As National Park Service employees, volunteers, and partners—we often find ourselves engaged in meaningful conversations and dialogue with visitors throughout our parks. Through these experiences we tend to see the best of humanity. However, periodically we find ourselves in a situation that requires practiced skills in de-escalation. Whether we are reminding visitors of guidelines, approaching an unknown situation or being approached by a visitor that is upset, how we handle ourselves and our emotional presence can make all the difference in the world.
At any moment you may find yourself in a situation of conflict that requires quick calm, safe actions, and a professional response. Awareness of the potential conflict and how you will respond is critical in de-escalating any situation in a professional and safe manner.
How Can You Think S.L.O.W.?
- STAY COOL – Don’t take it personally. It is hard to do, but allowing a visitor’s words or actions to get under your skin will only escalate the situation. When people are feeling hurt, vulnerable, ignored, or unsafe, emotions tend to dictate their behavior. Keep a composed tone of voice and body language.
- LISTEN – When a visitor is upset, often hearing them out will help. Allow them to express what is upsetting them. To show that you are listening, try restating, reflecting, or summarizing what you have heard. When someone feels like they are being listened to, they feel valued and important. This can often lead to a calmer conversation.
- OFFER VALIDATION – We’ve all been there. Upset, angry, or frustrated with a situation or request that is beyond our control. Sometimes we just want someone to tell us that the way we are feeling is valid. You don’t have to agree with a visitor’s beliefs, values, or interpretation of a situation, but a simple, “that sounds frustrating” goes a long way. A part of offering validation is to acknowledge that what is happening needs to stop. Set limits, make requests, and be firm.
- WALK AWAY – Sometimes, unfortunately, nothing you can do or say will calm a situation. Know when to leave, and trust your pre-planning with law enforcement colleagues. Pay attention to body language, reactions from others nearby, and other factors that point to the need to walk away. Don’t let anyone else take control of you or your emotions. If the interaction is turning into an unsafe situation, walk away and get some help. A supervisor or law enforcement should step in at that point.
Resources to Help You Think S.L.O.W.
|Quick Reference Poster
Looking for a handy reminder to post around your work spaces and break rooms to help interpreters and coworkers remember the ways of thinking S.L.O.W.? This poster will help you remember the four elements of S.L.O.W. and serve as a quick guide.
|S.L.O.W. Lesson Plan
If you want to introduce your coworkers or staff to the S.L.O.W. model, this lesson plan can help you not only help introduce the four elements, but help you practice big and little ways to think S.L.O.W. in your park.
Want to practice thinking S.L.O.W. using real-life scenarios that might take place in your park? These quick narrative moments can help you gauge what your reaction might be to a stressful situation before you find yourself in one.