De-Escalation Training Overview
De-escalation is a technique aimed at keeping potentially heated situations from getting out of hand. Examples of situations where these techniques are valuable run the gamut from tense police situations to everyday customer service interactions.
Public safety professionals have been promoting de-escalation training for some time now. Learners are taught about mental health, body language, and communication skills in order to keep a tense situation from resulting in citizen or employee injury.
Much of the time, verbal de-escalation is an important part of training de-escalation techniques. In this type of training, trainees learn communication techniques that will help them keep situations from devolving, perhaps even into violent territory.
Why are De-Escalation Techniques Important?
Almost daily, we hear stories about police officers using excessive force, flight attendants being accosted by passengers, and customer service representatives having to deal with angry and unruly customers. In all of these situations, de-escalation techniques could have been applied to keep employees and the general public safe.
Overall, the idea is to cool things down before they become more dangerous.
Law Enforcement Agencies and De-Escalation Training
De-escalation training for police officers is a major topic in response to recent public instances where police officers have been filmed using what seems like excessive force on citizens. This topic is of course a complicated one.
Indeed, there have many situations where a suspect may be having a mental health crisis that requires specific measures relative to their illness. When a police officer has not been taught the communication skills necessary to de-escalate that situation, it can often lead to a negative outcome and potentially end in violence.
A main point of de-escalation training is focusing on encouraging non-violent, voluntary compliance, even if a crime has been committed or a law has been broken. The goal is to de-escalate incidents using solely verbal communication rather than escalating the situation by using force to encourage compliance.
This is often not only better for the general public but also better for officer safety. In fact, many police departments and law enforcement agencies are now publicizing their new emphasis on de-escalation skills during police training as they look to reduce officer injuries.
Additional Candidates for De-Escalation Training
The need for this type of training goes further than law enforcement officers though. It can also be a powerful tool to help in most customer-facing jobs. Examples include jobs such as a barista at Starbucks, a cashier at Walmart, or a flight attendant at Delta Air Lines. Just about any occupation related to customer service or involving adverse or demanding circumstances is ripe for de-escalation tactics training.
Screenshot of Delta Aircraft Walk Experience in VR
When customer services representatives are taught de-escalation techniques, they can often be their own architects of a calmer and safer environment. Intense shopping peaks, fights over scarce products, or even dealing with customers on a bad day are hard situations to deal with, let alone prepare for. Feeling comfortable and confident in stressful situations can lead to both increased happiness in one’s job, as well as improved job performance.
The Current State of De-Escalation Training
Today, most de-escalation training is done in a classroom setting, where trainees are often shown videos and pictures. They may also be exposed to different scenarios through instructor-led training and then taught how to handle them. Sometimes they are given open-ended questions about what should or could be done in certain incidents. There are even online courses that people can take in de-escalation.
While many kinds of de-escalation training are beneficial, how a person reacts and ultimately learns is often predicated on whether or not they perceive themselves to actually be in danger or under high stress. It’s also hard to know how a trainee will react when they are actually in the middle of a real situation that requires de-escalation.
Split-second decisions are often necessary during these types of demanding circumstances where public safety is the goal. Recalling information learned in a classroom setting without any actual practice employing de-escalation is a challenge, and the problem is magnified when all of the training has been done through online sources.
Overall, finding an effective, efficient, and engaging way to prepare people for these high-stress situations is an important proposition.
Virtual reality training is a great solution. Using VR training in place of traditional de-escalation training has the potential to make a huge difference in how employees handle high-stress situations with customers and the general public.
How Does VR Training Work?
Virtual reality training uses a head-mounted display called a VR headset. When a user dons the headset, they are transported to fully digital, immersive space specifically designed for training. Users can interact with their environments in ways that make them feel like they are actually, physically present in those environments.
Both Hard and Soft Skills
Virtual reality training can be used to sharpen hard skills, such as performing a complex medical procedure or performing maintenance on a piece of industrial equipment. It is excellent for soft skills training as well, and examples include things like public speaking or diversity and inclusion training. De-escalation training generally falls under the umbrella of soft skills training.
Training experiences using virtual reality put trainees into the hot seat, where they actively face situations that balance eye contact, communication skills, and body language as part of their learning. They can see what it will feel like being out on the field (in whatever environment fits the bill) facing multiple problems as they occur in front of them.
For law enforcement, they may be challenged to consider public safety in single citizen encounters on the road or domestic safety in a downtown apartment. For other customer-facing operations, they may need to directly deal with the customer on the other side of the counter while they see a line forming in the back. Virtual Reality puts trainees directly in the situation, with all of the complications they will see in the real world.
Opportunities for Powerful Feedback
Trainees can also receive feedback in real-time as they go through their training, or by using after-action reports at the end of their training that track how users performed throughout the experience. These reports can record the specific words they said, their body language, and more. Experiences can also be practiced and improved multiple times at no additional cost, with just the push of a button.
What the Data Shows About Virtual Reality Training
There’s a wealth of data available that shows how effective soft skills training can be in a virtual reality training environment. This PWC study yielded results that demonstrated trainees who were trained in VR learned 4x faster than classroom learners. VR trainees also felt 275% more confident to apply what they learned as compared to their peers who were trained with traditional methods.
This can be particularly valuable for de-escalation training. The study also found that virtual reality trainees were more emotionally engaged in the content and more focused on what they were learning, as compared to classroom learners and e-learners.
It’s Time to Get Serious About De-Escalation Training
Given the challenges many organizations face when working with the general public, a greater focus on de-escalation techniques makes a lot of sense. Whether it’s police officers on the front line doing dangerous jobs, or it’s customer service agents handling a agitated customers, learning and practicing good de-escalation techniques helps create a safer environment while also increasing job satisfaction. Since VR training often results in a higher emotional connection, better focus, and stronger confidence for learners, it’s a powerful choice for any de-escalation training program.