How to de-escalate conflict situation verbally
Let’s discuss the ways how to de-escalate verbally a potentially violent situation.
For example, you make an eye contact with a tough guy who says "What are you looking at, motherfucker?" or something like
this. How to respond in this situation to settle the matter without using force?
Remember: your main weapon is patience. Keep in mind your goal: de-escalation/escape. Don’t rise to
the bait – don’t get emotionally tied to your opponent’s responses. If you go up against a blade, getting cut has to be
expected. Similarly, if you want to de-escalate aggression, you have to expect taking some verbal abuse. Accept it. Don’t
rise to it.
Keep using closed statements that stop the conversation.
If you're asked “What are you looking at?” the easy answer is to say something along the lines of, "Oh, I'm sorry. I
thought you were someone I knew. My mistake, sorry," and start to move away. If after this the guy pursues the issue, you
know he is just out for a fight and you must then prepare for self defense. To reduce the ‘squeaky voice’ effect common
when you get a heightened level of adrenaline in your system, look down slightly as you speak. Looking upwards makes your
Making open statements only invites more conversation. If someone has engaged you in a verbal
confrontation, they haven't yet justified in their mind a physical attack. They may still be trying to figure you out as a
fighter, looking to distract you to set you up for a proactive strike, or simply cannot yet justify physically attacking
you yet. What they are looking is for a reason, and using open statements and questions keeps you in the conversation
longer. Give yourself more rope, and eventually they'll find a reason to escalate to a full out attack.
Not providing them with open statements means that they'll usually run out things to say pretty
- What do you think you’re looking at?
- Nothing, mate!
- You were, you were f****ng looking at me!
- Look mate, sorry I really didn't realize I was
- Well you f****ng was!
Something else that can be effective is to put subtle commands into your placation of an aggressor.
This could be as simple as not using 'please' in your discussions (it is easy to become overly polite in de-escalation
situations), so if they are shouting simply use direct language to quieten them. When they do quieten down, they have
done what they have been told, this removes control of the situation from them without them realizing consciously and
makes it far easier to make them go away- it does work, but you have to get it right as it’s a fine balance.