Conflict De-Escalation Techniques and How to Use Them

Posted On: September 11, 2023

De-escalation techniques play a vital role in calming individuals and reaching a resolution during conflicts. These techniques are particularly crucial in preventing potentially violent situations when someone becomes genuinely angry or acts irrationally.

In this article, we will explore seven effective conflict resolution techniques that can be applied in various scenarios, ranging from customer interactions to employee management.

Different De-Escalation Techniques For Different Businesses

It is important to note that de-escalation techniques are not one-size-fits-all solutions. Each business needs to develop its own strategies and approaches to handling issues and problems effectively.

The Bouncer Solution

In certain establishments like bars, bouncers serve as conflict de-escalators. They may firmly remove unruly customers or intervene in fights to separate antagonists until law enforcement arrives. This technique proves effective in such environments.

However, it is unnecessary for smaller businesses like clothing stores, except during peak shopping events like Black Friday. In these cases, the store's owner or manager can personally engage with upset customers, striving to calm them down and ensure their satisfaction.

“Uh Oh, Very Angry Customer in Aisle Five!”

In larger retail establishments, it is not uncommon for an employee who was not involved in the initial conflict to face an irate customer suddenly. In such situations, employees should be equipped with basic de-escalation techniques to appease the customer and resolve their concerns. For more complex or unreasonable cases, the employee should promptly call a manager to handle the situation effectively.

Employee Conflicts

Conflicts can also arise between employees in the workplace. Not everyone working together will get along, and differences can escalate tensions. Managers and supervisors must possess the skills necessary to guide employees in resolving their differences before the situation spirals out of control.

Seven Effective Tips for De-Escalating Customer Conflicts

By implementing the following seven tips, you can effectively manage various conflict scenarios, with a primary focus on de-escalation:

  1. Stay Calm

The first and most crucial step is to remain calm. Reacting with anger when someone else is already angry will only worsen the situation. Take a deep breath, compose yourself, and be prepared to listen actively.

  1. Avoid The Blame Game

Refrain from blaming the person by reciting company policies or accusing them with phrases like "you should have...". Additionally, avoid assigning blame until you have a complete understanding of the entire story. Hasty judgments may lead to incorrect conclusions.

  1. Get To The Bottom of The Problem

Encourage the person to work together by saying, "Let's try to work this out together." Ask relevant questions and demonstrate a genuine interest in understanding their problem. While listening attentively, it may be necessary to cut through unnecessary details to focus on the core issue.

  1. Admit Mistakes

If you discover that you or your company made a mistake, take responsibility for it. Involve a manager if needed and explain the situation honestly. Assure the customer that you will rectify the mistake and take preventive measures to avoid similar incidents in the future.

  1. Break The News Gently

If the person is at fault, deliver the news gently. Restate their problem and then provide an explanation. For instance, if an angry customer claims that a shirt shrank after washing, gently inform them that the shirt is made of silk and labeled as "dry clean only." Explain that washing and drying it can cause shrinkage.

  1. Strive To Fix the Issue

Some individuals simply want to vent, while others would rather seek a solution to their problem. If you possess the authority to address the issue, make genuine efforts to resolve it. For example, if an employee is struggling with a computer program, consider suggesting one-on-one or company-wide training sessions. In a retail store, if the customer has a legitimate problem with an item costing less than $10, it may be best to offer a refund without making it a significant issue.

  1. Thank The Person!

Show appreciation for the person bringing the issue to your attention. Acknowledge their concerns and feelings. Whenever possible, seek their feedback on how they believe the problem should be resolved. Clearly communicate the follow-up steps you plan to take. These actions demonstrate your commitment to their satisfaction and indicate that you prioritize their interests over solely focusing on the company's bottom line.

Managing Escalating Conflicts

If the problem continues to escalate to the point where you think the person could get violent, try the following steps.

  1. If the person remains angry but rational, calmly ask for a cooling-off period and then to agree to meet back in a few minutes.
  2. Stay calm and in control of your emotions. Someone has to be the adult. Even if the customer taunts you or calls you names, just keep cool.
  3. Refrain from yelling or resorting to physical contact.
  4. Keep a safe distance.
  5. Don’t act threatening or provoke the person.
  6. If you feel they will not calm down and a manager is not present, calmly ask a fellow employee to call 911.
  7. If you are alone, keep your distance and calmly tell the person you are calling 911 to help resolve the situation. If you feel threatened, look for an exit or a secure location, like a closet with a locking door.  

By staying calm, actively listening, and working collaboratively towards a reasonable solution, you can successfully de-escalate most conflicts. Remember, prioritizing de-escalation techniques can contribute to a safer and more harmonious environment in various settings.

Are you seeking comprehensive HR, Ethics, and Compliance courses for your business? Join forces with 360training to fulfill your employee training and development requirements. With a proven track record spanning two decades, we have established ourselves as a trusted provider of impactful workforce training solutions. Having catered to over 11 million users worldwide and delivered comprehensive solutions to more than 4,000 businesses globally, we possess the expertise to meet your unique needs.

For more comprehensive information on conflict resolution, consider exploring our course on preventing workplace violence.

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