Body Language to De-escalate

Here are some quick tips on how to use your body language to reduce tension in an emotional conversation with someone who is angry;

  • Hold eye contact for around 60% of the time. Be careful not to hold direct eye contact for too long with overly aggressive people as they will take this as a sign you are looking for a confrontation.
  • If standing, stand straight and tall. This shows that you aren't afraid and is also a neutral position which means it cannot be misread.
  • If seated, sit upright. Lean just slightly forward which you will find is actually straight.
  • Men - Keep your arms at your sides with your hands open. Do not clench your fists which is what we will want to do.
  • Women - Have your arms in front with one hand clutching the wrist of the opposite arm, this is a sign that the other person is safe. You can also move your thumb slowly back and forward as a sign of reassurance.
  • Keep the right distance, about 1.5 metres apart. Don't get too close as to crowd the other person or that you are placing yourself in danger.
  • Mirror some of their body language when the person has calmed. If you mirror body language when someone is aggressive it has the same effect as glaring at them.

Some other things that you can do at the same time;

  • Use their name early in the conversation to show that you are listening and you are an actual person. Plus, we all like to hear our own name being spoken by others.
  • Always be polite no matter how rude the other person may be. Words such as “please” and “thank you” will gain you important brownie points when talking with those from the baby boomer generation.
  • Respect their point of view. You may disagree but also know that your view may not be right.
  • Ask for their permission if you need to go away and do something. This makes the person feel important because you have sought their permission. Ensure that you tell them what you are going to do as they will be suspicious.
  • Use the word “important” when appropriate. This plays to their ego.