Using Body Language To De Escalate A Conflict

By Richard Armen

Using the right body language is often the key to getting along with people, and this doesn’t just apply to friendly situations. Although appropriate body language often depends on cultural contexts, people all over the world rely on body language as a nonverbal form of communication.

Armed with this knowledge, body language can help you in many instances – even if someone is physically or verbally threatening you. Body language can help if someone is trying to start a fight with you, as well as if you’re minding your own business and think someone – such as a pickpocket – might be targeting you for attack.

If you ever encounter an individual who you think might pose a threat, look away from him or her, and avoid making eye contact. Many criminals rely on intimidation to get their way. Once a person becomes intimidated, they tend to show signs of being scared or helpless, which gives attackers plenty of fuel to start an incident. If you show a dominant person that you are scared, they will most likely take advantage and pick on you. By refusing to make eye contact, you can take some of this power out of the potential assailant’s hands.


Another thing to remember is to consciously focus your energy on remaining calm and continuing to breathe normally. This is harder than it sounds; the adrenaline rush caused by feeling threatened will result in sweating and nervousness. At times, going along with your body’s natural response to a situation could mean your anger getting the best of you, leading to a physical fight over an easily avoided confrontation. Remember to act as if you’re not scared, concerned, or overly interested in what the other person is doing or saying. If you look confident, but not aggressive, you stand the least chance of being attacked.

If you’re exchanging angry words with someone, but want to avoid a physical altercation, do not move closer to them. If they’re looking for a fight, walk away. Do not turn around, even if they’re yelling obscenities at your back.

It’s hard to predict anyone’s intentions, whether they are passing by you on the street, or trying to strike up a conversation in a bar. Still, even if you don’t know what they’re up to, you can use your body language to minimize the chance of being involved in an altercation. Never clench your fist or raise it towards a person. Even if unintentional, it can be mistaken for a physically violent move. If you want to post less of a threat, put your hands into your pocket or keep them at your side.

Anger plays a vital role in body language. The key is to avoid behaving in a threatening manner, even unintentionally. If you are traveling to another country, try to learn about their customs ahead of time. Many commonplace behaviors in America are seen as rude in other countries. For example, in many parts of Asia greetings should be made with a head bow, rather than a handshake. In general, by avoiding making eye contact or potentially threatening gestures, you can avoid further escalating a potential confrontation.

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