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All encounters have the potential for escalation into violence, and that escalation has predictable, and identifiable, behaviors. There are two forms of violence:
Impromptu Violence - Spontaneous, unplanned, usually emotionally driven, violent outburst in reaction to circumstances of an event.
(Example: receiving a perceived unjustified failing grade in a class)
Intended Violence - Planned, premeditated attack on a specific target.
(Example: stalking a former relationship partner with intent to harm)
- If you know the person, reflect on all levels of functioning - any mental impairment, head injury, alcohol use? These compromise impulse control.
- Do you observe signs of agitation: foot tapping, pacing, facial contortions, etc.
- Trust your gut - if the situation feels dangerous, leave it or get help ASAP.
- If there is any physical aggression - throwing something, bashing walls - call University Police 406-657-2222 or 911.
Managing the Confrontation
- Personal space: Resist the urge to get close initially and stay far enough back that they can't reach you to hit or kick. Once they are calm, it may be okay to move to closer range.
- Body language: Assume a non-threatening stance.
- Communication: Use moderation with eye contact, keep voice tone calm and even, and volume low. Give more information, reframe to the positive. Identify behaviors you are observing and the consequences if they continue.
- Setting limits: Redirect back to task. If incident is public say, "I can see you are really upset. Can we go down the hall/step into this room, and talk about it?" Emphasize, yet be firm... "I understand this doesn't make sense to you." Don't make threats or tell them you'll have them arrested. You can say, "if you don't calm down, I will call the police." Ask them to step back if in your space. Usually the will honor that, if not, call University Police.
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