De-escalation techniques

Anyone have recommendations for good training on de-escalation techniques? I’m thinking about this because a few days ago I was only a few feet from an overexcited individual in the checkout line at Costco who started yelling at the top of his voice “I’m not going to wear this f-ing mask, there’s no reason to wear a f-ing mask…”, etc. I moved away quickly and didn’t see whether he was screaming at a Costco employee or his wife or… but I did think about what my options would have been had he confronted me for looking at him. With the [fringe media] encouraging their adherents to confront anyone wearing a mask I want to have options for defusing such situations and hopefully avoiding the consequences of physical confrontation.


In all seriousness, the best de-escalation technique I can think of is to walk away from trouble. This, of course, assumes that this is a possibility—but in most cases, I suspect that it is.

If one thinks about things like the OODA loop, then the idea of putting distance between one’s self and a developing situation is both tactical and strategic. Tactically, it gives you time to calculate your response. And strategically, it gives you more time to gather information and observe the totality of the situation.

If the threat is immediate and upon you, then retreat probably isn’t an option. But in the situation described here, I would have simply removed myself from the vicinity and notified store personnel and/or the police that there was a threatening individual in the store.



Liked your question. Might not be enough space here to address it in full. To me, I’ve seen it addressed in the mental health field.

I can’t comment on political views, as I’m neither red or blue, but perhaps purple.

I’ve had similar experiences. Perhaps one’s own safety takes precedence over one’s ego. Once when I was in line at a store, the man in front of me yelled at me for standing too close to him. Then he acted out toward the cashier clerk. I didn’t argue with him and I was not in any way physical towards him. It was not worth the risk giving him any grief back. That took me 15 seconds and itself de-escalated him. Cool heads prevail per se.

In previous posts, my peers here have warned about not stepping into a fight when you are not part of it to begin with, thinking of one one’s family at home who need you to return safe and sound. It’s a serious personal decision. Getting involved instead of backing off places you in harms way.

If the threat is toward you and if there is time, knowing de-escalation techniques can save you, unless fighting is necessary for self-defense. Worthy of “simulation” training practice. Requiring knowledge, and skill, as the person in question can sense when someone is respectful.

Some stores or businesses have a security department who are more trained to help in certain cases.

Resource: CPI's Top 10 De-Escalation Tips | CPI


Agreed, just back off don’t want to provoke anyone that said I’d still have to stick around just to see what’s shaking.

& Is that really thing?


Hmmm. I thought that was more of a Maxine style thing, encouraging people to get in others’ faces.


Had to look this up. Only thing I found was a statement by Tucker Carlson . Seems to be : well they do it to us, good for the goose thing. Which is true however it’s just going to cause more trouble.


For that third person encounter, the easiest way is to say nothing, and as others have said, remain calm and back away. Be sure to keep an awareness of your surroundings and other people as the individual might have friends. I can’t give much advice on what to do if you become the focus of the aggression, other than remaining calm and aware. Every situation is different, and some people just won’t be deterred. Don’t panic.


If confrontation is unavoidable, I’d start with “ if you don’t want to wear a mask, that’s your choice.”
If you are still in a position of avoidance, minding ones own business about controversial topics is usually the best policy. Just remember to keep your head on a swivel.


Please remember the Community Guidelines. There is no name-calling about anyone or any group of people. Once the name-calling starts the conversation/discussion can devolve quickly and is not usually productive. Thank you to those of you who kept the conversation productive.

The name-calling will be removed from the post instead of the post being hidden because the resulting conversation has been productive.


When I worked as an unarmed ranger/naturalist with no real law enforcement abilities a couple decades ago we did roll playing as part of our annual training. The trainers would play the part of unfriendly rule breakers and the newbies would have to try to positively connect with them. Most of the scenarios were pretty basic but a few simulated dealing with drunk and armed campers. It was good practice and some folks were a lot better at it than others so you learned a lot by watching other people’s different approaches.

The key is figuring out how to connect with the aggressor. Finding or feigning some common ground. And just as importantly, quickly recognizing when a connection would be impossible so you can get yourself and the other visitors out of the situation as quickly as possible. We worked in remote backcountry settings so calling for backup was not an option.


When a person is yelling like that there’s no way at that moment to de-escalate them. Hopefully they will calm down and just defuse themselves. There is a thing called Tourette’s syndrome when people get annoyed and just start cursing people out. Not even family members can stop them. If it were me I would leave it alone. But in the NYPD they gave us training on how to deal with EDPs (emotionally disturbed person) and it was via talking and reasoning. I’m sure there are courses out there that you can find. But people who have this from what I understand aren’t violent but will give you the worst unprovoked tongue lashes you will ever experience. But in all seriousness if you have to take action the cooler heads prevail. Stay calm and cool.




