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To be used with the De-escalating violence tool. We learned this framework from Christian Peacemaker Teams, who use it with people going into places of violent conflict. We’ve found that the principles are good for everyday life as well.


Calming a potentially violent person is:

  • 56% facial expression and body language;
  • 37% tone of voice;
  • 7% what we say


1. Don’t act frightened
Don’t behave like a victim; demonstrate respect for yourself. Be gentle but firm. Pleading can induce more cruelty.

2. Don’t act frightening
Speak to an assailant as a person of dignity. Become a person to the assailant. Humanise yourself and them (say ‘I’). Ask questions. If you are aggressive or violent, the assailant feels justified.

3. Remain calm
Breathe deeply. Keep your voice low. Silence can disarm.

4. Watch body language – yours and assailant’s
Avoid sudden moves. Use slow, gentle hand movements. Use non-threatening eye contact.

5. Use the unexpected to create wonder and surprise.
Use humour, distraction. Introduce yourself, shake hands. Interrupt the process somehow, eg by trying to sit down, ordering coffee etc.

6. Empathise
Remember the assailant may have all the fear you have.

7. Know that the assailant is a human being capable of love
Pay attention to the need to be loved. Trust that the person wants to act positively.

8. Allow a way out
Both physically, as in a door, and ‘saving face’

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