• 11-25-2019 De-escalating summary

De-escalating Potentially Violent Situations Takeaways

 November 25, 2019
Posted by NWT Recreation and Parks Association

Information we learned during the NWTRPA and CTRI organized event which took place in October in Yellowknife and Hay River.

In October, the NWTRPA partnered with CTRI to deliver De-escalating Potentially Violent Situations workshops in Yellowknife and Hay River. We wanted to share some of the valuable information we learned during the training.

Work Context

  • Rate Your Workplace Risk Level where you work makes a difference in the type of anger/violence that you may encounter
  • For example, is there a history of workplace violence, what is your type of work environment, do you have to do/say things that upset people, and what type of situations increase risk of violence in the works, do those exist in yours?

Policies & Procedures

  • The policies and procedures need to be realistic. Reporting incidents needs to work in practice in the work context and policies
  • Policies and procedures need to be clear. Policies need to clearly outline what is inappropriate behavior and be enforced at all levels

Understanding Violence & Anger

  • Anyone is capable of violence. 
    • What would make you violent?
    • Common perpetrators in workplace: clients, strangers, domestic, and employee
  • A person isn’t violent or dangerous– a situation is
  • When responding to violence, a clear decision of action is often best instead of being unsure how to respond or avoiding response

Reasons People Commit Violence

  1. Release intense feelings that make them feel out of control
  2. Control others’ behaviours or thoughts
  3. Retaliating against someone who wronged them
  4. Feeling trapped, so violence feels like the last and only option
  5. Learned behaviour
  6. Protective behaviour
  7. Diminished capacity
  8. Misunderstanding

Anger Cycle

  • Insert Photo: Anger Cycle

People’s emotional baseline is different every day for everyone which means that someone’s breaking point can be different in each situation. Some factors that can affect someone’s baseline are: personality, stress level, nature of incident, addictions, etc. It’s also important to note that people escalate at different speeds. Sometimes it is a second, sometimes a few minutes. It depends on the person and their breaking point.

Stage 1: Incident/Trigger

  • Typically stems from not having needs met (hungry, tired, lack of shelter, temperature, etc.)
  • Leaving a window of tolerance

Stage 2: Escalation

  • Can’t always see someone escalate
  • Flight, fight, or freeze instinct comes into effect
  • Ability to listen and interact appropriately is hindered as our frontal lobe turns off
  • Our task is to reverse the process of escalation before they reach their breaking point

Stage 3: Breaking Point

  • Impaired reasoning and judgment
  • Limited ability to hear/see
  • Out of control
  • Different for everyone each day, some people go quiet
  • They are feeling unsafe, so we need to work towards a sense of safety

Stage 4: Recovery

  • Regains awareness and assess their response
  • Can result in guilt, shame, remorse, relief that incident has passed
  • Explain how body reacts (front of brain turns off) when you are outside your window of tolerance, so your body isn’t regulating = a different, empowering experience 

Understanding Ourselves

There are important questions to ask yourself to understand how you would respond to someone escalating:

  • What qualities do you have that would make you good at defusing someone who is escalating?
  • What qualities do you have that would limit your ability to help defuse someone who is escalating?
  • What is your anger style? Avoidant, forceful, collaborative or indirect control?

Self-reflection will help you realize the tools that are within yourself already, as well as what to check yourself for when you are trying to de-escalate a situation. It’s an interaction, so it’s important to understand what you put out. We did a quiz similar to the below link to figure out our anger styles: https://families.ces.ncsu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/06.c-3.-ANGER-STYLES-QUIZ.pdf?fwd=no

The Aggression-Defusing Process

Step 1: Awareness

  • Do a quick review of the entire situation. How are you feeling? What are your surroundings?

Step 2: Containment

  • Engage in the situation, address issues, but be ready to disengage if person is escalating too quickly

Step 3: Problem Solving

  • Once the person has de-escalated, work at addressing the concerns of the individual

Step 4: Closing

  • Reassure individual and clarify next steps to prevent future incidents  and maintain relationship


  • Disengage when you feel unsafe or that the escalation is extreme at any stage in the process

For more information on organizing a workshop in your community check out: https://ca.ctrinstitute.com/workshop-descriptions/dpvs-violence-prevention/