What Is the Key to De-escalating Someone?

How to De-escalate Someone who is Violent or Aggressive

Expert Interview

Here’s how Diane utilises the power of empathy, acknowledgement, and trust

Diane is a dedicated trainer at Resolution Education. She brings a wealth of expertise in de-escalation and OVA (occupational violence and aggression) training. While Diane’s journey began in automotive finance, her passion for training and her drive for change led her to excel in this field. With a Training and Assessment Certificate in hand, Diane began as an instructor at Hapkido Martial Arts, where she crossed paths with Nathan, Head Trainer at Resolution Education.

After honing her presentation skills and her ability to impart knowledge to others, it wasn’t long before Diane joined the Resolution Education team. Diane’s background has shaped her into the accomplished, energetic, and empathetic trainer she is today. No longer required to sit in an office, Diane travels around Australia and New Zealand, delivering top-quality training.

In this blog post, we will delve into Diane’s expertise as a de-escalation and OVA trainer. We will explore her insights into crucial elements of empathy, acknowledgement, and emotional trust in diffusing challenging situations.

Training Framework

Diane is passionate about OVA prevention, so we asked her what her key messages are when delivering the training framework:

“It comes down to de-escalation: acknowledging, listening, and questioning – that’s the cornerstone of being able to de-escalate somebody. Awareness is important too, because to first be aware of things going wrong, is critical.”


Awareness and De-escalation are two pillars of the ADP framework, with Protection being the third. This framework was created by Resolution Education, and it serves as the foundation for every de-escalation training session. With the ability to adapt to all industries and incidents, this framework has proven successful in positively changing organisations and establishing safer workplaces.

The Importance of Acknowledgement

One key aspect of de-escalation is acknowledgement. Diane believes that to effectively de-escalate a situation, one must acknowledge the heightened person’s challenges to gain emotional trust.

‘Once you gain emotional trust with somebody, you can have a conversation with them.’


 Diane recognises how difficult this can be. The time it takes for someone to escalate is short and delicate and must be treated cautiously.

‘How do you gain emotional trust in the space of possibly 10 seconds? You get it by demonstrating to the other human being that you are aware of them emotionally. And the only way to do that is by acknowledging what they are feeling.’


When a customer, patient, or member of the public becomes angry, and the situation escalates, it can be difficult to assess why, but it is vital to understand that anger is a by-product of something deeper. It is a secondary emotion that is brought on by an initial feeling.

‘If you can pinpoint the emotion that the person is feeling, that’s powerful. It’s important to delve into that emotion and not just think “angry”. It’s not always anger – sometimes it’s disappointment.’

Recognising and Developing Emotional Intelligence

Identifying your own emotions can be challenging and recognising them in others is even harder. This is why participating in training that focuses on developing this skill is a great first step.

Some people are going to struggle to empathise with angry and hostile people, so having the chance to break down these situations, talk them out in a group setting, and get the advice of a professional, can make all the difference.


We asked Diane what she does during training to develop this emotional intelligence,

‘I come up with a scenario that’s related to their line of work, and then I ask, “What is the person feeling?” I get them to name that emotion.’


The more that Diane unpacks relevant situations with the group, the more insightful and reflective they become.

‘Some of the big words come out, like disrespected, hurt, disappointed, which is very different from just “angry”.’


Making these connections and helping the participants see challenging situations in a new way helps to develop their emotional intelligence and increases their ability to remain empathetic, genuine, and patient when a person escalates.


To emphasise this point, Diane reflected on an insight she gained during a training session:

“I was training this group when this man who must have been about 70 said to me, ‘I’ve never had anybody escalate.’ This was right at the beginning of the day, so I watched him the whole six hours of training and listened to him. Then I realised what it was, he had that high emotional intelligence and he had empathy in bucket-loads.”

Situational Awareness and Organisational Policies

Situational awareness refers to a person’s or a group’s perception and understanding of their current environment and the dynamic factors at play within it. It involves being attuned to relevant information, assessing it accurately, and comprehending its implications.

Situational awareness is crucial in various contexts, particularly tense and difficult situations, as it enables individuals to make informed decisions and respond effectively to challenging circumstances.

In certain situations, standard de-escalation strategies may prove ineffective, necessitating a shift towards prioritising safety and protection. This emphasises the need to swiftly assess a situation and determine the most suitable course of action.


We asked Diane about situations where employees may need to implement other strategies as de-escalation techniques may be ineffective, 

‘Drugs, alcohol, and mental health challenges. For example, if you find someone who is off their medication, you might attempt to de-escalate them, but you could be there for hours. If someone is escalated in themselves due to other factors, then no amount of talking them down will help.’


In these scenarios, organisational policies and procedures come into play. Employees need to be well-informed about which precautions to take and when to seek further support. This ensures a structured and safety-oriented approach to complex situations.

Moving Forward and Finding Success

We asked Diane what organisations can do to promote empathy and acknowledgment while also maintaining boundaries.

“Train more. I think it’s as simple as that. They need to do more training. You’ve got to have a couple of different strategies as sometimes one strategy doesn’t fit all.”


Incidents of OVA are case-by-case, 

‘It’s a situational thing and we can only give the tools and strategies to develop that situational awareness and also teach acknowledgement and empathetic responses.’


In conclusion, Diane’s expertise in de-escalating challenging situations through empathy, acknowledgment, and trust offers valuable insights into fostering safer and more harmonious environments.

As we’ve learned from her extensive experience, the ADP framework, with its emphasis on Awareness, De-escalation, and Protection, provides a solid foundation for addressing volatile situations across various industries.

Moving forward, organisations would benefit from:

  • Encouraging active listening
  • Developing emotional intelligence
  • Acknowledging others’ emotions and challenges
  • Assessing each situation carefully

Each of these concepts can be developed and practised during training with Diane and the other expert trainers at Resolution Education.

De-escalation training including verbal and social media de-escalation training.
Conflict Resolution Training
Restrictive Practices Training

If you are looking at developing workplace violence and aggression management skills within your team, then get in touch today by filling in the form below.

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