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March 26, 2010  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

Verbal Indicators of Violence

An increase in pitch while speaking, repetition and inappropriate humor are several signs of impending dangerous behavior. Stepping in when they are heard can help to prevent students from harming others.

by Bret Brooks


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Depending on which research study is examined, approximately 70 to 93 percent of human communication is directly related to body language. Paralinguistic cues and nonverbal actions often inform the recipient of the deliverer’s intent. Examining these gestures is a key way to determine if a situation may become violent. However, it is also important to understand the verbal indicators of violence.

Comments about violent intentions

If a student makes comments about hurting or killing his or her peers, this is an important warning sign of potential violent behavior.

Young adults will often attempt to build up confidence before making any type of negative action. One way to test the situation before taking a weapon to school, for instance, may be by talking about bringing the weapon to school. If no action is taken to prevent the student from bringing the weapon, it confirms the child’s belief he or she can get away with bringing a weapon to school with the intent to hurt others.

If school bus drivers hear students talking about violent actions, they should notify the school. Similarly, if a teacher observes verbal indicators of violence, pupil transportation officials and school bus drivers should be made aware of the situation.

Good communication among school bus drivers, transportation administrators and school administrators may be all it takes to prevent a shooting at your school district.

Changes in vocal pitch, repetition and strained speech 

There are other, more immediate verbal indicators of violence to listen for. When the following patterns in speech and tone are heard, special attention should be given to the student displaying these warning signs.

An increase in pitch when speaking is a sign that a person’s throat and vocal cords are tightening. This is a reflex in response to the human body becoming nervous or apprehensive, and it could be a sign of impending danger.

Repetitive word use, parroting and/or echoing are other indicators of immediate danger. As a person’s body prepares to do something in response to Fight or Flight Syndrome, the brain focuses on the actions that are essential to life.

For example, as a person gets ready to punch, he or she does not think about where the verb goes in a sentence. The person will say the same thing over and over because it is fresh in his or her mind. Similarly, what a person hears in these moments is often repeated, and no formal processing of the information is completed. If you tell a person to sit down and he or she continually responds with “sit down, sit down, sit down,” this is a form of parroting or echoing.

Forced or strained speech is another verbal indicator of possible violence. Again, the person is not thinking about speaking — he or she is focused on fighting or running away and therefore has to force the words out of his or her mouth.

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