Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 3562: Police Officer Tim Purdy, De-Escalation and Body Language (PHOTO)

This image of Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer Tim Purdy recently talking-down a "possibly suicidal" teen with a history of "violent behavior" due to a "neuro-developmental disorder" has recently gone viral.

Of course this is just one moment of a much longer interaction, yet it is significantly illustrative with respect to Officer Purdy's skill in using body language to de-escalate a volatile and potentially dangerous situation. 

Purdy brought himself down to eye level with the teen. His body language was thus saying:
  • "In this moment, I'm your peer, not your superior" 
  • "We are both human beings with real feelings"
  • "I have empathy for you"
  • "I see your point of view"

Purdy's even sitting on a lower surface:
  • "I am not here to subordinate you"
  • "I'm am not confronting you"

Purdy's leg configuration and hunched shoulders:
  • I'm not a physical threat
  • I'm relaxed (evoking and maintaining relaxed emotional tones, thoughts and posture in the teen) 

Purdy's body is not directly facing the teen, but off to one side:
  • I am not a threat
  • I'm not here to harm you
  • I'm sincerely here to help
  • I can be your friend 

Whether Officer Purdy's action were instinct/his personality, due to his experience as a parent or via training as a law enforcement professional - his response is an excellent example of using nonverbal skills in de-escalation. Indeed, without using body language in the context of de-escalation is an approach fraught with failure.

The primary reason this image went viral is because it's Empathy Evoking. The moment we see it, most of us immediately feel a wave of emotions for both the teen and the cop.

See also:

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 3512: Emilia Clarke, "Me Before You" and Body Language

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 3561: Catchphrase, Andy Samberg, Bryce Harper and Gigi Hadid

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 3559: Kit Harington, Game of Thrones and Jon Snow

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 3551: Donald Trump, Body Language and an Alpha-Beta Hybrid

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 2701: Cuddling, Romance, Affection and Foot-Shunning - Body Language Tells

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 2993: Fight in Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport - Passengers Break Up Homophobic Attack - Threat Assessment Warning Signs 

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 3289: Jorge Ramos, Donald Trump Event, "Get Out of My Country" and De-Escalation  

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 2874: Truck Driver Calls Out Cop for Speeding and Talking on Cell Phone