This is Gary Klugiewicz.
Vistelar has introduced the 6 C’s of Conflict Management that examines how conflict develops and what we can do to recognize it, prevent it, manage it, and resolve it.
The 6 C’s in include Context, Contact, Conflict, Crisis, Combat, and Closure.
Dave Young and I have been focusing on the Closure Component of the 6 C’s of Conflict Management in order to minimize the changes of conflict escalating to crisis and combat due to the need to physically control an out of control person or prevent a physical assault. We have discussed exit strategies in the past, i.e. how to verbally or physically exit a situation where “communication is breaking down and personal safety might be compromised.” Jeff Mehring, a security consultant and Vistelar advisor, expands on this concept and takes it to another level. I think you will enjoy his article posted below. Everyone needs to spend some time developing their EXIT LANGUAGE so they safety disengage before verbal conflict escalates to a crisis or combat situation.
Please post you comments below.
Security Consultant and Analyst
Security Assessments and Analytics LLC
All of us at one time or another have been involved in conflict management situations in which words alone fail, creating the need for us to leave the situation. The difficulty at the point the decision is made to leave, is how to accomplish the exit?
It is great to be able to tell someone, “just leave”, but how one goes about doing this can escalate a situation, or it may set up the next person, who needs to assume the interaction, to fail before he/she even arrives on the scene. Some examples:
- If you leave an interaction with someone without an explanation as to why you are leaving, or providing some kind of next step information, the person you are interacting with will become more agitated, because you have just given the impression you are “blowing them off.” Then again, if your explanation sounds something like this, “You are rude and I don’t need to put up with this kind of behavior!” and then you leave, you may have just pushed the individual off an emotional cliff, with escalated behavior to follow.
- There is also the exit language which sets up the next person to fail. That sounds like this, “I’m calling security.” Now think for a moment, when someone from the general public is informed security is on the way, what is the expectation of what is about to happen? Most individuals equipped with the knowledge that security is coming prepare themselves for World War III, after all most individuals assume security comes to either kick someone out or hold them for the police, thus setting the stage for aggression before the fact.
Exit language needs to be tailored to the situation one is trying to leave. It must convey to the other individual that you have listened to what is being said, it must acknowledge that you need assistance in some form or another to help the individual with the concerns that have been voiced, and it must be open ended enough so as to not limit your response options, or set the next person up to fail before he/she even has a chance to say a word. The language should advise the individual that you are going to continue to work to address the concerns which have been voiced, but at the same time inform the individual that, for whatever reason, you aren’t the person who can resolve the issue(s). Some examples of “exit language”:
- I don’t seem to be able to help you with your concerns, but I will contact someone who can and get right back with you.
- You have concerns I don’t seem to be able to help you with, but I think I know someone who can help. I’m going to step out and make a call and get back with you.
- Your concerns deserve greater attention than I can give them, but I think I know who to call to help you.
- Your concerns are important to me, as a next step let me talk to my supervisor to see what can be done.
It is important not to identify who you will be calling, as some contact options represent a step of escalation, or are even seen as a threat. Once you have made your exit, contact the person or people best suited to advance the conflict management process to a peaceful resolution. Who you contact can vary greatly depending upon the concerns and needs.
It is equally important that you don’t set up the individual you are dealing with to “lose face” or suffer embarrassment through the response option you select. For instance, if you need to involve security, be prepared to explain to the individual why security is the most appropriate party to address the concern(s), or at the very least prepare security to provide that explanation if reentering the scene is not safe or prudent for you.
Additionally, stay away from words such as “problem” or “issue” in your exit language, i.e. “I can tell you have problems.” Or “You have lots of issues.” These are trigger words. You might just as well tell the individual “You are the problem” or “You are the issue.” The word “concern” works very nicely in these situations as it conveys that you have picked up on the person’s distress and want to help elevate the causes.
There is a second set of exit language which also must be considered. This is language that is used by someone else to extricate us from a confrontational situation, or in a situation where it is immediately realized that the potential for harm is more than you can handle and you need to “get out” gracefully and warn others in the area.
In the former, I recommend language which would appear to be common in the workplace, but is actually “code language” for leave the situation. For instance, in a hospital setting the code may be “MRI 99” and could be employed by saying, “The doctor needs to see you in MRI 99, let me see if I can help this person.” Then transition and leave the situation.
In the latter, one may have a situation in an office setting where a customer comes through the door angry and intimidating and approaches a receptionist and states in a demanding voice, “I want to see someone right now about this letter I received!” The receptionist responds, “I have to step down the hall to get that person’s attention. I also have a printer alert which I just received, so as I go down the hall I need to let the office staff know about the alert, which takes me in the same direction. I’ll be right back.” Then leave the desk and start letting individuals know there is a “printer alert” which is the code language to begin a preplanned practiced response in such situations.
Whether you are the person responding to try and resolve the conflict, or the conflict comes to you, you need to take time to think about the exit language that will best suit you and your workplace. Usually two or three practiced statements will allow you to exit safely, maintain the emotional safety of the person you are interacting with, and keep everyone physically safe.