Israeli Krav Maga: Conflict De-Escalation

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Entire books, as well they should be, are devoted to de-escalation and deconfliction strategy and tactics. The following insights are designed for a stranger encounter and assume the antagonist is not emotionally disturbed. In other words, it is assumed one could possibly reason with the potentially hostile person.

As with physical reaction training, if you do not prepare mentally and actually practice de-escalation methods and phrases, you may not be prepared should the need arise. In other words, depending on the situation, rehearse a few, hopefully, broadly applicable phrases that can help defuse a tense, potentially violent situation.

Always, always, understand that some people will not hear reason. The aggressor may have tuned out to any offered remedy or solution you may offer other than counter-violence.

  1. The key to avoiding social violence is not to provide provocations. Do not respond to an antagonistic stare or verbal challenge.

  2. Humans have a keen sense of power and powerlessness. Projecting confidence reflects being disinterested or nonplussed by the situation. Maintain your calm and try to respond rationally.

  3. Do your best to talk it out with an aggressor or, at the very least, do not give the aggressor a provocative response. You may also wish to switch tactics and paraphrase your initial attempt to reason with the potential aggressor. Change the context/subject matter by, perhaps, injecting a non sequitur with a non- confrontational and non-condescending tone. Yet, do not engage in mental gymnastics; you may have to react instantaneously to an attack.

  4. Blunt honesty may be one of the surest ways to defuse or de-escalate a situation – provided your would-be attacker is rational. If you made a mistake or are in the wrong, provide a credible apology, and leave. Keep in mind that appeasement or flattery with a predator also may not work.

  5. Be sure to understand the difference between an assertive versus a belligerent response.

  6. Always bear in mind that in a truly violent situation, your de-escalation skills and appeals to reason are useless.

As noted, sometimes introducing a non sequitur using a sincere, a non-confrontational and non-condescending tone, may allow the aggressor think in a different direction, particularly, if you can listen attentively to him. Body language, remember, literally and figuratively often speaks more to a person then your actual words. Ultimately, your goal is to redirect a potential aggressor’s behavior toward an accommodation between you both using relatable words. Here are a few time-honored and proven suggested non-exclusive phrases which, of course, one can customize and vary according to needs being sure to use a level, calm, even-keeled tone of voice with an even pace combined with relaxed, non-hostile body language.

  • “Hey, I’m really sorry about what just happened. If I were you in your shoes I’d likely feel the same way. Again, I apologize, are you okay?”

  • “Hey, it looks like you’ve had a rough day as have I. I didn’t mean to __________ you. I’m truly sorry?”

  • “Hey, it looks like you’ve had a rough day as have I. I didn’t mean to __________ you. I’m truly sorry?”

  • “I’m sorry you’re (you seem) upset, is there anything I can do to help?

  • “ Please let me be sure I understand what you’re telling me . . .”

  • “ Please let me be sure I understand what you’re asking me . . .”

Think of and practice a few sincere de-escalation phrases you might have to use.