October’s PICA professional development webinar featured Mr Jason Lawrence, expert in tactical communications. Jason is not only an experienced communicator in managing aggressive and difficult clients/customers, but also a career investigator with both the military and state government departments.

The ability to deal with angry and aggressive clients and customers is a vital skill for most investigation professionals. Examples include those working in insurance; where those investigators can be tasked to interview unhappy (and sometimes aggressive) claimants, or uncooperative witnesses. Workplace investigators sometimes must interview hostile respondents accused of workplace misconduct. Surveillance operatives can sometimes be faced with aggressive targets or those who question what they are doing. In any case, investigators need the skills to sometimes de-escalate situations.

One of the facets of keeping yourself safe as an investigator is the concept of situational awareness. This goes beyond just “being aware of your surroundings” and involves observation, orientation, threat analysis and planning. Basically, it’s about recognising threats and have a plan to deal with them. Check out our previous blog on this here.

One of the ways to deal with the threat of aggression, hostility and difficult behaviour is to employ appropriate de-escalation techniques. Mr Lawrence outlined a number of ways effective communication can be used, including building rapport (by discussing something not related to why you are there), using professional empathy and asking the right questions. He also reiterated the point of not talking things personally and building trust with an interviewee.

Effective de-escalation is a learnt skill and one that may well help an investigator that has to manage the hostile and aggressive behaviour of someone. It’s all about validating, giving options and then choices. Notwithstanding these skills, there’s always a line in the sand where withdrawal is necessary. No job is worth sacrificing your health (physical or mental) for.