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Body Language in Confrontational Situations. Adapted from a Doctoral Dissertation Research Project Bachem Baruchbar (M.S. Communications) INIS Margott Heinz-Chaffe (M.S. Clinical Psychology) FBI Ret. Dennis Moon (M.S. Forensic Psychology) USMS Ret. Definitions.

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Body Language in Confrontational Situations

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body language in confrontational situations

Body Language in Confrontational Situations

Adapted from a Doctoral Dissertation Research Project

Bachem Baruchbar (M.S. Communications) INIS

Margott Heinz-Chaffe (M.S. Clinical Psychology) FBI Ret.

Dennis Moon (M.S. Forensic Psychology) USMS Ret.

  • Body Language - How you physically present yourself to others. Body language has been proven to be an extremely powerful viewer into the inner workings of the human psyche.
  • Confrontation - A stressful, generally unwanted combination of emotional, verbal, mental, or physical assaults upon a person or persons senses. Confrontation usually engenders human emotions such as fear, anger, disgust, superiority, inferiority, sexual aggression, anguish, and self -doubt to name a few.
types of body language
Types of Body Language
  • Positive - Usually creates a non-threatening, bonded, mutual relationship between parties involved in a confrontational situation.
  • Negative - Usually intensifies the already present emotional negativity found in most confrontational situations.
  • Neutral - Usually has little or no effect on conflicted parties in a confrontational situation.
body language top ten quick list for sports officials
Positve Body Language

Head Level

Eye Contact

Hands Down

Palms Open

Feet Shoulder Width

Head Cocked

Arm fold with Chin Touch

Lean in

Nod head

Rub Hands to end

Neg Body Language

Look Down

Look Away

Step Back (Exception)

Touch mouth, nose, throat

Clench Fist

Cross Arms

Hands on Hips

Point (Exception)

Hands in front of chest

Hands behind back

Body Language Top Ten Quick List for Sports Officials
positive body language details
Positive Body Language Details
  • Head Level = I will not be intimidated - I will be treated as an equal or superior.
  • Eye Contact = I have nothing to hide. I am not fearful. (Beware of prolonged eye contact. This becomes a stare-down and escalates into a power struggle. Maintain eye contact for a few seconds, then look at the nose or cheek then back to the eyes. Do not drop your eyes!!)
  • Hands Down = I am not aggressive toward you at this time. I do not feel threatened by you yet.
  • Palms Open = I am presently receptive to your concerns.
Feet Shoulder Width = I am ready to take any physical position which is most advantageous to our confrontation.
  • Head Cocked = I am presently interested in what you are doing and saying.
  • Arm fold with chin touch = I am evaluating the physical and verbal comments you are giving me.
  • Lean In = I am comfortable with who I am and the situation I am facing. I am not intimidated.
  • Nod Head = I am interested in what you are presenting and understand that you have a concern. (Be careful here. Do not nod your head when the other person makes a false or accusatory statement.
Rub Hands to End = Once you have made a decision and have decided to end the confrontation, state what your decision is while rubbing your hand softly in front of you in a non-threatening manner.
negative body language details
Negative Body Language Details
  • Look Down = I am submissive to you and your confrontational attitude. You physically and emotionally dominate me.
  • Look Away = I am uncomfortable with the situation. I can’t look at you because you have more power. (Looking away and also looking down at the same time is also a sure sign of sexual dominance.)
  • Step Back = I am afraid of you, the situation, or both. (Remember, there is an exception to this rule which will be discussed later)
Touch Mouth or Nose or Threat =

Mouth = I do not approve of you and I am afraid to speak openly. I am not sure of myself.

Nose = I am nervous about this confrontation. I am not sure what is going to happen.

Throat = I am frightened by you and the situation I am in.

