Increased Confidence and Competence is Key to De-escalation

Years ago I participated in a noncommissioned officer leadership development course where the focus was on three key areas: confidence, competence and attention to duty. Over the years, I have seen these items as key to success in human service and education settings as well. Few individuals require more raw attention to duty then those who get into fields focused on helping others. Human service workers and educators work long hours, give of their free time, and seldom get the full appreciation for their service. They constantly remind themselves of why and who drew them into their field. This sense of duty draws a person to the field and assists in helping them stay. It does not however guarantee success.

Success when dealing with individuals who exhibit challenging and escalated behavior comes from confidence and competence. The two are not exclusive of each other. There is need for both and both can be the starting point for an increase in the other. Certain personality types come with a greater level of innate confidence. This confidence allows the individual to try new ways, fail, adjust, and try again. In this, they gain an increased competence in areas that others may have never attempted.

Likewise, working hard, studying, practicing and gaining a skill will increase the confidence in one’s ability to successfully perform the skill. The higher ones competence level in any particular skill rises, so too rises the confidence in the person to utilize the skill correctly even in times of stress and chaotic surroundings. Both in human service settings and in the classroom, key to successfully working with an escalated person is the knowledge in ones own skill set and the confidence to perform those skills when called upon in situations that may pose threats.

There is a constant focus on practice in the Mandt System. This is due to the need to increase ones competence level. Practice should occur not only in the physical portions but also with in the non-physical skills. Repeated practice of physical skills leads to a confidence in one’s ability to successfully utilize said skills if called upon. This increase in confidence allows the staff to not need to concisely think about what they should or should not be doing physically and rather focus on non-physical ways to help others de-escalate. Practiced non-physical skills lead to a greater competence in the skills and in turn greater confidence to move to other skills if the one being attempted is not working. Those who are at the top of their fields are great not because everything they do works every time but rather a knowledge and confidence that when something doesn’t work they have the ability and competence to adjust to something else and still succeed.

It is not only a good idea to practice the skills taught in The Mandt System, it is necessary for success. Practice increases competence. Competence increases confidence. Confidence allows one to manage their own fear and competently perform the skills they must utilize for successful de-escalation. In the Air Force’s noncommissioned officer education program they have a motto that very much applies to The Mandt System. The Air Force motto is “Tell me, I will forget. Show me, I will remember. Involve me, I will remember and understand.” Staff must not only be told or shown what to do, they must be involved. Staff must practice to be confident and competent which ultimately leads to a fuller understanding of The Mandt System and a greater focus on attention to duty.

Tim Geels – Director of Operational Instruction