The Louder they Get, the Quieter you get
If you want to capture somebody’s attention, whisper. I work with another trainer who does this. When people are upset, and becoming more escalated, he lowers his voice. He gets quiet. He teaches this in his training sessions and he reports that it’s been very effective. When people are yelling and out of control all he does is lower his voice and the other person, almost immediately, starts to calm down. Depending on the situation, you may feel that you want to yell back at them, to express your side of it, to enforce some limit, or try to set a limit. It’s normal to want to do that. The problem is, trying to enforce a limit on someone already fully engaged in crisis is poor timing. Teaching limits and boundaries should happen when someone is at their Baseline, not once they are in the middle of a crisis. Get this training and more in our cpi classes.
Yelling back at someone in crisis has real consequences aside from just escalating the situation. Imagine you are in a crisis situation where the person is yelling and screaming at you. You then respond in kind, trying to “overpower” them with your words and volume. Now imagine there is a video camera inside of the room recording the action. The video playback though is broken, and it only records audio. Now imagine there is a trial and the jury only has this audio recording by which they will determine whether you were in the right or whether you were in the wrong. The last thing you want is that jury wondering which person posed the greater threat. Which person was more out of control? Was it the person in crisis? Or you? We can not overestimate the importance of non-violent crisis intervention training for staff in these situations.
We all know we could find ourselves in exactly that type of situation. You don’t want someone to walk in, or anyone to hear that audio, and not immediately know who the greater aggressor was, or immediately know which person was more out of control.
I’m sure you’ve seen this before. You hear this type of power struggle or back-and-forth between officers, patients, staff, co-workers, etc. Maybe the patient and the staff are both yelling back and forth “You need to calm down! You need to go sit down! You’re going to lose your points! You’re going to go back on gym restriction!” Whatever it may be. It’s so loud that somebody walking up wouldn’t know which person poses the greater threat.
So, to calmly diffuse a situation and protect yourself from costly liability and potential violence, remember: the louder they get, the quieter you should get.