People subconsciously mirror each other’s behaviours and energy levels. This means if you bring aggressive energy, or meet someone else's aggressive energy with aggression- you will get.... more aggression! If you consciously lower your energy level and remain calm, they are likely to follow suit.
You can do this by:
Slowing your breathing and bringing your awareness to your body
Do not launch into an attack or a defence, even if they are super wrong, take a moment of silence.
Gentle eye contact – be mindful that intense eye contact may be threatening.
Body language – relaxed, open hands, humble expression
Be mindful of your triggers, reactions, and how you personally deal with conflict. Here’s a hint – very few people in the world deal with conflict and criticism well – myself included.
Sometimes standing at an angle rather than front on can be less aggressive
Leaving the situation
Disarming is to take the heat/risk out of a situation or conversation. To better approach a tense, agitated or aggressive patron, try to remember the following phrase:
Thank F*ck for Vexatious Guy’s Advice.
T - Thanking someone for their confrontation
F - Finding some truth in criticism
V - Validating an aggressor’s feelings
G - Giving that person undeserved credit
A - Accepting more responsibility for a situation than you might deserve
Continue to remind yourself that this is nothing to do with you and everything to do with the person in front of you who has their own unresolved traumas and grief and anger.
Often a group situation can exacerbate tensions. It may be necessary for these situations to contact management via radio and/or seek support from other staff or care teams to keep friends and bystanders calm and as distanced from the patron as possible. Try not to draw unnecessary attention that can again make a situation quite performative.