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When we consider conflict resolution, we must be able to recognise when the conflict is about to escalate.

Warning signs indicate that the person is getting angry and that they feel they have to exert their presence verbally. If you can recognise these and use the models we have discussed already, you may be able to prevent the onset of danger signs.  Danger signs are the body’s natural reactions to the possibility of physical contact. If you are witnessing danger signs, the best option may be to withdraw and seek assistance from your colleagues, security staff or the Police.

Some examples of warning signs are:

  • Direct, prolonged eye contact
  • Facial colour may darken
  • Head is back
  • Subject stands tall
  • Subject kicks the ground
  • Large movements close to people
  • Breathing rate accelerates
  • Behaviour may stop/start abruptly

Some examples of danger signs are:

  • Fists clench and unclench
  • Facial colour may become paler
  • Lips tighten over teeth
  • Head drops to protect throat
  • Eyebrows droop to protect eyes
  • Hands rise above the waist
  • Shoulders tense
  • Stance moves from square to sideways
  • Stare is now at intended target
  • Lowering of body to launch forward

Impact factors are the considerations we must identify when dealing with any conflict – like carrying out a mini risk assessment of the situation we are in. You must assess your impact factors and include what you consider the other person’s impact factors to be.  

For example, if the person you are talking to is tall, appears fit and healthy and is well-built. He is becoming agitated and louder. You are much shorter, lighter in build and have a wrist injury. If the situation became physical, could you deal with it? Are you the best person to deal with this man?
Now consider that this person is on crutches with a plaster cast on his arm and leg. Have the impact factors changed? Could you now deal with this person?
Each time you are dealing with someone consider the signs and impact factors to resolve the situation by the best means.