Behaviors of Concern

Dealing with Concerning Behavior in the Classroom, Workplace, or Elsewhere:

  • Communicate quietly and calmly. Try to diffuse the situation.
  • Do not take the behavior personally. Usually, the behavior has little to do with you, but you are used as a target in the situation.
  • Ask questions. Respectful concern and interest may demonstrate that aggression is not necessary.
  • Consider offering an apology. Even if you've done nothing wrong, an apology may calm the individual and encourage cooperation. "I'm sorry that happened. What can we do now that will solve the problem?"
  • Summarize what you hear the individual saying. Make sure you are communicating clearly. In crisis, a person feels humiliated and wants respect and attention. Your summary of the individual's concerns reflects your attention. Focus on areas of agreement to help resolve the concern.

If you are unable to resolve the situation, then:

  • If possible, find a quiet, safe place to talk, but do not isolate yourself with an individual you believe may be dangerous. Maintain a safe distance, do not turn your back and stay seated if possible. Leave the door open or open a closed door, and sit near the door. Be sure a faculty member, student, or co-worker is near to help if needed.
  • Use a calm, non-confrontational approach to defuse the situation. Indicate your desire to listen and understand the problem. Allow the person to describe the problem.
  • NEVER touch the individual yourself as you try to remove him or her from the area. Even a gentle push or holding the person's arm may be interpreted as an assault by an agitated individual who may respond with violence towards you or file a lawsuit later.
  • Set limits to indicate the behavior needed to deal with the concern. "Please lower your voice.""Please stop shouting (or using profanity) or I'll have to ask you to leave."

If the situation continues to escalate or you think there may be a threat of danger then:

  • Signal for assistance. The individual may be antagonized if you call for assistance so use a prearranged "distress" signal to have someone else (faculty member, fellow student, or co-worker) check on you to determine how you are. If you need help, that person should alert your supervisor and/or the police. If the situation escalates, find a way to excuse yourself, leave the room/area and get help. Examples include: "You've raised some tough questions. I'll consult my supervisor to see what we can do."
  • Do not mention discipline or the police if you fear an angry or violent response.