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.
- 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