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Dealing With Difficult Behaviour

DAY TO DAY DO’S AND DON’TS

DEFUSION: is a term for verbal and non-verbal ways of reducing tension. These tips work – they were developed from practice and experience. The more you try these tips the better you will become.

The principle is: Change ‘acting” out to “talking out”:

  • Try talking things through, rather than acting impulsively.

  • Don’t invade defensible space: people like their own bit of territory – their own chair etc.

  • Stay an arm’s length away.

  • Avoid being in a corner, or cornering the person.

  • Always knock on their door.

  • Get to know signs of rising tension: rocking stuttering, colouring of the face, pacing, hand wringing.

  • Keep neutral body postures.

  • Keep hands in sight – showing the palms is a sign of peaceful intentions.

  • NO clenched fists, hand on hips, pointing, leaning over people.


  • Make eye contact – but don’t stare! 90% of communication is non-verbal, so SMILE!

  • If you defuse the situation you are successful. If the person has not lost face, has kept their pride, then they are successful.

  • Self-awareness: this is not a vague thing. If you are in a grotty mood don’t pretend you are feeling great, or that it doesn'tí matter. Just being aware of your mood can help you make adjustments to how to deal with any given situation.

  • Establish a warm environment. Physically turn up heat [a side effect of some medication can be to feel chilly].

  • Sit in a warm place to talk.

  • Be sensitive about colour schemes – décor, clothing etc.

  • Keep a quiet place for talking or space to get away.

  • “Walk don’t run”, apply this in different ways: lower the voice, walk slowly. Count to ten – this really does work. When faced with a situation start counting. As you do: check your mood, assess the situation, decide on a first course of action, confirm it to yourself then do it. You will be more likely to gain control because unwell people are very often frightened people and do not know what will happen next. If you come up with safe solutions the unwell person will develop confidence in you.
    Use humour. A good one-liner can be worth all the other tips put together. Avoid negative humour.
    Empathise: this means, “ I think I know how you feel.” You can’t always, but if you think you do then use it.
    Sympathise: this means, “I agree with you.”
    Someone may be right to show anger or distress – develop this by talking about ways of doing something about it.
    Ventilation: once someone is talking, let them let off steam, don’t try to stop them. Don’t interrupt and don’t argue with them.
    Ask open-ended questions like “How did that make you feel?” rather than closed ones like “Did you do that?”
    Make general statements:

  • “Lots of people feel like that when they’re ill.”

  • “You’re not alone in thinking like that.”


©2017 Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

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