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Effective Verbal Communication

Principles for Effective Verbal Intervention

Remain Calm
Remain calm, rational, and professional.  If it is sensed that you are losing control, the situation will most likely escalate.

Isolate the Individual
On-lookers, especially those who are the peers of the verbally escalating person, tend to fuel the fire.  They often become cheerleaders, encouraging the individual.  Isolate the person you are verbally intervening with.  You will be more effective one-to-one.

Be Empathetic
Do not be judgmental of the other person’s feelings.  To the other person, these feelings are real.

Keep it Simple
Be clear and direct in your message.  Avoid jargon and complex options.

Respect Personal Space
Stand 1 ½ to 3 feet from the acting-out person.  Encroaching on personal space tends to escalate an individual.

Be Aware of Body Position
Standing eye-to-eye, toe-to-toe sends a challenging message.  Standing one leg length away and at an angle off to the side is less likely to escalate the individual.

Permit Verbal Venting when Possible
Allow the individual to release as much energy as possible by venting verbally.  If this can not be allowed, state directives and reasonable limits during lulls in the venting process.

Set and Enforce Reasonable Limits
If the individual becomes belligerent, defensive, or disruptive, state limits and directives clearly and concisely.

Use Silence
Silence is one of the most effective verbal intervention techniques.  Silence on your part allows the individual to clarify and restate.  This often leads to a clearer understanding of the true source of the individual’s conflict.

Use Reflective Questioning
Paraphrase and restate comments.  Repeating or reflecting on the person’s statement in the form of a question will help the individual gain valuable insight.

Ignore Challenge Questions
When the other person challenges your position, training, policy, etc., redirect the individual’s attention to the issue at hand.  Answering challenging questions often fuels a power struggle.

Keep Your Non-Verbal Cues Non-Threatening
Be aware of your body language, movement, and tone of voice.  The more an individual loses control the less he/she listens to your actual words.  More attention is paid to your non-verbal cues.

Watch Your Paraverbals
Any two identical statements can have completely opposite meanings depending on how the tone, volume, and cadence of your voice are altered.  Make sure the words you use are consistent with the voice inflection to avoid a double message.