Tools for de-escalation

BAR HARBOR — Local resident and activist Jessica Stewart will speak about techniques for de-escalating conflict at Indivisible MDI’s monthly meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 13 at 6:30 p.m. at the MDI YMCA.

“Peacemaking is active,” said Stewart.

Knowing how to de-escalate tensions can mean the difference between calmness and violence, she said. At the very least it can mean the difference between peaceful protests and useless yelling matches.

“De-escalation helps reduce volatility and emotional charge and creates space for people to hear one another and makes a pathway to minimize violence and harm.”

Stewart acquired de-escalation skills through her work with the Alternatives to Violence Project and the War Resisters League, among others.

She gave the example of a recent silent vigil to oppose the detention by the U.S. government of children at the southern border. The silent protest was interrupted by the yelling of a passerby, who equated the protest against detentions with disapproval of President Trump, she said. Stewart was able to de-escalate the situation simply by quietly approaching the person and listening to him say what he wanted to say.

Although she uses these techniques in protest situations, the skills can be useful to anyone. Stewart said that we live in a time when emotions are running high in all kinds of settings, including at school and within the family.

Many people are already anticipating heated or uncomfortable discussions with family over holiday dinners; these techniques can be employed to decrease tension around the holiday table.

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