Keys to Successful “Non-Escalation”

When encountering citizens for an officers’ day-to-day interactions , nothing works every time. There is no communicative prescription that will always be effective and guaranteed to work, or a “one size fits all.” This said, our study of social science and our own deep experience in law enforcement both tell us that some strategies and methods work better than others, and in more instances. We should then proceed from that understanding.

In the context of this training, “Non-escalation” means making decisions and choosing behaviors that are unlikely to agitate a situation and make it worse.  Verbal and non-verbal communication skills are the key. By the time we are involved in real physical altercation, most opportunity for meaningful bi-lateral communication is gone, at least for the moment.

Traditional “altercation communication” involves phrases like, “Sir, stop resisting!” or “Ma’am, please cooperate!” Also important is avoidance of any name-calling, verbal abuse, or other expressions of outright anger. Listening still has a place, of course (especially for expressions of importance like, “I can’t breathe”). 

However, once an intense physical altercation has begun, the best de-escalation tools are sound defensive tactical skills, including excellent handcuffing and other control measures — paired with physical fitness and an appropriate tactical mindset. Distancing, standing-off and standing-down may be options depending on circumstances.   Assuring the presence of additional personnel is always a key to minimizing injury on both sides. All this said, when practical, the same communication skills that are beneficial in non-physical situations may be useful also during physical alterations.

“De-escalation” techniques refer to those decisions and behaviors that tend to reduce emotional tension, aid in problem solving, and thereby reduce the likelihood of the need for force.  Attempts at rationality can be useful if the subject is still processing logic. And, if de-escalation succeeds in reducing emotional tension, there may be a corresponding increase in the subject’s ability to hear logic and other rational persuasions which could then win the day.

Estimated Seat Time of Course: 1 Hour

Each online course is developed from an 8-hour classroom-based curriculum. The average length of our online courses is 90 to 120 minutes.


  • Module 1 - De-Escalation of Interpersonal Conflict

    • Introduction by Randy Means J.D.
    • General Introduction
    • Communication Skills and Emotional Intelligence
    • Mindful Listening
    • Using Your Training in Emotional Intelligence
    • Visualization
    • Arriving Mentally Prepared
    • Verbal Language: Our Word Choices
    • Cooperation and Compliance
    • Customer Service
    • Summary by Randy Means J.D.
    • Assessment