How To De-Escalate And Avoid Bad Situations — Preventative Steps To Get Out Of The Fight Before It Begins


We get a lot of questions about tips for de-escalating a conflict or avoiding one altogether.  Well, this question is really two parts.  There’s the part where you’re lucky or just observant enough to spot a conflict brewing and step out of its way and then there’s the second part — the one where you’re already caught in its tractor beam.

Conflicts tend to escalate quickly.  Most people don’t seek out excuses to hurt one another so often when there’s one or more parties involved in a potential fight, they all think they’re absolutely right.

As a kid, getting caught in a fight was as simple as swinging, rolling with the punches, and either getting broken up by teachers, parents, or other friends.  As adults, fights usually have serious consequences.

Size doesn’t matter when it comes to a fight.  A short person with a frail physique can be as dangerous and unpredictable as a giant, intimidating-looking person.  So this section is going to to be dedicated to “Avoiding Bad Situations”.

Avoiding Bad Situations

  • Identify “hot spots” early on

Sometimes life is awesome.  It will clue you in that there are certain situations developing between people that will invariably end in chaos and damage.  If you notice, for instance, that there’s this pack of thugs always hanging out by a particular bus stop and they keep trying to instigate problems with passers-by, stay away.  This isn’t the time to shine in a self-defense situation.

If you notice that the parking lot located near a club keeps making the news because of fights and altercations at 3 am, that’s another hot tip for “places to avoid”.  Avoiding places doesn’t guarantee the avoidance of conflict.  Conflict can be anywhere and can take on any form.  That said, you’re reducing down the variables.  It’s not much but it is a start.

  • Don’t step in to break up a fight

When people see a fight forming, the good ones will try to step in and break it up.  Here’s the problem — there’s a gun attached to you.  While we’d all like to think that people will act rational and calm, it’s not an assumption that’s safe to make for the concealed carrier.

Putting yourself physically between two combatants is endangering your life and potentially those around you.

  • Don’t bury your face in your phone

A lot can be seen if you just look.  A big problem with conflict avoidance is the requirement to know a conflict is even taking place until you’re in it.  The way to overcome this is by paying attention.  Having your face buried in a phone only puts you at risk.  It’s an obvious distraction*.

*Obvious exception if you’re reading this article on your cell phone.  If you are, look up!

Okay, now we’re on to “De-escalation”.  That’s the imperfect science of trying to use reason on an irrational person.  As many of you likely figured out from this prior Thanksgiving, trying to talk reason into a normal, level-headed person is hard enough.  Now imagine they have adrenaline coursing through their veins, potentially a great deal of alcohol or other drugs, and clearly think that hurting someone is a great solution to their usually temporary problem.

The Distance Game Only Goes So Far

If you’ve ever been in a fight or seen a real fight take place, you’ll likely notice the attacker moves in as fast as he can to gain an advantage.  Before he opens up and makes his attack, he’ll be walking deliberately towards his opponent until the last short distance.  As a concealed carrier, remember that.  If you’re backing up to avoid a fight with someone and that person keeps advancing towards you — their “warning” time is up in whatever time it takes you to pull your pistol and take aim.  If that distance is 20 feet, that’s their limit.

You can say whatever you want.  They can say whatever they want.  But before it goes “push comes to shove”, try to give a clear warning.

Before the attacker has reached that space, try to keep as much distance between you as possible.  Avoid walking backwards.  Oblique angles and circling are two ways to enable you to scan both behind yourself and look for additional exits.

  • If you find an exit and can cover distance safely, go for it!

If you feel you can make an exit from this situation safely, then that’s a pretty good choice.  First, it absolves you of having to deal with potentially taking another man’s life, and secondly, it prevents you having to go through a very silly, protracted legal situation.  While, morally, I’d hope most people would be interested in the first, I’d imagine the second is the real sticking point.

  • If exit isn’t an option, make sure your opponent knows you’d like to leave.

You don’t have to do this.  It’s more of a mental preparation for yourself.  I think if you ever give someone the option of letting you leave and they don’t accept or use it as a foil to get closer to attack, then they pretty much have whatever’s coming to them.  No one has the right to assault you or physically restrain you.

  • If words work but the exit is blocked, make sure to impress “please stop where you are”

Sometimes people will listen to words during the pre-stages of a fight.  A lot of “fights” end without a single fist being swung.  It’s just a lot of posturing and empty threats.  That’s great!  That means the other party can hear words and you may not have to use violence.

The first thing the other party has to understand is that they need to stop advancing towards you.  Endless hours of fantastic conversation can be had by all as long as they understand they cannot enter your extended personal space.

At this point, try to be polite and straight to the point.  You don’t have to have an extended pow-wow session with potential opponents.  You just need to tell them what you need right now.

If what you need is to leave, then they ought grant you safe passage and discuss this another time.

One hopes.

De-escalation almost invariably always comes down to either negotiating or moving to a nearest exit.  If it’s gotten to the point where you’re unsure whether or not you’re about to be attacked, go ahead and begin the de-escalation process.  A lot of mistakes, misconceptions, and bad words can be cleared up once everyone’s head is cleared.

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About the Author

GH is a Marine Corps veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and has served as a defense contractor in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. His daily concealed carry handgun is a Glock 26 in a Lenwood Holsters Specter IWB or his Sig Sauer SP2022 in a Dara Holsters Appendix IWB holster.

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