Okay.  I admit.  This is a bold claim, true. But I believe it to be attainable.  Doable.  You can deescalate or defuse anybody, even any scene, any time, if you can follow my simple rules of engagement.

What I am about to suggest comes from years of research and my personal and professional experience (40-some years working with antisocial, disenfranchised, and stone cold criminals).

Lest you are getting the impression that I am a gold-plated expert on human relations and conflict resolution, maybe I should point out here and now that, for most of my life I have been an abject failure at de-escalation.  Yes, I teach it, but actually doing it, defusing aggressive and emotionally disturbed people in real time, while experiencing debilitating survival stress?  Well, readers, that is another thing.  Don’t you agree?

Obviously, I do agree.  Which is why, over the past decade or so, I have worked hard on a formula, an equation on how to manage myself so I can manage out of control and/or aggressive people.  My equations, as you will soon read, is that, in order to accomplish universal deescalation, one must first understand that deescalation in not natural.  As a matter of fact, it is a Highly Unnatural Act!


  1. True De-escalation is an Unnatural Act.  Meaning, relying on our natural emotions can be disastrous!  When a student, or anyone, for that matter, is agitated, he or she will often act in such a way and in such a manner that will purposely get under a teacher’s (parent’s)skin.  Think about it.  What are your emotions like when someone threatens you, tries to intimidate you, and/or insults you?  Correct.  You are what we call in the tactical communications field – Triggered!  When triggered, our natural reaction is, among other things, to get agitated back.  We may use profanity.  We may get defensive.  We may even threaten the student back, and in rare but catastrophic cases, we react with violence.  In other words, we are “Under the Influence” of those emotions (rage, anger, humiliation, fear, envy, retaliation, vengeance, et al), and, as George Thompson, the founder of Verbal Judo would say, we are Brain Damaged!
  2. Know Your Triggers and Learn To Resolve Them.  A powerful deescalation strategy, then, is to know yourself, know what buttons someone can push to upset you, and to work on those buttons so that it is no use for any student or person to push them.
  3. Understand and Believe In what De-escalation Really Is.   In essence, de-escalation is designed to “reduce the intensity of a conflict or potentially violent situation…”  Look at rule number three to see how we may accomplish this.
  4. We Must Be Able To Defuse Ourselves Before We Can Hope to Defuse Another.  A key to defusing aggressive students may be this simple,  We must consider unplugging the power struggle as one expert recently put it (at a training I attended).  Simply put, severe stress, attendant to that experienced by agitated people, distorts perception.   It is crucial then that we (teachers, parents, security, others) learn to manage our emotions and responses.  Why?  Because more often than not, acting in a calm and empathetic manner may be all that it takes to absorb the student’s mania and/or tension.  Add to that, understanding what he or she is going through and allowing the students both time and space will allow him/her to keep the Dignity Domino (if that domino falls, however, it begins a downgrading process that is hard to stop).
  5. Follow My DEFUSE FORMULA.


Don’t Lose Your Cool/Depersonalize.

Empathize and Ego Suspension (the secret to unplugging the power struggle).

Find Out the Facts.  Asking artful questions often interrupts agitation and allows the teacher to act upon what is really bothering the student rather than reacting on prejudicial (often) assumptions.  (Is there something I can do to help?)

Understand Feelings.  You do not have to agree with these feelings, but, often, giving the perception that you are concerned with his/her feelings is crucial.

Slow Everything Down.  Perceptions are distorted when a child or young adult is triggered, agitated.  Therefore. speaking and moving much slower often can have a sobering effect.  Again, high-emotions are contagious, so communicating a slow-paced confidence will often have a medicinal effect on an agitated person.

End on a Positive Note and Empower the Student.

Until next time when I continue my theme of de-escalating anyone…

Stay Safe


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