Conflict Resolution  – Disengagement

Conflict Resolution Disengagement can often be the most appropriate action to take in order to create safety from a conflict which is escalating and when words alone fail.

Hi, it’s Gerard O’Dea here, and we’re talking communicating under pressure. We are on strategy number eight. That is about when words alone fail. What happens when your efforts to professionally deescalate a situation are falling on deaf ears? Unfortunately, there are people in the world who when they get angry, frustrated, upset, disappointed, or otherwise stressed out, they will lash out with physical violence.

What that means is in any given situation, you need to be gauging very carefully whether it’s the right time for you to stay and continue to verbally deescalate the situation, or whether it’s time for you to find an exit and leave. Now, depending on your role, there will be a number of different options open to you. It may depend on whether there are teammates nearby or how much training you’ve had.

For most people, the immediate solution that will come to mind is to escape. Find an exit, move towards safety, and get away from that person who’s threatening violence. Now, some workers will have a duty of care, especially if they’re looking after someone who’s vulnerable and they can’t just run away. So for those people, they will engage some escorting or prompting tactic or maybe some momentary control so that a team has time to get to them and escalate the use of force.

In some circumstances, it means that the person will actually end up defending themselves from physical violence using breakaway tactics or self defense tactics of some kind to stop themselves being injured and hurt by somebody who’s attacking them. The good news on that front is that in the UK at least, we have the power to use reasonable force, and workers across all sectors have this. On our training courses, we deliver a decision-making framework that’s very concise and it helps you to justify your actions of rising up in an incident afterwards.

The key message here is that sometimes words do fail. Your efforts to verbally deescalate a situation might not be working, and so you need to make a decision about when and how to get out of that situation. It’s called when words alone fail. For more information, visit or go to to see what courses we’re doing in the United Kingdom.

Gerard O’Dea is a conflict management, personal safety and physical interventions training consultant.  He is the training director for Dynamis, a specialist in personal safety and violence reduction initiatives and the European Adviser for ‘Verbal Defense and Influence’, a global programme which addresses the spectrum of human conflict.

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