10 de-escalation tactics for cops and their significant others

Most police officers are experts at de-escalation techniques, but sometimes those techniques can seem to disappear when we need them most

Fights and disagreements are expected in any relationship and can even be healthy. But how we fight not only says a lot about us, it says a lot about whether the relationship will last. 

There is no such thing as a fair fight in law enforcement. If you’re in a fight, it may be for your life. You fight to win and you win at all costs. This is how we operate on duty, but off duty this mindset often hinders us. In fact, it may be costing many of us our relationships or the emotional intimacy and trust needed to weather the storms. 

Most of us will look back at the way our guardians handled disagreements, and for some, this memory may foster the cycle of continued dysfunction. If you’ve never witnessed a healthy long-term relationship, many of your relationships will start out behind the learning curve. Being behind the learning curve means you could jeopardize numerous relationships before identifying the root issue. 

Let’s take a moment to remember what Maya Angelou said, “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” 

Sometimes we just don’t know better, or if we do know better, we don’t know how to do things differently. I’m sure all of us can remember at least one fight or disagreement that did not go well, one that we are still ashamed of or one we wish we could change. It is never too late to start fighting right. 

Mature fighting 
Disagreements aren’t necessarily about the issue or whether we triumph, but about the relationship. We must never lose sight of what truly matters, and that is the relationship and the person in it with you. Here’s how to avoid losing perspective during a fight. While this is not a comprehensive list, it is a great place to start.

1. Avoid name calling and hitting below the belt.
These low blows can compromise trust and foster resentment. The last thing anyone wants is to feel like the one person who is supposed to be there during the hard times is distant or you feel like they are not there to back you up.

2. Try to see the other person’s point of view.
Pick and choose your battles wisely. Sometimes we have to remember that the relationship is more important then being right. Ask yourself whether this will matter in a day, week or month. If not, is it really worth bringing it up?

3. Be a good listener.
Oftentimes, we are so caught up in our point of view or preparing a comeback during a fight that we really aren’t even listening to the other person. 

4. During a fight someone wins and someone loses.
Try to maintain open communication and make it a discussion (a win-win). One of the hardest things for people to remember is that before you came together to form this relationship, you were and still are two different human beings. There is not one couple who does everything the same way. We may have different beliefs and perceptions and in turn, we respond differently. This doesn’t necessarily mean one is right and one is wrong. 

5. Make sure you are keeping disagreements private and stay focused on the topic.
The fastest way to lose trust and build resentment is to make the other person feel put down and disrespected in front of others. You should not be looking for outsiders to pick a side; you are on the same team. This is where we should be looking for the win-win. Do not argue around children. Let them see the modeling of good behavior so they know what to do.

6. Compromise is essential to seeing another person’s point of view.
It also tells the other person that you value them and their viewpoint more than trying to be right. 

7. If you are wrong, admit it and apologize.
If you get an apology, accept it.  If you’ve accepted the apology, avoid bringing up things you’ve already agreed to let go. Not doing so tells the other person that you haven’t really gotten over it and that maybe you didn’t truly accept the apology. 

8. Watch body language.
Body language can speak volumes to how well your message is being perceived. Are your arms folded across your chest? Are you closed off? Do you look upset or are you rolling your eyes and sighing when the other person speaks? These are all things many of us are unaware of – be sure to be mindful of them.  

9. Cooler heads prevail.
If you are too heated or emotional to be rational and not hurtful, take a time out. Walk away, cool off and come back to the issue (Parrott & Parrott, 2012). 

10. Speak with "I" statements.
Start off with “I” statements instead of “you” statements. “You” statements put the other person on the defensive. Remember, we want the other person to hear us and be persuaded to understand our point of view. 

Punching below the belt can lead to serious issues. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.” Fighting and having disagreements is a natural part of life, but many of us were not taught how to successfully navigate this area of our lives. 

Most cops are experts at de-escalation techniques, but sometimes those techniques can seem to disappear when we need them most. Being able to discuss things and to have disagreements that leave both parties feeling good about the situation is what we should be striving for.

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