  • Clench Fists = I am very angry at you and want to punish you for placing me in this situation. I am more powerful than you. I am in control.
  • Cross Arms = I am defensive. I have made up my mind. I resist any attempt by you to communicate with me.
  • Hands on Hips = I am in authority here and you are subservient to my position. You have little or no standing with me. I am going to be confrontational to you.
Point = I challenge you to disobey me. You are subservient and must do as I say. I am your master. (Remember that there is an exception to this rule which will be explained later.)
  • Hands in Front of Chest (Palms Out) = This gesture is when the hands are close to the body. It is universally interpreted as meaning I am not responsible for what happened or is happening. Someone else is to blame. I do not have control since its not my fault.
  • Hands Behind Back = I am angry and have something to hide from you. You can’t see the real me.
verbal control of confrontational situations
Verbal Control of Confrontational Situations
  • Body Language and voice control must be in harmony with one another. Proper body language is rendered impotent when accompanied by poor grammar and loss of voice control.
  • Stress causes the following physical reactions:
    • Face becomes red and flushed
    • Body becomes ridged and stiff
    • Breathing becomes rapid and shallow
    • Eyes widen
    • Sweat breaks out
    • Voice escalates
    • Sentences become very short
    • Teeth clench
verbal control of confrontational situations12
Verbal Control of Confrontational Situations
  • Almost all stress related reactions can be controlled by breath control. You must consciously breath. When you see or feel a confrontational situation beginning to develop, immediately take 1 or 2 deep breaths and relax your diaphragm. Deep breathing tells your subconscious that the threat is over or lessened. This relaxes the muscles of the face and vocal cords.
verbal control of confrontational situations13
Verbal Control of Confrontational Situations
  • When you speak, speak from the diaphragm rather than the throat.
  • Imagine yourself speaking in a calm, confident manner. Pause momentarily before you begin to speak.
  • The faster and higher the other person in the situation talks, the slower and lower you should speak. A deep, measured voice is interpreted as being in charge and capable of handling the situation.
  • Use questions to deflect anger and diffuse focus. Repeating a question back to the questioner often causes that person to rethink their statement.
verbal control of confrontational situations14
Verbal Control of Confrontational Situations
  • Do not make iron clad statements:
    • I know
    • Always
    • Never
    • Won’t
  • Make conditional statements:
    • In my judgement
    • I think
    • In my opinion
    • It is my belief
    • The rule does not allow
    • By rule
    • According to rule
verbal control of confrontational situations15
Verbal Control of Confrontational Situations
  • Do not use slang. Slang usage is seen as loss of control.
  • Use command and control words when appropriate
    • Stop
    • You
    • Here
    • There
    • Emphasize the command with the point.
  • Never threaten
    • State the behavior you want stopped and leave the other person to imagine what the penalty might be.
    • State the penalty and then enforce it no matter what.
personal space
Personal Space
  • Personal Space in the U.S. is defined as approx. 3 to 4 feet. Only you can determine if someone is allowed to invade your personal space. In confrontive situations where your personal space is invaded, especially when the distance is less than 1 foot, and body language and verbal usage indicate intimidation, ejection should usually be the result. No matter what, you should not retreat, turn sideways, or drop your head. Do not lean back no matter how close the other person is to your face. Once you have decided that the other person has had his say, do the following:
    • Keep your head erect
    • Take two steps back
    • Turn 180 degrees and forcefully give the ejection signal away from the person being ejected.
personal space17
Personal Space
  • Do not turn back around to face the person being ejected.
  • Walk toward your partner. He should now intervene and direct the person off the field. Walking away forces the other person to chase you and this is seen as a subservient position giving you control of the situation.
bulk up
Bulk Up
  • In a confrontational situation, you must appear larger than you are.
    • Head and eyes level
    • Shoulders back
    • Butt and Gut sucked in
    • Elbows out 6 to 8 inches from the body
    • Feet shoulder width. (Wider than shoulder width shortens your height)
    • Lean forward slightly. This causes you chin to thrust out slightly. Chin thrust is one of the top 3 indicators of self mastery.
slim down
Slim Down
  • The Bruffmann scale clearly indicates that for each 10 pounds you are over weight, your STATURE is reduced by a factor of 10%. If you are 40 pounds over weight, your effectiveness as a leader and authoritarian figure is reduced to 60%.
  • Bruffmann also shows that if you are involved in a physical activity, STATURE is reduced by 15% for each 10 pounds over weight. Remember that you are involved in an athletic contest where the participants spend many hours preparing their bodies to act properly. An over weight person is seen as incapable of “Keeping Up” regardless of the level of competition.
  • Note the attached BMI chart.
pre game
Pre Game
  • Bruffmann’s 40 year study of authority figures and confrontational situations show some interesting results.
    • Your STATURE is determined in the mind of the “Subject” (Bruffman calls those not in authority “Subjects”) in the first 1.5 to 3 seconds of contact.
    • Once the “Subject” has mentally assigned a STATURE value to you it is nearly impossible to change that value upward. Confrontation only lowers the STATURE value. It cannot raise it.
    • This means that as soon as a “Subject” sees you he assigns a STATURE value to you which stays with you for a finite amount of time.
    • The danger for umpires and other officials is that they are often seen before their entrance onto the field and the STATURE value is assigned when the official may not even be aware of the evaluation.
pre game21
Pre Game
  • Because STATURE is assigned upon contact, the following ought to apply to all officials:
    • When you contact anyone involved with the game, be on your best professional behavior. If you contact the coach or administrator wearing inappropriate clothing, inappropriate accessories, use crude language or fail to use your body language in an appropriate manner, you lose your effectiveness as a field administrator.