Check out Tony Blauer, S.P.E.A.R. system. One can find several, some dated, talks on managing fear, situational response, and ultimately defense. His adages include push away danger, adopt a non violent posture, fingers splayed and elbow angle outside 90 degrees. D1 Detect and avoid, D2 Deescalate and Defuse, D3 Defend. Always seek safety. The best fight to have is the one you don’t. Apologize in advance for Tony’s salty language. He’s just turned 61 and has been at this for 40 decades. He also has activity on Facebook that will link to frequent brief videos.


First off, avoidance is always the best way. Walk away from situations if you can. Even if someone gets in your face, it’s not worth someone getting hurt over words.

Secondly, you have this totally backwards, it is the left wing media that encourages people to get in the faces of sane people who don’t want to wear masks. Masks do not work and the science proves that. Don’t be brainwashed by these pseudo scientists and leftist democrats who claim otherwise. All you have to do is look at states like Florida and Texas (red states) who no longer require masks or lockdowns vs states like Michigan and California (blue states) who still mandate masks and lockdowns to see the truth. An example: Michigan has four times the number COVID cases than Texas. Explain that.

Bottom line, I can fully understand the man at Costco who did not want to wear a “f-ing mask” He represents a growing number of freedom, liberty loving Americans who aren’t going to put up with this crap anymore.


Frankly, I’m sick of this whole mask issue and find that it’s the mask adherents that are the volatile ones, considering I can’t wear one for health reasons. “Nutball right wing”…please. If you ask me, it’s the other way around.

In any case, The way to de escalate this type of situation is to simply walk away if you’re uncomfortable.


I too have been in the middle of a confrontation while in the check out line in a Lowe’s. The guy in front of me was yelling at the check out clerk while the guy behind me was yelling at the guy in front of me. I’m standing there, armed and experiencing enhanced situational awareness, decided to remain calm and to act as a good witness. The guy in front of me told the guy behind me to “stay out of it”. He did and the situation deescalated itself. Had the confrontation got violent, I was resolved to stay neutral. It was not my fight. However, if threatened, I was prepared to use non lethal responses.


Here is an online course on verbally de-escalating disruptive persons. The course is built for church safety team members and is pretty good. The gentleman who does the course uses the acronym LEAST for verbal deescalation.

L = Listen (don’t argue, be an active listener. Don’t tell them to calm down. Just listen. In a church security context if the individual is engaging with a safety team member, he’s not harrassing a member of the flock.)

E = Empathize (even if you disagree find some common ground. Your goal isn’t to win the argument. Your goal is safety. Don’t be dishonest. But do be sympathetic/empathetic.)

A = Ask. (As the person calms down, ask them to do something where appropriate. For example, in a church security setting you’re going to ask them to leave the sanctuary or the children’s area.)

S = Summarize. (Summarize their concerns as a part of your active listening.)

T = Tell them what the next steps are towards resolution. I.e. a follow up meeting with the pastor.

Obviously not all of these steps apply in a retail establishment or in the general public.

I wholeheartedly agree with those who have suggested walking away. Another organization (won’t mention a competitor’s name on this forum) just put out a set of articles on “Breaking Contact.” It’s an excellent concept and worth considering.

The other thing that seems to come into play in a check out line might be if you (or the other person) have a shopping cart between the two of you. That can be used to create or keep space between you and the unreasonable person.


It’s the same technique how we were trained in the NYPD but they called it Verbal Judo.


You could always take your own mask off, after all, our Governor has stated that Covid-19, will not be an issue anymore!


As an aside to this conversation, I strongly recommend Chris Voss’s book “Never Split The Difference” as one of the best tomes on negotiation. For those that don’t know, Voss is a former hostage negotiator for the FBI … someone that’s probably forgotten more than most of us will ever know about negotiating and deescalation.

The OP’s question reminds me of one of Voss’s stories in his book, about negotiating with Abu Sabaya (look him up on Wikipedia), who Voss described as a “terrorist-sociopath-killer.” As @Sinbad described above, Voss used many of the LEAST techniques to deescalate something far worse than any of us will encounter in a checkout line.

(I don’t think Voss specifically talks about the LEAST acronym, but those techniques will be familiar to anyone that has read his book.)