September-October_2021 - 46

How drivers can
de-escalate stressful
situations with passengers
The secret is engaging the neocortex,
also known as our 'thinking brain.'
By Russ Turner
People Incorporated Training Institute
EAGAN, MINN * People are stressed; many have trauma and
mental illness and some are experiencing homelessness. As these
folks board your bus or train, your employees can quickly create
connection and a friendly environment to keep things safe.
Our brains take in countless messages every minute throughout
the day. Messages come in many forms - a funny look here,
That's right
a comment someone makes there or a request to wear a mask.
Many of these messages elicit a stress response in the survival
parts of our brain. Each time the stress response is turned on,
stress hormones are pumped into our bloodstream preparing
us for action and response to the " threat. " This puts us in a
bind, because many of our physiological responses to threats
- increased blood pressure and heart rate, for example - are
almost certain to escalate a situation on the bus.
To keep things safe and calm, we need to get into our neocortex
- or " thinking brain " - which works quite slowly, but is
reliable; allowing us to pause, consider and figure out what to
do, rather than irrationally reacting. Keeping things calm is
often referred to as de-escalation and what it usually entails is
connecting with the person in some way that is non-conflictual
to get their thinking brain involved.
At the People Incorporated Training Institute, a leading mental
health and trauma education organization where I serve as
director, we offer courses that cover a variety of tools to quickly
help manage stressful situations in a variety of workplaces and
settings, including public transit. For example, our training project
with Metro Transit in Minneapolis
in 2020 and 2021 covered a variety of
tools to quickly help manage a stressful
situation. We teach transit drivers to
respond carefully in tense situations
with the following advice:
* Take a moment to do a quick assessment
of your mood and sense
your surroundings. If you feel some
tension, breathe in slowly and mindfully
to exhale any tightness.
Each time the
stress response
is turned on,
stress hormones
are pumped into
our bloodstream
preparing us
* Even though you may be wearing a
mask, smile and make a connection
with eye contact.
for action and
response to the
" threat. "
* Although it doesn't sound like much,
a pause is an important tool because it gives you a chance to stop
and think about the next best thing to say or do. As you pause to
observe, aim to listen and thoughtfully respond instead of reacting
with defensiveness or judgement. Listening to understand will
help keep a situation calm and avoid misunderstandings. The tool
of active listening helps reflect and validate what we're hearing to
build rapport and mutual respect. Reflecting a simple validation
like, " it sounds like you're having a rough day, " or " it's a lot to deal
with, " shows you understand what the other person is saying.
* When people are emotional, instead of telling them to " calm
down, " tell them you can see they're upset and ask them what
they need. A little human kindness or compassion goes a long
way with a simple show of concern like " how's it going? " or
" what do you need? " These connecting questions are a tool to
switch on the person's thinking brain. In a way, the content
of the question is not that important, it's just a connector.
* Using a respectful " please " when asking for cooperation can keep
a tense situation from escalating. Modeling that common courtesy
shows we are professionals and deserve respect in return.
Using tools, like those outlined above, will help reduce tension
in situations and create the non-threatening environment
human brains are looking for, even if they don't know it.
For more information, visit
46 | Mass Transit | | SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2021


Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of September-October_2021

Editor's Notebook
People & Places
Make Digitalization Part of Your Rail and Transit Strategy
LYNX: Primed for Post-Pandemic Acceleration
How LIDAR is Making Roads Safer for Pedestrians and Cyclists
Get Ready for APTA's Big Event
A 21st Century Approach to Fare Collection
Best Practices
The Scheduling Conundrum
September-October_2021 - 1
September-October_2021 - 2
September-October_2021 - 3
September-October_2021 - 4
September-October_2021 - Editor's Notebook
September-October_2021 - 6
September-October_2021 - 7
September-October_2021 - People & Places
September-October_2021 - 9
September-October_2021 - 10
September-October_2021 - 11
September-October_2021 - Make Digitalization Part of Your Rail and Transit Strategy
September-October_2021 - 13
September-October_2021 - 14
September-October_2021 - 15
September-October_2021 - LYNX: Primed for Post-Pandemic Acceleration
September-October_2021 - 17
September-October_2021 - 18
September-October_2021 - 19
September-October_2021 - 20
September-October_2021 - 21
September-October_2021 - 22
September-October_2021 - 23
September-October_2021 - How LIDAR is Making Roads Safer for Pedestrians and Cyclists
September-October_2021 - 25
September-October_2021 - 26
September-October_2021 - 27
September-October_2021 - 28
September-October_2021 - 29
September-October_2021 - Get Ready for APTA's Big Event
September-October_2021 - 31
September-October_2021 - 32
September-October_2021 - 33
September-October_2021 - 34
September-October_2021 - 35
September-October_2021 - 36
September-October_2021 - 37
September-October_2021 - 38
September-October_2021 - 39
September-October_2021 - A 21st Century Approach to Fare Collection
September-October_2021 - 41
September-October_2021 - 42
September-October_2021 - 43
September-October_2021 - 44
September-October_2021 - 45
September-October_2021 - Best Practices
September-October_2021 - 47
September-October_2021 - Products
September-October_2021 - 49
September-October_2021 - The Scheduling Conundrum
September-October_2021 - 51
September-October_2021 - 52