De-escalation Techniques Workshop

The Safe Congregations Ministry held a workshop on De-escalation Techniques led by Chris Mason of the Middlebury Police Department on Sun., Feb. 2 after the service. We encouraged anyone interested in learning how to deal with individuals who are disturbed and/or not acting normally to attend. We especially encouraged those who are Greeters, Ushers, Worship Associates or Safety Volunteers to attend.


(Notes by Mary Hadley and Alan Moore)

February 2, 2020

  1. Remain calm

De-escalation is needed when you encounter hostility, anger, a person in crisis.

What to do is intellectually easy, behaviorally hard.
Take a deep breath, speak in low, soft tone of voice and make soft comments
2. Be very polite-respectful

  1. Address the person not the violence; address the pain, ask questions

It is natural to focus only on aggression, but need to think of them as person
Anger is usually rooted in pain, anger is symptom of  pain for folks – recognize the pain and try to get them to talk about that – try to portray empathy, ask questions about the pain, “I see you are really upset, what caused this?” Get the person to tell his story; empathize


  1. Confront the situation obliquely; tell a story, ask a weird question; try to disrupt the person’s preconceived narrative. Confounding expectations- confront situation obliquely – say things that aren’t expected – if something to reference – stickers, equipment, things with them – ask or comment about it, they share first, then you can share or provide insight – Need to changes their story/ narrative of what they think is going to occur; you tell a story totally unrelated to person, situation and person gets into your story;

Open ended questions are particularly helpful,
Eye contact is a mixed bag, not excessive in the beginning or it may seem challenging; but no eye contact is strange as well; good to have some eye contact after you start talking; then watch for sign of respect and listening
Humor can work or backfire, need to use your own judgement as to best approach; face toward the person non- confrontationally

  1. Be aware of surroundings; place where you can hide or escape of needed? Other people around to help, or all 911?


  1. Establish connection (tell story, empathize). As an observer, see who is interacting with person and if not the right person, figure out who would be or step in yourself; help control the physical space, let other folks know – Barnaby, contact police if needed


  1. Don’t say “calm down” or do or say anything that implies controlling the person


  1. Get person to say “yes” or agree to something 3 times. This will usually get them to calm down a bit


  1. Crisis management – shift in last several years
    Used to be for an active shooter, response was to hide; lock down drill
    Now, first priority is to get away from source of threat/ flee, 2nd is lockdown and barricade doors, 3rd is hit them with something, run around, scream (run, hide, fight)