Department of Health

Talk down methods

  • 13 September 2016

Often, when people are angry, agitated or upset, it’s possible to calm them down.

This intervention provides an organised catalogue of talk down tips and shows how they sit together in a three-stage process of de-escalation.

Hi Owen, it’s Lisa from yesterday. What’s going on? Yeah, yeah, I really need to talk to the Doctor, yeah, ok. Ok, would you like to grab a seat and we’ll have a bit of a talk about that, just here. Yeah, sure.

Good on you. So, you need to see the Doctor? Yeah, well, I need to get out, see the Doctor, so I can get outta here, go home, yeah. Ok, unfortunately, we can’t see the Doctor right now. Yeah, well, I need to get out today and go home, yeah. Something is clearly going on about going home, so what do you need to do at home? I’ve got a cat and the cat needs to be fed, yeah. What’s your cat called?

He’s called George. George. All right. So, we need to get George fed and the litter cleaned? Yeah, today. Yeah.

All right, because we can’t see the Doctor right now, let’s try and resolve this together.

You don’t have any family at home? No, no, that’s why I need to get home.

Of course, of course. Yeah.

What about a neighbour? Um, uh, yes, like sometimes, yes, my neighbour…

Ok. Well, how about if we contact the neighbour and see if they can feed George for you and

clean up the litter. Yeah…yeah. 

And then we’ll catch up with the Doctor a bit later.

Yeah, okay. Yeah?

Yeah, okay. That’s alright. Alright, well let’s go do that. Let’s ring the neighbour. Ok, alright. Good.

The talkdown intervention has 5 components:

Control yourself. The nurse is acting calmly and confidently.

Delimit. The nurse has invited the patient to sit down.

Clarify. The nurse is trying to establish what is happening.

Resolve. The nurse is giving reasons, offering choices and asking if there’s anything else they can do. Respect and empathy. The nurse is showing interest and concern.

Reviewed 21 November 2023