Ten Effective De-Escalation Strategies, for Drunk and Hostile Customers


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Working as a private security guard in a place that serves alcohol can be challenging, especially when dealing with drunk and hostile customers. Here are ten effective de-escalation strategies to help you manage these situations safely and professionally: 

1. Stay Calm and Professional: 

Maintaining a calm and professional demeanor is crucial, even in the face of an agitated or aggressive customer. This sets a positive tone for the interaction and can help defuse the situation. Maintaining composure demonstrates empathy and understanding, making customers feel heard and respected. A professional demeanor instills confidence and trust, making customers more receptive to solutions. Remaining calm lets you think clearly and respond thoughtfully, avoiding further escalation. Staying professional helps uphold the organization's reputation and fosters a positive customer experience. It sets a precedent for respectful communication and encourages customers to adopt a similar approach. 

2. Listen Actively: 

Listen to the customer's concerns and try to understand their perspective. Show empathy and understanding by using phrases like "I understand," "I can see why you're upset," or "I'm here to help." Avoid interrupting the customer or making assumptions about their needs. Ask open-ended questions to encourage the customer to share more information. Pay attention to verbal and non-verbal cues, such as body language and tone of voice. Summarize what the customer has said to show that you've been listening and to ensure that you've understood them correctly. 

3. Use Empathy: 

Show empathy and understanding towards the customer's feelings. Listen to the customer's concerns and try to understand their perspective. This will help you build a rapport with the customer and make them feel heard and valued. Use phrases that express empathy and understanding, such as "I understand how you feel" or "I can imagine how frustrating that must be." Avoid using jargon or technical terms that the customer may not understand. Be patient and allow the customer to express their concerns fully. Don't interrupt or rush them. If the customer becomes emotional, remain calm and respectful. Offer your support and tell them you are there to help. 

4. Use Non-Verbal Communication: 

Non-verbal communication is essential to create a positive impression and convey your message effectively. Making eye contact shows that you are engaged, attentive, and confident. Aim for 60-70% eye contact during a conversation. Use open body language. Keep your body relaxed and open, with your arms uncrossed and your shoulders back. This indicates that you are open to communication and receptive to what the other person says. Keep a safe distance. Maintain a comfortable and respectful distance from the other person. This will help put them at ease and create a sense of personal space. 

5. Avoid Arguing or Debating: 

Refrain from arguing or debating with the customer, as it can escalate the situation. Listen attentively to their concerns and try to understand their perspective. Acknowledge their feelings and show empathy. Focus on finding a mutually agreeable solution rather than trying to prove who is right or wrong. If the customer becomes agitated or unreasonable, move people to a safer area while gaining a better tactical position and inform fellow security team members. 

6. Offer Alternatives: 

Provide options or solutions to address customer concerns. Present a variety of choices that suit different needs, preferences, and budgets. Explain the pros and cons of each alternative to help the customer make an informed decision. Be open to customization and tailoring solutions to meet specific requirements. Offer upgrades or add-ons to enhance the value of the proposed alternatives. Provide a clear comparison of the other options to enable easy decision-making. Consider the customer's feedback and incorporate their suggestions into the proposed alternatives. Remain flexible and willing to adjust to different options based on changing circumstances. Provide additional information or resources to support the customer's evaluation of the possibilities. Maintain a positive and solution-oriented approach throughout the process. 

7. Set Clear Boundaries: 

Politely but firmly set boundaries and explain the consequences of inappropriate behavior. This can be done verbally, calmly, and respectfully. Remember that an escalated person can need up to five times the distance compared to a casual encounter with a stranger. You should give them more space and avoid sudden movements or gestures. If the person does not respect your boundaries, you should take further action, such as asking them to leave or calling the police. It's important to remember that setting boundaries is not about being rude or dismissive but protecting yourself and others from harm. By setting clear boundaries, you can help to create a safe and respectful environment for everyone. Some examples of clear boundaries you can set include: You are not tolerating verbal or physical abuse. You are not allowing people to touch you without your consent, not allowing people to make you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, and not allowing people to enter your personal space without your permission. You are not allowing people to make offensive or discriminatory remarks towards bystanders and other customers; however, do not take the insults hurled at you by a drunk or hostile person personally. 

