Steps to De-Escalate a Conflict in a Crowd


Steps to De-Escalate a Conflict in a Crowded Environment

As experts in operational risk management, we do (and see) it all. And that broad experience and deep expertise, particularly in crowd management, have allowed us to develop industry leading practices that we pass on to our clients. If you operate a venue that’s just opening up after an unprecedented year, you probably have a lot on your mind. And (re)training staff is likely at the forefront.

Right now, staff training covers everything from cleaning and sanitation to crowd flow management. And we’ve recently trained staff in high-visibility roles to do just that even better. But as a risk management consulting firm, we take a holistic approach to crowd and capacity management, beyond staffing design and hot topics of the day.

Conflict de-scalation in a crowd

When it comes to managing a large crowd, we believe that event staff should be prepared with steps to de-escalate a conflict, should one arise. As venues reopen and retrain staff, here are a few cues to look for and steps to follow to make sure everyone’s properly prepared. 

Identify Signs of Escalating Conflict

Recognizing early warning signs and anticipating a potential problem is what risk management is all about. Look for verbal and nonverbal cues that might indicate a conflict is developing. In a large crowd, that typically means noticing disruptive behavior, such as yelling or refusing to comply with stated rules. 

Steps to De-Escalate a Conflict

It’s important to note that a single technique or plan won’t work in every case. Our consulting team prepares client staff with a variety of tools to handle tough situations, and that includes calling in help when needed.

Stay Calm. Before stepping in, take a deep breath and calm yourself. Maintain a neutral tone of voice and nonthreatening body language (keep gestures to a minimum). Remember to respect personal space and avoid blocking an exit, which can help decrease a person’s anxiety. 

Move to a quieter area. If possible, and only if you feel safe doing so, move the person to the edge of the crowd or a quieter area so that they don’t feel additional social pressure.

Lead with empathy. Let the person know that you understand their feelings. 

Listen without passing judgement. Make sure the person feels heard. Paraphrase back what they say completely without judgement.

Ignore challenging questions. Don’t engage in a power struggle. Redirect the conversation back to the problem at hand.

Look for solutions. Be flexible in determining where rules can be bent and where they can’t. Do not compromise on legal or safety issues but look for face-saving solutions for the person where possible.

Conflict de-escalation is something for which we prepare our clients but hope they never have to use. As risk management consultants, we think through and plan for each detail that builds operational resilience and identifies problems before they happen. If you’re a manager for an event or venue and need a little extra help training staff, designing a perfect layout for crowd flow, or determining capacity limits, drop us a line at We’d love to help!