Black and white Sound Cloud icon Black and white YouTube icon Black and white LinkedIn icon Black and white Facebook icon

The Cooling-Off Period

Calming a Disruption

man yelling at phone

An article based on the Safety Member Certification Training Module "Deescalating Disruptive Persons" and the Church Security Guide article "Disruptive Individuals: How to De-escalate the Situation." [1][2][3]

From the Bible

He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still (Psalm 107:29).

And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, "Peace, be still." And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm (Mark 4:39).


It has been a while since the federal government has used provisions in the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act to intervene in a strike which was crippling the U.S. economy. The measures usually enforced were mandated mediation and a "cooling-off period" when work resumed while mediated negotiations continued. A member of the church I attended in the early 1970s was a federal mediator.

Both members and visitors in a church are people, and people have problems. For any of several reasons, tensions can mount and tempers can flare. There then is a need for a cooling-off time with someone acting as a mediator. We call this cooling-off "de-escalation." The ultimate goal is first to keep the situation from escalating further, then to reverse the escalation and restore calm. A metaphor for this is "pouring oil on troubled water." It likens de-escalation to a real physical phenomenon: Benjamin Franklin's experiments showed that a little oil spreading across a body of water will make it calm if done from the windward (starting) side. This means it works better before boiling over than after.[4]

In the News

News stories about verbal de-escalation usually cover incidents involving police (sometimes security guards), but rarely about church security. However, we can learn from some police incidents.

South Daytona, Florida, February 8, 2017 - A man who assaulted the leasing agent at an apartment complex was confronted by a responding police officer. The officer, who had been on the force for only five months, started a "normal" conversation with the suspect, who was mentally ill. He not only calmed the man, the suspect also meekly put his hands behind his back for handcuffing.[5]

South Daytona, Florida, June 28, 2018 - One year, four months, and three weeks after the incident in the preceding news story, a mentally ill man (bipolar disorder and schizophrenia) who was under the influence of at least three drugs was allegedly beaten by a baton, Tased, and held to the ground with a knee on his neck for four minutes by four responding police officers. He was unresponsive by the time EMTs arrived and died four days later in the hospital from oxygen deprivation to the brain. Apparently they did not take note of his condition soon enough to let up and administer life-saving treatment. Verbal de-escalation configured for calming mentally ill and drug-impaired persons might have made a difference.[5][6]

Walla Walla, Washington, November 14, 2023 - A man entered a fire station in the morning while the overhead bay doors were open and firefighters were checking the equipment. The man began talking with them. After a while, he pulled out a gun. City police and sheriff's deputies responded. They de-escalated the situation. The gun turned out to be a cap gun.[7]

Nationwide, July 5, 2020 - De-escalation training for police in the United States was promoted by reformers in 2020. However, some critics questioned the effectiveness of the training. Two factors in the discussion were the unevenness of the training in this country without a national police authority and the personalities of individual officers.[8]

Toronto, Ontario, September 29, 2021 - Steven Reesor of the Centre for Security Training & Management Inc., based in Toronto, Ontario, stresses the importance of de-escalation for private security officers. In this 2021 article, he offers some tips on de-escalation.[9]

Boston, Massachusetts, July 20, 2021 - Police officers in Boston have a new policy for dealing with mentally ill persons. Disengagement is preferred over confrontation. This is an effort by the city to avoid violent interactions between law enforcement and the mentally ill which has resulted in many injuries and deaths across the nation. Among the recommendations is training law enforcement officers in how to peacefully engage the mentally ill. Another option referred to is Assisted Outpatient Treatment, which at the date of the Boston Globe article was not prescribed by state law in Massachusetts.[10]

Using Verbal De-Escalation

When a person or persons are becoming disruptive, we would rather have the situation cool down than to erupt into violence. At the very least, we wish to avoid disrupting services, classes, or special events. We also want to avoid disturbing the peace, especially when there are several people around, such as in the vestibule or the outer entry.

It is hard to maintain a spirit of worship, learning, or celebration in the presence of loud arguments, wild antics, and violence. Therefore, we need people present who are able to de-escalate tensions before they become disruptive. In the church this would be the pastors, teachers, ushers, greeters, and safety team members.

