Tense Situations & Security Guards: De-escalation Tips You Can Use

The job of a security guard can vary greatly from day to day. Some days may be filled with routine patrols and reports, while other days you may encounter a threatening or dangerous security situation. You never know what kinds of threats you may face, from theft or vandalism to violent attacks or looting. While you hope that most of your shifts are uneventful, security guards must be prepared for any situation that they might encounter in the course of duty. 

A seemingly minor situation can quickly turn dangerous if not handled properly. That is why security guards must be skilled at de-escalation techniques. Using de-escalation techniques can help guards calm irate individuals, diffuse tense situations and maintain peace, order and the safety of those in the immediate area. 

Why are De-escalation Techniques Important for Security Guards? 

Security guards with a mastery of de-escalation techniques can keep more people safe from harm. It is always better to de-escalate a tense situation than it is to engage in physical contact. As soon as physical force or violence occurs, the safety of people and property is already compromised. 

Training in de-escalation techniques can provide very specific benefits for security companies and their customers. Knowledge of how to handle irate or potentially violent people can prevent physical harm to employees or customers and the loss or destruction of property. Guards with this kind of training have also been shown to be effective in reducing incidences of workplace violence. 

How to Tell When a Situation is Heating Up

When it comes to recognizing when a situation will escalate, it is not an exact science. After all, you can never truly know how a person will react in any given scenario. However, there are some warning signs that security guards should be aware of that may signal the impending escalation of a situation. Guards should consider the following when deciding if an individual is a potential threat: 

  • Encroaching on personal space
  • The use of violent or abusive language
  • The use of threats, both direct and indirect
  • Suggestion of previous violent behavior 
  • Inappropriate reactions, such as laughing or yelling
  • Physical reactions including heavy breathing, nose flaring and the reddening of the face
  • Finger pointing
  • Punching or kicking walls or furniture

3 Tips for De-escalating a Tense Situation 

When someone is irritated or their behavior is escalating into a potentially dangerous situation, security guards can utilize the following techniques to attempt to de-escalate a situation.  

Engage in Active Listening 

Typically, when someone is exhibiting angry, violent or irrational behavior they are seeking to be heard. Whether they are angry about an injustice in the workplace or a negative customer service experience, they simply want their position heard and understood. An effective way to de-escalate a tense situation is to actively listen to the individual. Give them the space to vent and air their grievances. Very often the act of “venting” can result in a person cooling off and recognizing that they are creating a scene. 

Ask Questions 

An essential part of active listening is asking questions. Asking questions demonstrates that you are interested in what another person is saying and that you are hearing them. Guards should restate what they are hearing back to the individual to clarify their points and further demonstrate their desire to truly understand them. Questions should be short and direct. Avoid asking questions that may further increase their irritability. 

Practice Empathy 

Finally, practicing empathy can help security guards de-escalate tense situations while on the job. Empathy is the ability to demonstrate an understanding of how another person is feeling. It is putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. This technique can help an irate person feel understood and that their feelings are validated. When a guard can successfully develop this kind of rapport, the chances of mitigating a tense situation greatly increases.

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Security guards face potential danger every time they sign in for their shift. They must be prepared with the skills they need to successfully de-escalate tense situations for the safety of themselves and the people and property they are tasked with protecting. While the de-escalation techniques described above may not seem like enough to diffuse a very tense or dangerous situation, do not underestimate their effectiveness. Security guards should be well-versed in the techniques above, as well as other proven de-escalation techniques. 

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  1. […] suspicious people and behavior, they have a “toolbox” of skills and experience to help them de-escalate tense situations, handle irate individuals and protect others from harm. In addition, they know what kind of […]