8. Assess the Situation: 

Security guards must first assess the severity of the situation. If there is a risk of physical harm, property damage, or a threat to public safety, immediate action is necessary. Security guards play a crucial role in maintaining order and ensuring the safety of individuals and property. When faced with an emergency, security guards must assess the situation promptly and take appropriate action. The first step involves evaluating the severity of the problem. Here are some key factors that security guards should consider during their assessment: 

Risk of Physical Harm: 

Determine if there is an immediate threat of physical harm to individuals. Assess the number of individuals involved and their proximity to the potential danger. Evaluate the potential for escalation and the presence of weapons. 

Threat to Public Safety: 

Evaluate the potential for the situation to affect the public's safety. Assess whether the problem could lead to panic, confusion, or a disruption of everyday activities. Determine if there is a need to evacuate or secure the area. 

Immediate Danger: 

If there is an immediate threat to life or property, security guards must take immediate action to mitigate the risk. This may involve calling for backup, contacting law enforcement, or physically intervening to prevent harm. The level of force should be equal to or only slightly more significant than the aggressor's. During physical altercations, continue to use verbal de-escalation commands throughout the process, including, "Stop hurting me!", "Stop!" or "Leave!" or emphasizers such as "Now!" or "Quit!" 

Security officers must intervene when unnecessary or excessive force is being used. Always value the sanctity of human life, and remember that the person is someone's son, daughter, aunt, uncle, sister, brother, dad, or mom. Consider the optics: is the person a juvenile trying to use a fake ID, an older frail person in a bad mood from the heat, or a petite female? How would your actions look on a camera recording played back as the observer?  You can count on the fact that witnesses will share multiple incident recordings on every available social media platform. You will be judged on your actions long before a criminal or civil trial begins. 

Ongoing Situation: 

In situations that are not immediately life-threatening, security guards should assess the potential for the problem to escalate or become prolonged. They should consider the need for additional resources, such as extra security personnel, medical assistance, or technical support. 

Environmental Factors: 

Consider environmental factors that may affect the situation, such as weather conditions, lighting, or terrain. Evaluate how these factors might impact security guards' ability to respond effectively. In general, people become escalated in higher temperatures during the warmer months. 

Available Resources: 

Assess the resources available to security guards, including staffing, equipment, and communication systems. Determine if additional resources are needed to manage the situation effectively. Based on their assessment, security guards can develop a plan of action and take the necessary steps to mitigate risks, protect individuals and property, and ensure public safety. 

9. Involve Management or Law Enforcement: 

When a security guard encounters a problem beyond their control or becomes dangerous, involving management or law enforcement is crucial. Security guards should promptly communicate the situation to their superiors or management. Providing a clear and concise report of the incident, including details such as the nature of the threat, the number of individuals involved, and any potential weapons, is essential. 

Request Assistance: 

Management can decide the appropriate action, such as evacuating the premises or contacting law enforcement. They can also provide additional resources, such as extra security personnel or equipment, to assist in managing the situation. 

Law Enforcement Involvement: 

In cases where the situation poses a significant threat to public safety or involves criminal activity, security guards should contact law enforcement immediately. Providing accurate information to law enforcement officers is crucial for a swift and effective response. 

Coordination with Law Enforcement: 

Security guards should work closely with law enforcement officers to provide necessary assistance, such as securing the scene, controlling access to the area, and identifying potential witnesses. 


Security guards should maintain detailed records of the incident, including the time, date, nature of the threat, actions taken, and relevant observations. This documentation is crucial for future reference and potential legal proceedings. Record the incident, including the customer's behavior and any actions taken. Security Incident Report: Time and date of the incident. Location of the incident. Description of the incident, including the nature of the threat and the customer's behavior. Actions taken by the security guard. Any relevant observations, such as the appearance of the perpetrator. Any relevant observations, such as the customer's demeanor. Names and contact information of any witnesses. Any medical treatment provided. Any damage to the property. 

Evidence Collection: 

Recordings from onsite witnesses' cellular phones and devices; recordings from CCTV interior and exterior cameras; related signage, such as "No Trespassing" or "Security Cameras in Use" signs; and other relevant evidence. 

