General Thoughts About Using Verbal Interventions

While it is always a worthy cause to seek better ways of engaging upset people in ways that enhance our relationships with them, there are a few limitations/considerations to keep in mind when using “Verbal Interventions and De-escalation Strategies (VIDS).”

The following are the general prerequisites to being successful at using VIDS:

1.Timing – It is not always easy or a sure thing that what we say will be the right thing at any given moment, especially in tense situations.  Sometimes what we “want to say” may have to take a back seat to what we “should or need” to say.  For example, you may feel that offering an apology for a mis-understanding is in order but the tense circumstances may suggest instead that you issue a directive even though you realize you may be partly to blame for the mis-understanding.

2.Rapport/Authority – If you have rapport with someone, it is much easier to convince him/her to at least consider trying things that they otherwise might not try. Likewise, those with authority and who also use their authority in a timely, logical and consistent manner can get others to do things that; again, they otherwise might not do, without being directed to do so. If you have legitimate authority, use it wisely. If you don’t have authority, learn more about how to establish rapport with people.

3.Reasonability - Rarely does an angry person think that they are being unreasonable.  Therefore, one goal of VIDS is to get them to a point where they can listen to reason.  The trick in doing this is that you yourself have to be perceived by the upset person as being reasonable. If you are having a conflict with someone who is unreasonable, your choice of intervention tools will be limited to using short verbal directives, active listening and other non-verbal de-escalation strategies.

4.Age/Cognitive Ability – These are linked closely to #3. In order for one to verbally deescalate someone else, there has to be a pathway to mutual understanding.  If you are intervening with an 8 year old or with an adult/teen that is functioning on the level of an 8 year old, what you say, how you say it and when you say it are critically important.  In general, the younger the age or the lower the cognitive ability, the less words you should use and the more directive you should be, sooner rather than later.

5.Self-Awareness – The old adage, “If you’re not part of the solution, you may be part of the problem” holds true here.  Good communicators are introspective in that they constantly monitor how their own behavior impacts the behavior of others.  Remember that “Total Communication” requires not only saying what you think but also being what you say. That is, if you feel the need to lecture the upset person about respect, you must first be confident that your style of interaction is consistent with your verbal messages and de-escalation strategies.