It is inevitable in the wake of recent headlines not to think about our own safety at school and in the workplace.
- Be Proactive. The best advice is to maintain a healthy school/work environment where relationships are nurtured and respectful and the premises are secure. However, if warning signs in a classmate or co-worker present themselves in a way that causes uneasiness or fear, Mages urges each individual to report these signs to a staff member or supervisor. Signs of loss of control can be verbal: talking about weapons or making unreasonable demands, for example, or physical, including a major change in appearance or behavior.
- Stay Calm. In the event that someone does show signs of losing control, remain calm and alert. Be aware of physical signs such as a raised or screaming voice, threatening posture or violent gestures. Be supportive of the person but remain assertive and don’t allow yourself to be bullied. Listen. Even if you don’t have the authority to change what the person is upset about, hearing the person out is sometimes a successful diffuser. Offer them water to break the tension. Mages suggests being understanding, but do not make promises you cannot keep.
- React. In the event that a situation does escalate out of control, assess the circumstances and react accordingly, Mages says. If you are a witness to violence and have the opportunity, you should immediately report it to the staff or a supervisor and, if appropriate, call police. In the event that you yourself are threatened, Mages warns that you need to determine risk and respond accordingly by running to escape, hiding or fighting back.
Although school and workplace violence fortunately remains the exception rather than the rule to our actual lives, Mages cautions that it is important to be aware of our surroundings and others around us. Recognizing a threat or stress that rises to anger and responding to it appropriately can be the difference between productive conflict resolution and tragedy.