freedom to disagree.
(Put on your symbolic raincoat. You are then protected from verbal abuse if you do not smear it on yourself or eat it.)