When a client’s anger is escalating or they are being aggressive in most cases their ability to process information and understand or care about consequences will be extremely limited. What is communicated non-verbally through body language and positioning has a vital role in defusing potentially violent situations.

Body language

  • Turning a little side on rather than facing the client directly is non-threatening and encourages joint problem solving
  • Maintaining appropriate eye contact that is non-threatening yet attentive (note: there are also cultural considerations with eye contact)
  • Do not stare or glare at the client as it is provocative and shooting glances at the client conveys distrust.
  • Open palm gestures and raised eyebrows conveys attentiveness and interest as well demonstrating to client that there is not threat
  • Lifting head attentively and nodding sends a message that the client is being listened to and understood
  • Do not point or clench fists and avoid provocative gestures
  • Do not laugh or smile too much as it can be interpreted as ridicule
  • Avoid conveying impatience or making clients feel they are intruding, interfering or are a nuisance - sneering, pouting, tapping fingers, crossing arms and looking at looking at watch/phone all have this effect
  • Avoid shrugging and head shaking as it conveys disinterest and disapproval


  • Avoid touching the person
  • Do not invade the client’s space - a safe distance is about 2 metres apart and may need to be more as the client becomes increasingly agitated
  • Stand outside the reach of their arms & legs
  • Avoid confrontation or being seen as a threat – do not stand above the client or make rapid movements toward them
  • Do stand between the client and the exit
  • Do not let the client stand between you and the exit