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5 Tips to Better Manage Conflict

5 Top Tips to keep your cool!


In the Security Industry, conflict is an inevitable and often negative part of our daily lives.

Most of us try to avoid conflict situations, particularly if there is a chance for an escalation into violent confrontation. However, what we most often fail to realise is, conflict is a normal part of life. Humans are cultural and social beings with an inherent penchant for competitiveness and difference. Unfortunately, what sometimes lacks (or takes a back seat) is tolerance and acceptance.

If we were all the same and had the same thought patterns then there would be no problem, but we’d have no life. Fortunately, this is not the case. Conflict is a catalyst for many positive things, such as identifying the necessity for change. As security officers and crowd controllers we are commissioned with the unique task of serving as a conduit for the resolution of conflict.

By honing our skills as efficient negotiators, we can de-escalate most potential conflict situations and create a customer service that surpasses expectation. The outcomes we achieve can leave all parties with a much more positive evaluation of the interactions we initiate.

Keeping in mind all situations are unique and follow a complex paradigm of interaction based pathways; here are five top tips to remember through all potential conflict situations.

Tip #1

Focus on the issue not the person. Frame the conversation.

Paraphrase and repeat back to the customer what they are finding to be the issue. Only expand on the issues you can assist with (internal factors) and inform them of the ones you can’t (external factors).

By doing this and having them agree with your understanding of the issues, they are accepting the content of the discussion and developing a subconscious pseudo-ownership to stay on track or at least a willingness to return to the issues at hand if you feel they are straying and need to pull them back on topic.

Tip #2

Don’t violate Proxemics and be mindful of context.

Being aware of personal space (proxemics) in relation to environment, cultural expectation, displayed body language (kinesics), and social structure makes the difference between your presence and interaction being threatening or complimentary.

Different circumstances can make this more difficult than others, such as pubs and clubs. However, the rule of thumb is to watch for a minute and then mirror how others have positioned themselves and add an arm’s length to maintain operational safety.

You might argue that keeping your distance in a situation in a nightclub is hard as it is accepted that close proximity needs to be achieved to simply be heard in most situations. However, you should keep your feet as far away as possible and lean in to talk in those circumstances. Feet are the biggest violators of proxemics.

Some cultures and customers require a larger distance between parties than others while others prefer almost direct contact. This can change over the course of your shift so pay attention as you approach the conflict or get a colleague to update you from another vantage point, before you interact, if you can’t clearly make an assessment.

Tip #3

Be aware of Kinesics.

Body language (kinesics) is vitally important in any interaction. Most of what we communicate is non-verbal and can be the interpreted better than what we actually speak.

Be conscious of your language. It should be open, aware, non-threatening, but subtly authoritative.

Remember the customer has the power until you interact. By drawing your attention, they have controlled your actions and therefore have the initial power. Going in too hard can cause your customer to meet you with the same level of persuasive force. Going in too soft will congratulate them on their behaviour and keep authority with them. This is not a good position to be in, especially if you are outnumbered or interacting with a superior competitor.

What you are looking for is voluntary compliance in the first instance. If this doesn’t work by your presence and initial interaction, then you want them to unwittingly hand over control of that power by their own actions. Giving them options enables this to occur.

Tip #4

Offer options where possible.

Providing options is the best way to:

  • Empower customers appropriately;
  • Allow customers to relinquish control of that power to you unknowingly; or
  • Allow the circumstances to evolve so as to enable you to seize power.

Take for example, the situation of an intoxicated patron at a club whose behaviour is beginning to become a problem. You give them the option to either leave (you may suggest calling a taxi for them) or stay and spend the next hour drinking non-alcoholic beverages.

If they choose to leave; they have relinquished power to you voluntarily. If they choose to stay, calm down and drink non-alcoholic beverages, they feel that they have the power and are using it appropriately. In actual fact, you have the power by their compliance.

If they choose to resist, you are in a position to seize that power and apply appropriate ‘use of force’ to attain compliance.

Tip #5

Keep options fair and reasonable and enforce them without hesitating or wavering.

Take the aforementioned example. With the option to continue to remain on the premises, on the condition they consume non-alcoholic drinks and curb offensive behaviour, you would also outline the consequences, such as use of force for removal if they fail to abide by these conditions.

If their decision is to continue drinking alcohol and use offensive behaviour then they must own that choice. They have made an informed decision and weighed all the options and consequences and forcible removal has become acceptable to them. By doing this they have virtually given permission for you to enforce your consequences, which in this case would be removal.

The options need to be achievable for the person and relative, to suit the needs of the organisation you represent.

Consequences need also to be reasonable and proportionate for the behaviour and, of course, need to be lawful.

If you back down on your consequences or modify without extenuating circumstances, you hand power and control back to the offender. If the options and consequences were issued by a colleague, enforce them and back the colleague up. This shows solidarity and superior strength by uniformity even if the colleague is not pre-sent. Failure to do so weakens the control and power of all security staff at that establishment.

Follow these simple steps and you will be surprised at your success ratio and, importantly, you will have achieved more than just compliance.

Most people don’t choose to enter in to a conflict situation. We only see the people for a brief moment in their lives and are unaware of the external factors that may be affecting them at the time of the conflict.

Approach all conflict situations from the point of view that, given the right set of circumstances, you or someone you care about could be the customer feeling discomfort or frustration. Wouldn’t it be nice to have someone treat us fairly and maybe ‘cut us a break’ or help to steer us in the right direction when we lose our way momentarily.

I know I would much rather be viewed as the Security Staff member who was a beacon of light and hope in what might well be a bleak day rather than the driver of a freight train when I feel like I’m tied to the tracks.

Finally, in all interactions remember:



“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak. Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”  Winston Churchill


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