De-Escalating a Situation: What To Do When You Are Being Threatened

Very few people enjoy conflict, and most people would state that they would prefer to avoid conflict in any way possible. Unfortunately, there are always going to be situations that arise that involve conflict. When you are involved in a verbal confrontation with someone and feel threatened, the most important thing you can do is try to de-escalate the situation so that you can remove yourself before that conflict increases to a dangerous level. Being approached aggressively or being verbally threatened can be scary, here are some tips on what to do when you are being threatened.

  1. Have Plenty of Patience and Stay Calm
    When it comes to de-escalating a conflict, the best “weapon” you have is your patience. Any situation that feels as if it could potentially turn violent requires patience on your part, and careful response so that you do not further agitate the aggressor. Challenging them, retorting with your own threats or engaging them will more quickly lead to a higher level of conflict. On the other hand, your patience can keep the situation much calmer and potentially defuse the attacker and preventing any further action on their part.

  2. Make Eye Contact
    Looking away can often be perceived by an aggressor as a sign of fear. Keeping eye contact is a sign of confidence. While you do not want to antagonize someone acting aggressively toward you, you do not want to appear to be an easy victim, either.

  3. Use Closed-Ended Statements
    Do not ask questions or engage the aggressor in any way. If you are in an uncomfortable situation and you are being provoked, or verbally abused, the best way to de-escalate the situation is to simply not take the bait, resist the urge to defend yourself verbally, and resist the urge to ask them “why” they are doing this to you or “what” they want. When you make open ended statements, you are inviting additional conversation and giving the aggressor more opportunities to escalate the situation into something even more uncomfortable.

  4. Do Not Fight Back or Become Aggressive
    Responding to a threat with another threat is probably the quickest way to escalate a situation. In nearly every situation, the best thing to do is try to remove yourself and get away. Do not become engaged with someone that is being verbally abusive, it can very easily turn into a situation that is physically abusive.

Your personal safety should always be a priority. If you ever find yourself in a situation that is becoming uncomfortable or verbally abusive, you should do everything you can to de-escalate the situation before it becomes violent. An aggressive situation can turn violent very quickly, and with little provocation, and defending yourself from a physical attack is far more difficult than removing yourself from a threatening verbal conflict. Never, ever let an aggressor engage you in the type of verbal conflict that can escalate. It is far better to tolerate the verbal abuse and get away than let it escalate to a point where you become physically attacked, and potentially injured or killed.