When some encounter issues with others, one word often comes to mind: police. As Americans, we often become reliant on our police forces to resolve most disputes and disagreements, some of which can be handled appropriately without escalating to that option. Overly relying on law enforcement to step in gives them more unnecessary power, which can be abused, even by uniformed people we believe will always help us. When police are involved, the tables can be turned, resulting in investigations into your personal life as well.
Resolving problems do not always have to involve police. But keep in mind, if you encounter a situation that is immediately life threatening to you or others, do not hesitate to seek assistance from law enforcement.
- Identify if the issue is immediately life-threatening to your safety, or the safety of others. If someone is armed with a weapon or is physically aggressive, either to themselves or others, seek assistance from law enforcement and other emergency services, either by calling 911 or calling other local emergency numbers. Maintain a safe distance from the hostile person until the scene is secured. If the situation is not an immediate life threat, proceed to the next steps.
- Take a deep breath; try to calm down and thoroughly evaluate the problem. Remember to take an assertive approach, not an aggressive approach. While it may be difficult, try to take the other person’s point of view into consideration, and develop ways to reach an agreement. If you have to step away briefly to collect your thoughts and emotions, do it.
- Understand that not everyone is a criminal. It may be difficult to steer away from that mindset with all the popularity of reality shows and dramas about criminals and bad behavior. Remember these shows are often exaggerated and scripted, and most people are not thieves, assailants, and murderers. Ask yourself, is there a good chance this person could actually be innocent? Is this person known to commit crimes? Could this person be a good, well behaved person who could of acted out of character? Could this person have done something that was for good intent and ended up making a mistake? In a circumstance where there is panic or anger, one could easily make false accusations and false judgments.
- While calm, try to discuss the problem with the other person. Indicate your efforts to resolve the problem in ways that work for both parties. Speak in a serious, yet respectful manner. Avoid using accusing words and statements, and attempt to speak in ways that do not generate arguments that can escalate.
- Try to gather information from others around you. Make sure to not make it look like an “interrogation” or a formal investigation, as others may catch on and make the situation more difficult to resolve. Take helpful advice into consideration. You can gather feedback from others and information that can give you clues as to why a person may be behaving poorly or information that could lead you to the solution of your problem. Remember, bystanders can be an excellent resource during a crisis.
- Think outside the box. Are you at a location with video surveillance? Try using video recordings to help you get a better understanding of the problem. This especially helps with items you think may have been stolen, and can save you from wrongful accusations.
- If all else fails, and the problem still cannot be resolved, seek additional help, either from a trusted authoritative figure, such as a parent, a teacher/professor, a counselor, or a supervisor. These people usually have special connections and options that can be very useful. If those resources are unavailable or not applicable to the situation, seek help from law enforcement.
Remember to stay calm and collective, and think outside the box to avoid escalation. This advice can save you hassle and legal problems down the road.