10. Post-Incident Follow-Up: 

Security guards must thoroughly review the incident with management after the situation has been resolved. This review serves multiple purposes and helps identify areas for improvement in security measures, training, and response protocols. 

Root Cause Analyssi: 

The review process should involve a comprehensive root cause analysis to identify the factors contributing to the incident. This analysis helps determine whether human error, protocol failures, or other vulnerabilities caused the incident. 

Identification of Areas for Improvement: 

Based on the root cause analysis, the security team can identify areas where security measures, training, and response protocols can be improved. This may involve updating security policies, enhancing employee education, or implementing new technologies. 

Evaluation of Security Measures: 

The review also provides an opportunity to evaluate the effectiveness of existing security measures. This includes assessing the adequacy of security personnel, surveillance systems, access control systems, and other security infrastructure. 

Communication with Management: 

The security team should communicate their findings and recommendations to management. This helps ensure that appropriate actions are taken to address any identified weaknesses and prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future. 

Training and Education: 

Based on the lessons learned from the incident, the security team may develop and deliver additional training programs to enhance security guards' and other employees' skills and knowledge. 

Continuous Improvement: 

The post-incident review process contributes to constantly improving security operations. Security teams can regularly review and evaluate incidents to identify trends and patterns and adjust their strategies and procedures. By conducting a thorough post-incident follow-up, security guards can help organizations learn from the past, strengthen their security posture, and create a safer environment for employees, customers, and visitors. 

Seek Support and Training: 

Regularly Attend De-escalation Training Programs. Invest in comprehensive de-escalation training programs for security personnel to enhance their skills and knowledge. Collaborate with experts in conflict resolution and de-escalation techniques to develop customized training modules that cater to your organization's specific needs. Regularly update and revise training materials to stay abreast of emerging trends and best practices in de-escalation. 

Create a Supportive Work Environment: 

Foster a supportive work environment where security personnel feel comfortable discussing challenges and seeking assistance from colleagues and supervisors. Implement policies and procedures that prioritize the safety and well-being of security personnel, including access to confidential counseling services and employee assistance programs. Recognize and reward security personnel who demonstrate exceptional de-escalation skills and contribute to a positive and safe workplace. 

Provide Ongoing Performance Feedback: 

Regularly evaluate the performance of security personnel in managing conflict situations. Provide constructive feedback to help them identify areas for improvement and enhance their de-escalation skills. Use performance evaluations to reinforce positive behaviors and encourage continuous professional development. 

Monitor and Track Incidents: 

Implement a system to monitor and track incidents involving security personnel. Analyze incident data to identify patterns and trends that may inform training and development needs. Use incident data to evaluate the effectiveness of de-escalation strategies and make necessary adjustments to improve outcomes. 

Alliance Training and Testing Security Officer Training Programs 

Alliance Training and Testing provides comprehensive online training programs for security officers in Tennessee. To be effective, businesses should reinforce these licensing and certification programs with clear policies, site-specific standards, regular coaching and feedback on daily performance, emergency protocols, ongoing practice and drills, hands-on training exercises, and external audits and reviews. Commit to perfecting your security program through ongoing training and on-the-spot corrections to make the successful outcome more predictable. Meet the statutory legal requirements and stay compliant in Tennessee with our online license and certification training programs, including: 

Unarmed Security Officer License

Prepares individuals to become licensed unarmed security officers in Tennessee. Fully compliant with the requirements set forth by the State of Tennessee Private Protective Services. 

Dallas Law Certification

This certification enables security officers to work at commercial establishments with permits or licenses from the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission or Beer Board. It includes de-escalation techniques, safe restraint techniques, and CPR First Aid Training. Tennessee Private Protective Services fully approves this program. 

Unarmed License Renewal Course

Equips individuals with the knowledge and skills necessary to renew their unarmed security license in Tennessee. Fully approved by the State of Tennessee Private Protective Services. 

Alliance Training and Testing is the Security School of Choice in Tennessee. 

For more information, please visit our website or contact us at www.guardtrainingtn.com

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Alliance Training and Testing LLC
Nashville, Tennessee, United States