    • When you walk onto the field, keep your head erect, eyes level and walk with a brisk motion.
    • If you go into the dugout and females are present, don’t go in alone. Be completely professional in and around the dugout. Your STATURE is being evaluated.
    • Walk the field with your partner. Walk with head erect, eyes level and gesture as you walk briskly.
pre game22
Pre Game
  • Everyone is looking for your weaknesses during the pre game. Signs of weakness are:
    • Weak handshake
    • Looking down or away during the pre game conference
    • Stuttering or stammering while presenting the ground rules.
    • Forgetting or mispronouncing the coaches name, your partners name or the school name.
    • Fumbling with the lineup cards.
    • Not knowing how to end the pre game conference.
    • Not having the game balls
    • Fidgeting during the pre game conference
    • Inappropriate levity
    • Inappropriate comments
pre game23
Pre Game
  • Signs of Strength are:
    • Know the name of the coaches and assistants
    • Know the name of your partner and introduce him
    • Clearly state the ground rules
    • Have the game balls ready at the plate if possible
    • Clearly and decisively answer questions
    • Know how to end the pre game conference.
  • When behind the plate, don’t groom yourself. It is a sign of nervousness and lack of confidence
  • Never chase a player or coach after a confrontation.
  • Try blocking the player or coach from the point of contention. If there was a close play at home plate, try maneuvering your self so that the coaches back is to the plate. Move slightly away from the base or situation where the controversy is located. (Do not appear to be running away)
  • Once you have made a call, you are only half way done. Finish up by keeping head up, eyes level and focus on the play. Once you are satisfied, hustle back to position.
  • If you drop your head or lower your eyes after a call you are asking for confrontation. You must hold your body language until the focus is no longer on you.
  • You must determine whether to meet a coach half way or make him come to you. Never go to a coach because he beckons to you or tells you to come. Generally you should not meet a coach half way if he has had a temper tantrum prior to his wanting to talk to you. Meeting him half way confirms his control over you. If you make the coach come to you, watch your body language as he approaches. This is the time to take the deep breaths and go over the play in your mind. Remember, head up, eyes level, palms open, hands down, and feet shoulder width apart.
  • Don’t fidget while on the bases. This is interpreted as boredom and superiority. (I’m better than this. Your level of play bores me.)
  • The most intimidating thing you can do as an umpire is wear sunglasses. We recommend it to everyone.
  • According to Bruffmann, the single most destructive act during a confrontation is the two hand dismissive, then turning your back. Don’t ever do this. It may get you hurt.
  • Make mentally sure that you really don’t care who wins or looses. Failure to be absolutely neutral will manifest its self physically at some point during the game.
danger danger
  • Here are some signs that a physical attack is possible but not imminent:
    • Head, neck, and shoulder go back. (The person is trying to make himself look bigger)
    • Face is twitching and/or jerking
    • Lips are pushed forward so the teeth are bared.
    • Breathing is fast and shallow
    • Beads of sweat appear around neck and face
    • Thousand mile stare
    • Finger pointing / head pecking
    • Giving excessive attention
    • Sudden change in attitude from confrontive to docile
    • Acts stoned or drunk
    • Directs anger at inanimate items.
danger danger28
  • Signs that a physical attack is imminent:
    • Change of stance. Shoulder blades and body drop.
    • Hands closed into a fist. Knuckles are tight
    • Bobbing up and down or rocking back and forth. (This hides the initial strike.
    • Target glance. The person looks where he is going to hit.
    • Puts chin down to chest. He is protecting his airway.
    • Stops all movement
    • Drops center of gravity.
    • Shedds clothing
    • Goes from full sentences to one syllable words or non-sense
danger danger29
  • If you see any combination of the attack factors, the best defense is to ask the person if he is going to attack. Just say “You look like you are going to hit me. Are you going to hit me?” This solves 90% of imminent attacks because the element of surprise is removed.
you and the law
You and the Law
  • If you are physically assaulted, you MUST press charges. You are setting up the next official for attack if you don’t.
  • In Texas, if you commit unwanted touching it is at least simple assault.
  • If you commit unwanted touching on a girl who is under the age of 18 and you are an umpire on the field, you have committed at least 3rd degree sexual battery of a minor. This is a crime of moral turpitude and disqualifies you from public service for pay or volunteerism of any kind. You could never umpire again. If you touch a player and make a sexually suggestive remark, you are guilty of 2nd degree sexual battery of a minor. If it can be shown that you have had physical contact with the girl before, you are guilty of 1st degree sexual battery of minor.
    • Simple assualt = 30 days in jail, $250 fine
    • 3rd degree sexual battery of a minor = 1 yrs jail time, $1,000 fine
    • 2nd degree sexual battery of a minor = 18 mo jail time, $ 2500 fine
    • 1st degree sexual battery of a minor = 3 yrs jail time, $10,000 fine
  • Always:
    • Keep verbal language in harmony with body language
    • Keep head up, eyes level, hands down, palms open.
    • Act and be professional at all times
  • Never
    • Look down or away
    • Back Up
    • Instigate a confrontive situation
    • Hang you partner out to dry
  • Integrity = This person will do what is right no matter what
  • Fidelity = This person will be loyal to their cause
  • Courage = This person will sacrifice in order to do what is right
  • Justice = This person will defend my rights and the rights of others
  • Patience = This person will not rush to judgement
  • Simplicity = This person will not make things more complicated
  • Consistency = This person will ALWAYS treat me and others fairly
  • Trustworthy = This person will do what he says
  • Physical = This person is physically capable if required
  • Knowledgeable = This person has studied and trained for this situation
  • Wisdom = This person knows how to apply knowledge