You’re just out for a good time with your friends, not looking for trouble. Somehow, though, trouble seems to have found you — mostly in the form of another patron who seems to be angry, aggressive and possibly intoxicated.
What do you do? Walking away may not be an option if the other party is already worked up, and it’s not always wise to turn your back on someone who’s full of hostile intent. You need to try to de-escalate the situation instead.
De-escalation tips from the experts
You don’t want to hurt anybody, and you don’t want to get hurt. You may also be worried about the safety of innocent bystanders. Hopefully, an alert bartender or server will call the authorities to provide you with a little backup, but here’s what you can try in the meantime:
- Watch your body language. Closed, raised fists and a defensive stance may be mistaken for aggression on your part and a challenge. Back up a step, try to keep your posture loose and your hands open so that you seem non-threatening.
- Control your voice. If someone is yelling at you, your first instinct may be to yell right back — but that can escalate things rather quickly. Consider dropping your voice as low as you can while still being heard.
- Consider your words carefully. Don’t make threats, and don’t respond directly to them. Phrases like “It’s not worth it” or “Calm down, no offense was meant” might be better choices.
The experts also say that — despite your desire to find a peaceful resolution — that it’s important not to look frightened or weak. Aggressors can be bullies, and bullies will often go on the offensive if they sense that they can easily take the other party in a fight.
Know your rights
If you do end up hurt in a fight with an aggressive drunk, you have every right to hold the other party liable for your losses. Find out what it takes to successfully pursue a claim and protect your interests.