Hello from Milwaukee. Jill Weisensel here and I’d like to offer a few intervention tips for when you witness a negative verbal encounter, such as bullying, harassment or inappropriate, unprofessional comments.

As a bystander witness you don’t have to intervene directly (such as talking with the person immediately). You can choose to indirectly intervene by speaking with another person who you feel could be helpful in addressing or resolving the issue after the fact (such as a friend, teacher, coach, administrator, counselor, etc).

If you do recognize a problem and choose to respond, try and remember the following tips adapted from the University of Arizona’s Step UP! Program to utilize the Verbal Defense and Influence principles:

•    Know your limits as a helper – engage others as necessary.

•    Conduct conversations in a safe environment. Maintain mutual respect and mutual purpose. Be mindful of the “greater than, less than, and equal to” concept, and reflect that in your tone.

•    Speaking of tone (which is the most dangerous word in the English language), remember how you say things is more important than what you say. When forming your intervention conversation, be mindful of:
— Who (you’re speaking to, or whose all involved)
— What (the exact content of what you want to say- utilize Precision of Word Choice)
— When (how you time the delivery)
— Where (you have the conversation, consider the location and level of privacy)
— Why (the reason you are talking with them)
— How (tone, pace, pitch, modulation, and non-verbal behavior).

•    Consider the: frequency, duration, and intensity or/severity of the behavior when evaluating a situation and determining the best way to talk about it. Does this behavior happen often? What is the result of the behavior? The answers to those questions will help you determine WHAT to say, HOW to say it, and WHEN you need to intervene.

•    Be sensitive, understanding, and non-judgmental. Utilize LEAPS and an empathetic presentation style, both verbally and non-verbally.

•    Determine the priority outcome goal. What is the behavior you are hoping to stop? And what is the behavior/outcome you are trying to encourage? With those answers- you can formulate a plan and prepare/practice what you want to say.

•    Be creative! Interrupt/distract/delay a situation you think might be problematic – before it becomes an emergency!

Jill Weisensel
Verbal Defense & Influence Consultant