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These skills build on the Find out / approach skills and Communication & De-escalation skills covered in the previous sections.

There is no one formula for mediating conflict; instead, use the tools we discuss as needed depending on the situation and your personality.

Intervention and Escalation

During a situation sometimes we need to do something. In general, we start with the least intrusive intervention (unless it’s an emergency) and move to more direct interventions if/when it becomes necessary.

There is a spectrum of intervention techniques, from less intrusive to more intrusive, like this:

  • Do nothing, say nothing, quietly observe
  • Say hi and/or introduce yourself. (This can be a very subtle intervention; just by calling attention to your presence you can influence things.)
  • “Sorry to bother you, are you doing ok? Do you need any help?” (Engage the person and offer help. They can say no.)
  • “Hey, could you do me a favor?” (A very polite request; makes it clear it’s strictly optional for them to comply. It’s a favor, after all.)
  • “You should know that if you do this…” (Explain consequences)
  • “Please don’t do that.” (Directly request action)
  • “I need you to stay back / slow down / not drive here.” (Demand action)
  • “STOP!” (Urgently demand action in a dangerous situation)
  • If you ever feel you need to physically intervene-we have paid security to do that at Firefly. Kick is sideways or up to Khaki at that point.

Mediating as a Neutral Third Party

Your primary role when you mediate is to make suggestions as a neutral third party. Mediation allows the participants involved to arrive at the best way to resolve their situation. Determine which participants involved may have room to budge and those whose interests are such that they cannot or will not give in. This is often not based on right and wrong.

Work with all parties involved until an outcome is reached that seems to function well. Whenever possible, facilitate the parties reaching their own joint solution. People are much more likely to stick to a solution when they feel ownership of the process and that the resolution came from them rather than from an authority figure telling them what to do.

Interest vs. Position

One of the most useful mediation tools is the concept of the difference between interests and positions.

An interest is someone’s underlying need or want; what they want out of a situation. If someone has been up all night because the neighbor camp is playing loud music their underlying interest would be getting some sleep.

A position is somebody’s stated requirement of how they want to get that interest satisfied. If someone said “I need you jerks to turn off your stereo right now!”, their underlying interest would be getting some sleep. Their position is that the way that needs to happen is that the stereo needs to be turned off.

Positions are not always unreasonable, just a difficult place from which to negotiate. Being able to identify the underlying interests can be powerful because it addresses the need and helps people generate more useful options, and thus makes it more likely that the conflict can be resolved. Focusing on positions leads towards an “I win or you win” situation, where as focusing on underlying interests leads away from that kind of conflict.

In the example of the tired person that wants the neighboring camp to turn down the radio, the underlying interest was: “I need to get some sleep.” Possible solutions include sleeping at someone else’s camp, moving camp, or using earplugs.

Remember that everyone thinks they have a good reason for what they do.

Creating Options

One mediation technique is to help create more options. Ask involved participants to think about possible solutions (and give them time to do so).

  • Often, when people get riled up, options seem to disappear.
  • Offering more options (or helping them think of options themselves) can calm someone down.
  • People without options can feel trapped. (…and this is why interests vs. positions is important).

Conflict Resolution

You can learn more about mediating conflict in our Conflict Resolution Section

Mediating Stressed Out Participants

Participants at Firefly get stressed out for lots of reasons. These include lack of sleep, dehydration, substance use, hangover, weather, camp issues, relationship drama, noise, illness, and going off meds.

Stress can make normal people behave in abnormal ways. When stress becomes overwhelming, it can push people into a place of emotional distress. At some point you will probably encounter participants who are in some sort of emotional or personal crisis, or are not sharing the same reality as you. This could be someone that appears to be fixated on things that don’t make sense, someone sobbingly loudly and repeating the same phrase over and over, or someone that appears disoriented and agitated.

