Step 4 in the five steps of de-escalation, is to “Meet A Need” of an individual in crisis (try our cpi certificate or our crisis intervention training). The trick is in trying to identify that need. You’ve already found an “in,” and have bridged a little bit of a gap. Now you’re trying to identify a need we can meet. To do this we refer to Maslow’s Hierarchy*. Whether or not you’ve heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy before, you may want to take a look at it. Maslow believed there are different levels of human needs, at the base are the physiological needs—food, water, air, shelter, clothing, etc. Next is safety and security, followed by love and belonging. Self-esteem and self-actualization are the next two levels. The needs at each level corresponds to the needs in the prior stage. If the needs at each level have been met, you’re not going to be able to progress up through that pyramid, to self-actualization. In a nutshell, Maslow’s hierarchy is a common theory of human motivation.

So, understanding that Maslow’s Hierarchy has to do with people and their basic needs in order to survive, someone who is in crisis, is usually in that position, because one of their basic physiological or psychological needs is not being satisfied. Their needs are not being met, and as a result they are led to acting out in crisis behavior.

Maybe, they didn’t get enough sleep, didn’t have enough food, they don’t have adequate shelter, or they’re in a position where they feel physically unsafe. Those are situations where I try to identify that need they feel is not being met, and if I can, I then try to do something to help alleviate that feeling.

For example, I can see if the other person is overheated. We’re outside and it’s a hot day. They’re stressed out and they’re angry. I might say, “Sir, I want to hear you. I want to understand what’s going on, but first, can I get you a bottled water? It’s really hot out here, and we could both benefit from some cold water”. Sure, that person might look at me and say, “Man, I don’t want any water, get out my face.” Even if they do react negatively, at least I’ve offered and have addressed one of their basic needs. No matter whether they accept or not, the information you receive can help start to build that foundation in Maslow’s Hierarchy. It will help tell you where they are in the hierarchy.

Let’s look as the scenario from the previous step. There’s a car in a ditch, and a very unhappy owner. The last thing he wants to see is law enforcement and he made his feelings known. I looked for that “in,” the rapport building that lets him know I understand what he must be feeling. In this case, my “in” was his car.

The next step, is to figure out what he needs. He’s worried about his car and he needs it out of the ditch. So, I approach him with something like, “Hey, I know you’re worried about going to jail and all that, but let’s not think about that right now. Don’t worry about the sobriety tests. For right now, let’s get a tow truck. How about that? Let’s get somebody out here to get that vehicle out of the ditch.” In his mind, he’s thinking, “Wow, this is a nice cop. I may not be going to jail and he cares about my car.” I am meeting a need he has, possibly on the safety/security level and/or esteem needs level, which will help lead him to a better more cooperative place.

Why plant these seeds? It’s simple. Later, I’m going to start to ask him questions. I’m going to run through sobriety tests, or whatever it is I have to do to get my evidence for the drunk driving case. For now, though, I’m trying to build a rapport with him, because if I gain a little traction here, it’s going to be a lot easier to get what I need later.