Man with his hand behind his ear listening for a sound.

A few keys to preventing and de-escalating disruption are:

Why People Become Disruptive

Most disruptive persons have problems they cannot deal with calmly. Some of these are:

When Disruption Starts

Angry man driving a car.

There are indications that a person may become disruptive. If not leading to disruption, at least they need help.

Approaching a Disruption

Two women yelling at a man in a calm position.

Approach disruptive or likely disruptive persons where you can be seen. Don't startle them or appear to be sneaking up on them. Stop outside their personal space, but close enough to talk calmly with them. Stand in the Interview Stance - at an angle with feet at shoulder width, one slightly ahead of the other, hands cupped in front just above the waist. Appear relaxed and alert.

Conversing with Disruptive Persons

Mostly listen. Get them to talk and hear them out. This gets them to let off some steam. Use active listening - when they pause use phrases such as "I see," or "Oh my!" or "I understand that you feel [what they said]."

Maintain Calm

First, to gain calm you yourself need to be calm. Our calmness will help a troubled person to be calm, and this will enable us to maintain control of the situation.

Offer help

This can be as simple as getting them to sit down in a quiet spot away from the crowd. If they are thirsty, offer a glass of water. If they seem open to more help, suggest or call for someone who can counsel them or supply their need.

More on This Subject

There is more detailed information in the Church Security Guide article "Disruptive Individuals: How to De-escalate the Situation," which is also in the Sheepdog Articles on the Safety Ministry Training website (with updated formatting) as "Mastering Verbal De-escalation for Peaceful Resolutions."[2][3][11][12]

More complete coverage is in the Safety Member Certification Training Module "Deescalating Disruptive Persons."[1]

Also, Kris has covered this subject in podcasts on the YouTube channel Sheepdog Church Security Academy, such as "Calming Tempers | Church Security Roll Call 316." The audio is on a Church Security Roll Call podcast.[12][13][14]15]


Maintain an atmosphere conducive to worship and learning and forestall violent incidents by using verbal de-escalation to defuse disruptive situations.


  1. Kris Moloney, "Deescalating Disruptive Persons," Safety Ministry Training, Certification [].
  2. Kris Moloney, Church Security Guide, Sheepdog Church Security, © 2018 [].
  3. Kris Moloney, "Disruptive Individuals: How to De-escalate the Situation," Church Security Guide, Sheepdog Church Security, © 2018 [].
  4. "Pour oil on troubled waters," [].
  5. Lyda Longalyda, "Rookie South Daytona cop downplays his talk to calm volatile mentally ill suspect," The News-Journal, March 7, 2017, updated March 8, 2017 [].
  6. Pilar Melendez, "‘Couldn't Breathe': Cop Kneeled on Florida Man's Neck for 4 Minutes Before He Died, Lawsuit Alleges," The Daily Beast, June 18, 2020 [].
  7. Michael LeCompte, "Law enforcement de-escalates situation after gun reported at Walla Walla fire station," Non-Stop Local Tri-Cities, November 14, 2023 [].
  8. Erin Schumaker, "Police reformers push for de-escalation training, but the jury is out on its effectiveness," ABC News, July 5, 2020 [].
  9. Steven Reesor, "De-Escalation Tips Private Security Officers Must Know," Centre for Security Training & Management Inc., September 29, 2021 [].
  10. Tonya Alanez, "Boston police emphasize de-escalation, disengagement in mental health calls," Boston Globe, Updated July 20, 2021 [].
  11. Kris Moloney, Sheepdog Articles, Safety Ministry Training, 2023 [].
  12. Kris Moloney, "Mastering Verbal De-escalation for Peaceful Resolutions," Sheepdog Articles, Safety Ministry Training, © 2018 [].
  13. Kris Moloney, Sheepdog Church Security Academy [].
  14. Kris Moloney, "Calming Tempers | Church Security Roll Call 316," Sheepdog Church Security Academy, June 20, 2022 [].
  15. Kris Moloney, Church Security Roll Call [].
  16. Kris Moloney, "Calming Tempers | Church Security Roll Call 316," Church Security Roll Call, June 20, 2022 [].