Causes of Stress in Distressed and Disoriented Participants

We use pretty much the same tools to mediate distressed and disoriented participants as we use in other situations. When dealing with disoriented and distressed participants, Finding out and Listening become incredibly important. It is important to find out what is causing their distress? Is it emotional, drugs or alcohol, psychological issues, or something medical?

Some of the underlying causes of situations like this could include emotional distress, mind-altering substances, underlying psychological issues (e.g. schizophrenia, depression), someone who is off their prescription medication, or an underlying medical issues (e.g., diabetes, dehydration).

If they are coherent, ask them if they have any underlying medical conditions or if they are taking any prescription meds. Maybe ask if they are actually taking the meds they are prescribed. If they’ve taken recreational drugs, try to find out what kind, when, and how much. Remind them that Rangers are here to help and guide - not judge or punish.

We don’t expect you to be a drug expert. Still, it’s handy to know what they think they took and be able to pass it on to medical or Sanctuary if the situation escalates. Some participants may be reluctant to disclose recreational drug use. In such cases, it is useful to explain that we are not the cops, and we aren’t interested in getting them in trouble for using. Many drug experiences last fewer than 12 hours, so if someone has been acting like they’re “on drugs” for longer than that, that may be reason to suspect something more serious.

Don’t say “drugs” over the radio. Instead use the term “disoriented.”

You may want to also ask their campmates to see if you can get a more coherent perspective on what could be causing the distress.

Techniques for Intervention with Distressed Participants

You’ll want to make sure the participant is in a safe and comfortable place. If not they should be taken to one. They should be with folks who can take care of them. This could be their camp if their camp provides a support system and someone that will watch over and monitor the participant. Make sure they aren’t bothering anybody.

One of the most powerful things you can do for someone in a crisis is to let them know they are not alone. This can be done just by listening to the person. Your compassionate and attentive presence can make a world of difference to someone in emotional pain.

This is just like what we do in any mediation except that we may have to do more of it with a disoriented or distressed participant. It’s still the same skillset.

One thing that is really useful to do when dealing with the severely distressed is “holding space.” Holding space for someone just means being with them - and making it clear that you want to be there. It’s creating a safe space for them, not judging them, and allowing them to have whatever experience they are going to have.

Another important concept is “being grounded”. Participants in crisis often reach out to anything they see as "solid" in order to reorient themselves in the world. By being attentive, calm, genuine, and present, you become that person’s solid object or anchor -- which is all that many people in emotional crisis need.

Be patient. All of this listening and holding space and being grounded will take time. Expect at least 10-15 minutes. Let Khaki know if it looks like you’re going to be dealing with a situation for more than 30 minutes or so.

Remember that someone who is distressed or disoriented might not perceive reality or boundaries the way that most people do. Be friendly and kind, yet be aware. At any time you can call for Sanctuary support or bring a participant into Sanctuary. Let Khaki know - possibly have your partner call. The time you spend with a disoriented participant is up to you.

You can handle most distressed and disoriented participants on your own. The tools you use for doing this are the same tools you’ve already learned. Finding out the underlying cause, and compassionately listening are particularly important.

If after trying, the situation seems to be something that time and kindness won’t fix, for example if you’re facing medical issues or mental health issues that won’t “just go away” in a few hours - Medical and Sanctuary are there to support you. Call Khaki and request what you need.

If you need to relay medical information, include the location of the participant, and the nature and severity of the complaint. See Medical Emergency section.

Additional Training materials on Crisis Response Soft Skills

For additional training information on this topic, we suggest reading Crisis Response Soft Skills.

Also see Conflict Resolution.

Self-Awareness: Trigger Issues

Some situations will be so charged for you that you will not be able to stay calm, focused, and neutral.

A trigger issue is something that you react to from a place of deep emotion instead of from reason. Triggers are not minor annoyances or “pet peeves.” Rather, trigger issues are things that make you lose objectivity and self-control, and therefore prevent you from Rangering effectively.

