In heated situations, what we hear and what the other person means can be two different things, says June Hannan. An expert on workplace relationships, June partnered with HealthWISE to run a free workshop on de-escalating conflict at the Burke and Wills Hotel in Toowoomba on Thursday, May 11.
“Where it starts is the communication level. Some people will come in and they will be angry to start with,” June explained.
When tensions are heightened, a simple word or tone of voice could trigger conflict. Understanding ourselves, remaining calm and interpreting others’ verbal and non-verbal cues are key to de-escalating these situations. Workshop participants learned how to develop greater insight into their own beliefs and values, as well as those of other people, and how to recognise warning signs that conflict may escalate.
“There are some really subtle things that affect human behavior,” June said.
“So you’ve got to be conscious of self. Facial expression, tone of voice, eye contact. Some triggers are various movements; fidgeting, not looking at them or looking away and looking back. They’re picking up on those things.”
The workshop focused on de-escalating situations following community trauma, and helped participants learn how to identify signs of trauma in themselves and others.
“You don’t flick a switch and it just goes away,” June said.
The workshop also explored active listening and communication, appropriate and effective de-escalation strategies, curtailing violent situations and managing challenging emotions.
The event was an initiative of the HealthWISE Recover, Adapt, Connect program, which is an Australian Government funded initiative to support communities and individuals who have been affected by the Black Summer bushfires. The program provides access to mental health and allied health services and community education workshops for all ages to support recovery, and to prepare for future disasters.