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How Neuroscience Can Help Us Understand De-Escalation: From First-Responders to First-Line Managers


De-escalation conjures images of law enforcement in life-threatening crises. The reality is, we all engage in a form of de-escalation any time we attempt to resolve conflict. When we argue with our partner, disagree with a friend, or feel the tension around us in a conference room, there are opportunities for escalation.

Given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, social unrest, virtual work and school, and an upcoming election, we’re frequently in situations prone to escalation. Regardless of our individual burdens, the entire society is under stress. This is an opportunity to recognize our commonalities as humans and learn ways to de-escalate tensions.

Leaders in business, education, and other organizations have begun to rethink their approach to advancing behavior change based on science, from de-escalation training to transforming organizational cultures.

In the season premiere of our webinar series Your Brain at Work Live: The Neuroscience of De-escalation, we saw that the NeuroLeadership Institute’s approach to teaching first responders de-escalation principles can easily apply to corporations. In partnership with MILO Range Training Systems, we have developed an interactive de-escalation briefing that applies the science-based understanding of escalation to the law enforcement context. Though the stakes may be significantly higher in exchanges with first responders, the dynamics of human interaction are similar across many contexts.

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Republished  from

By Kamila Sip, PhD and Joy VerPlanck, D.E.T.