12 Things You’ll Need to do Before De-escalating a Situation


The first step is ensuring that the conditions are safe for de-escalation. If that isn’t the case, leave, call for help and activate the emergency alert response system or panic button. Here are some important things you will need to consider before implementing de-escalation techniques:


  • Identify potential escape routes.
  • Remain in an area where others can see you and position yourself close to an exit.
  • If the area is unsafe (e.g., you’re alone and there are no visible exits), consider moving to a safer area.
  • Consider your surroundings and individuals who may potentially assist you.
  • Be aware of weapons or objects that could be used as weapons (e.g. chairs, box cutters, heavy or sharp objects).
  • Take into account the safety of others who are present.
  • Consider any knowledge you have of the person (e.g. a client who you know is going through a divorce and has been drinking too much).
  • Think about the meaning of the behavior (e.g. co-worker who has just been fired and is angry).
  • Ask yourself if the behavior seems alarming or strange. (e.g. sounds incoherent, confused, sees or hears things that aren’t there).
  • Know how to use your organization’s emergency alert system. It’s important to have an emergency system or panic button that employees can use instantly to quietly alert key staff and/or law enforcement of dangerous situations.
  • Activate work safety protocols if the situation warrants it.
  • Do a quick check-in with yourself. Are you calm or able to calm yourself down? If you’re visibly agitated or angry, de-escalation techniques will be less likely to work.


When implementing de-escalation techniques, it’s important to remain as calm as possible. Take a moment to take a few deep breaths before starting. Successful de-escalators[1] are great listeners who are also:

  1. Open
  2. Honest
  3. Supportive
  4. Self-aware [link active listening skills]
  5. Coherent
  6. Non-judgmental
  7. Confident






[1] Price, O. & Baker, J. (2012). Key components of de-escalation techniques: A thematic synthesis. International Journal of Mental Health Nursing. 21, 310-319.