As a public servant, part of any criminal justice profession is encountering random strangers, even sketchy characters. Not just merely meeting them, but talking to them, building rapport such that trust is established, and communicating so they can provide significant details in specific cases. These individuals can get emotional or even violent depending on the circumstances why they’re dealing with criminal justice – they might be a victim, an offender, a detainee, a probationer, a witness.
For situations like these, the importance of good communication skills for criminal justice professionals is highlighted. Verbal de-escalation is just one of the skills that can make a difference such that initially aggressive or emotional individuals calm down and are able to cooperate with what the system requires from them.
Denise Beagley, M.Sc., of the Arizona State University joins this Justice Clearinghouse webinars to discus how verbal de-escalation and effective communication can help diffuse a conflict situation. Denise is the manager of ASU’s Center for Applied Behavioral Health Policy, and also works as an Intervention Specialist for the Chandler Fire Department. Her education and career focused primarily on psychology and its application to the criminal justice system.
Just some of the points raised on the course include:
- An overview that encompassed course objectives, crisis situations people experience, and the training and attitude needed by people working in such conditions to be successful in their roles.
- What EQ is and the importance of self-awareness and self-control.
- What verbal de-escalation is, what it looks like, its limitations, and its goals.
- What effective communication is and its importance to the criminal justice professionals.
- Barriers to effective communication such as biases, inability to actively listen, criticizing, threatening, and arguing.
The three elements of communication that humans take part in as:
- Non-verbal communication that makes up 55% of all communications which looks at our stance, our facial expressions, and body language.
- Tone of voice which comprises 38% of communications that considers how you say something and the feelings and attitudes they evoke.
- Words or verbal communication that encompasses only 7% of communications.
- What crisis is, how conflicts occur, and a video illustrating how two law enforcement officers affected a woman’s behavior through ineffective communication and successful verbal de-escalation.
- The seven stages of behavior escalation that a first responder or officer may encounter in conflict situations namely: calm, trigger, agitation, acceleration, peak, de-escalation, and recovery.
- The four realms of personal space people may find themselves in with another individual, and the safe distance based on these prescribed for law enforcement to take in critical situations.
- How people in crisis often have a distorted sense of personal space that can make them anxious or hostile.
- Stances and positions when approaching another individual and the correct and safe type to take when dealing with an aggressive person.
- Common signs of agitation and how to prevent behavior escalation.
- The difference between directing communication that enforces our righting reflex and the guiding communication style that builds trust and uses verbal judo.
- How individuals in crisis often express anger to hide their fear and sadness.
- Techniques to convey active listening, strategies to help a conflicted person arrive to a resolution, and utilizing wise agreements.
- Understanding what to do and what should be avoided when dealing with aggressive, emotional or conflicted individuals.
- How verbal de-escalation works and common techniques in de-escalating.
- Poll questions asked if the webinar participants have ever experienced crisis in their personal and/or professional relationships.
On the Q&A portion of the course, attendees raised their concerns on:
- Specifics of tone of voice
- Samples of start requests
- Instances where verbal de-escalation isn’t the best option to take
- Communicating with individuals under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Factors that makes people in crisis more likely to open up
- Managing one’s own hot buttons