Trigger issues are not the same as generally stressful situations. Some situations we encounter as Rangers are likely to be stressful for everyone involved (e.g., sexual assault, violence, serious injury, death), but may not cause you to lose your ability to Ranger the situation. Trigger issues are those that are unusually difficult for you, based on your personality, belief system, or life experiences.

Not everyone has the same triggers, so it’s important to know your own triggers and know your partner's triggers. Share your trigger issues with your partner at the start of your shift.

You can be triggered by:

  • Words (e.g., “bitch,” “stupid,” “cop”)
  • Actions (e.g., physical violence)
  • Situations (e.g., lost children, animal abuse)

If it seems like you or your partner are getting triggered, you may need to kick it sideways to your partner, to other Rangers, or to Khaki. Signs that you may be getting triggered include:

  • an intense emotional response (especially anger or anxiety)
  • an inability to focus
  • sweating, flushing, increased heart rate, cold hands, shaking, hair standing up on back of neck
  • Finding yourself taking sides in a conflict

Kick it sideways

You may not always be the best person to handle a situation. Maybe the situation involves one of your “trigger issues”. Maybe you don’t feel you have enough experience or skills to handle a particular situation. Maybe the seriousness of the situation warrants asking for someone with more experience or skills to step in.

“Kick it sideways” means asking someone else to step in to handle the situation.

Remember, you are not alone! You can “kick it sideways” to: Your partner Khaki Another ranger, for example, the OOD Another volunteer core (for example, First Aid, Sanctuary, FAST) Another participant

More experienced Rangers, including Mentors and Khaki, can assist in critical situations or in helping you debrief from a situation that has left you with questions. “Kick it sideways” to a more experienced Ranger or a Khaki if you are uncomfortable or find yourself in an escalating situation when you feel it is beyond your scope. Expanding your comfort zone is an important exercise, but our commitment to the community and the participants takes precedence over your personal growth. There may be another Ranger better suited to handling that particular situation.

Self Care and Responder Trauma

As a Ranger, you will see a side of Firefly that you never knew existed. Some of it is really cool, and some of it is very ugly.

Mostly, we do nothing. Often, we do something. Rarely, we do very, very intense things. For example, we might deal with injuries, injury, sexual assaults, violence, even death.

Mostly, that's not a problem for the Rangers involved; sometimes, it can have unpleasant psychological effects. Having a very strong response to intensely stressful situations is common in people who deal with emergencies (EMTs, firefighters, ER docs, etc.) This is called "responder trauma."

Be aware of the warning signs of a traumatic response. Responder trauma symptoms may be immediate, or you may only notice them after a few days or weeks. Symptoms include re-experiencing vivid memories of the situation (“flashbacks”) or having nightmares about the situation. You find yourself avoiding things/places/people that remind you of the situation or notice that you have an inability to remember important aspects of the situation. You might become hypervigilant and experience unexplained anxiety, irritability, or anger. You might find that you’re easily startled, or have trouble calming down after being startled. You may also experience a “fight-or-flight” response that doesn’t go away including sweating, shaking, nausea, increased heart rate.

If you’re noticing these signs or symptoms practice self-care by eating, sleeping, exercising, meditating, having a beer, whatever works for you.Talk it out with you partner, friends, Rangers, or Sanctuary. You can talk to your campmates about what happened and how you feel about it, but you need to keep participant information confidential. Strip out all identifying information.

If it's not resolving, contact the OOD, Ranger Lead or Ranger XO or Sanctuary.

There is no stigma attached to responder trauma in the Rangers - you will not get in trouble, and no one will think less of you as a result of talking about what happened.

Remember, intense situations are rare and even very intense situations do not usually result in responder trauma. Most traumatic responses resolve on their own with time. However, if it's not getting better, there are simple, effective counseling interventions that can help. The Rangers can guide you to outside resources for help year round. If things get weird, we’re here for you.

Continue to the Next Section: Radio Basics.