De-escalation for HOA Members

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Reprinted from the Colorado HOA Information and Resource Center website.

Generally, de-escalation involves expressing your sense of calm and genuine interest in what the other party is communicating by using respectful and clear language while engaging in meaningful discourse.

Be empathic and nonjudgmental.

A natural reaction to someone yelling at you is to yell back. Our instincts tell us to react defensively to the level of energy and emotion that the other person is pushing our way. In these situations, the best thing to do is take a mindful pause, however brief, and realize we’ve been in the other person’s shoes before. We’ve all experienced pain or an overwhelming feeling of stress or emotion. Use that brief moment of mindfulness to try and empathize with the other party. 

Respect personal space of all.

When attempting to de-escalate a conflicting situation, the simplest choices may have a significant transformational impact on the outcome. By training yourself to react to high stress situations involving others by providing as much personal space as possible, you are communicating an openness that is subtle, yet effective.

Use Nonthreatening Nonverbals

Your actions during a confrontation speak much louder than your words. By keeping your non-verbal communication as neutral as possible, you can begin to defuse the situation at a subconscious level by making the situation feel less combative.

Avoid overreacting when dealing with disputes.

While easier said than done, making an effort to contain your reactions, both emotionally and physically, will go a long way in helping you connect with the real issues at hand. Remind yourself to take that brief moment of mindfulness and recenter your focus.

Focus on Feelings

Part of the de-escalation process involves focusing on the process more than emotions, but do not ignore your feelings. Acknowledging them and focusing on how they are affecting you at that moment will better help you process them more effectively. 

Ignore Challenging Questions

One of the main goals in de-escalating a stressful situation is to lower the general levels of anxiety and stress which have reached unacceptable levels – not to immediately solve the problem. Acknowledge the other party’s statements while informing them of your desire to work to find a solution. This will help to build trust and create a rapport with the other party. 

Set limits on what to discuss.

When it comes to de-escalation, limit setting is a highly effective and positive way to redirect a person in distress. It’s also a very good way to keep your own approach focused and constructive, instead of reactive and argumentative.

Choose wisely what you insist upon.

Keep your eyes on the big picture—remember to see the individual behind the challenging behavior. If someone refuses to lower their voice, perhaps consider moving on from that request and focus on other ways to de-escalate, such as encouraging them to move from a standing position to a more relaxed sitting position. 

Allow silence for reflection.

When it comes to de-escalation, the great challenge is to be mindful of the opportunity to stop doing, stop saying, and simply be present. Anxiety may momentarily separate somebody from their ability to make rational choices, but the intention of de-escalation should hopefully be to safely reconnect an individual in crisis to their autonomy and well-being.

Allow time for decisions.

Allowing time for decisions means that we must have faith in the abilities of the other party. We need to trust that our behavior will impact theirs in a positive way, and that with a few calm, clarifying moments, they can make a decision that redirects them from their anxiety and stress. We can make sure that this is possible by creating an environment that supports them to think clearly with the time that we’ve provided.

This article may be viewed in its entirety on the Colorado HOA Information and Resource Center website, here.