On Thursday, May 20th, MATRIX welcomed back Officer Nathan Linstad of the Manchester Police Department for a presentation on Conflict Management & Negotiation Skills. For those who joined us for our last virtual event, you may remember the topic being Situational Awareness and how the brain reacts under stress. These situations can consist of everyday relationship issues to violent interactions. What Officer Linstad explained in this lesson, was how our reactions to people caught in a stressful situation can control the outcome and impact the people around us.
While we learned situational awareness can prepare us for an emergency, what we also can be aware of is our presence in someone else’s situation. In a heightened moment of stress, body language, verbal communication, and personal interaction are factors in how the situation could play out. When people are getting upset, how you react to the problem is going to be impulsive, unaware, and problematic. Instead, it is important to respond to the problems. A response is deliberate, aware, and solution-based.
This means we have to start with ourselves, work ourselves first and be in control of ourselves. Being aware of your body’s reaction can change your outlook. Monitoring your breathing helps keep oxygen going to the brain. Capturing your thoughts and taking time to evaluate your thinking can help you shift your focus from the situation to a solution.
We may think our words or advice is what will defuse the situation. But as Linstad put it “what happens when you tell someone to relax? Does it often go that way?”. Instead how you treat the person will affect them more than what you tell them. This can be as easy as addressing them by their name. Showing the person you are engaging with that you see them as a human and not just an emotion or the situation will stick with them longer. Even in the conversation, active listening and reflective listening can be more important than trying to fix the problem (even if that is our natural response).
REFLECTIVE LISTENING is hearing and understanding, then letting the person know that he or she is being heard and understood.
ACTIVE LISTENING is a way of listening and responding to another person that improves mutual understanding. It is an important first step to diffuse situations and seek solutions to problems.
Our brain can switch from cognitive thinking (prefrontal cortex) to emotional thinking (the limbic system) and back. It’s easy and can happen quickly once we assess our situation. This is called a paradigm shift. This is why presenting a safe environment is such an important step in de-escalating situations - it helps the brain shift back to cognitive thinking. A good example of this would be to redirect the thought process. Starting the conversation with a common interest helps channel emotions differently, often calmer and clearer.
In the end, taking steps to help alter the situations thinking process can be what matters most. You may not always be able to help the person. That’s okay. Letting them know “I can’t hep you, but let me get someone who can” is better than trying to fix the situation.
There was a lot of information to fit into one hour; Officer Linstad left us with 5 key points to takeaway:
People remember how you treat them
Treat people professionally because you’re professional
Keep out of the limbic brain if possible
Active listening and reflective listening