So, it is vital that staff possess the knowledge and skills to enable them to defuse aggression or contain a difficult situation until help can get to them if the need should arise.
Violence and aggression seldom comes out of the blue. There are warning signals – such as sweating, pacing, table tapping or rapid speech and movements. It’s important for our safety that we try to recognise these.
It’s also valuable to make an appropriate assessment of the situation and to ensure that we can manage our own behaviour and communication.
Self-awareness can also play a vital part in a person’s ability to deal with aggressive situations. It helps if we can all recognise and control any feelings of anger or tension that may trigger or worsen the behaviour of others. This includes learning how to act when dealing with an aggressive individual, rather than reacting and escalating the situation.
Non-verbal communication is also important. A message is only partly told with words and the messages conveyed by body language and tone of voice can be far stronger. We can tell someone we understand and sympathise with them, but if we appear bored, desperate to go home or have any negative thoughts about them, this information can be demonstrated in our body language or voice.
The other person may detect this and it could override anything we are saying. Therefore, our body language and tone of voice needs to be congruent with our verbal message.
People can become aggressive for several reasons, including when they feel they are not being listened to or taken seriously. So, an important skill to have when dealing with people is ‘active listening’.
This is about not only listening but showing we are listening and understanding – by nodding, taking notes, asking for clarification and so on.
Listening well is not a natural skill. Often people are so intent on interrupting and saying their piece they miss half of what is being said to them. Good listening is a basic conflict resolution skill which anyone who interacts with the public needs to master.
Dealing with upset and aggressive or violent individuals is a learnt skill and once learnt it can make working life easier and safer.
The Suzy Lamplugh Trust was established in 1986 following the disappearance of the young estate agent, Suzy Lamplugh, to highlight the personal safety risks people can face during their working day and to offer advice, action and support to minimise those risks. They work throughout the UK to provide a range of personal safety services including workplace training and consultancy, community projects and public awareness and policy campaigns.