Tips for Defusing Neighbourhood Conflict and Antisocial Behaviour

To do nothing to challenge anti-social behaviour sends a message that this behaviour is acceptable. If enough people in a community are willing to challenge anti-social behaviour, a message is sent to the perpetrators that it is not acceptable. Each antisocial behaviour situation is different, as are our individual perceptions and tolerances.

These ten tips may help you when faced with an anti-social behaviour situation – this might involve you directly or be an incident involving others.



1. Don’t be spontaneous – Pause, take a step back, manage any anger and assess the situation before taking action. Spontaneous reactions are driven by anger or fear and can inflame a situation, making it worse.

2. Safety first – Consider the risks and choose a response, which you feel you can manage safely. Stay out of dangerous situations.

3. Do something rather than nothing – If the risks are too high to intervene alone then you could: co-ordinate others to back you up; inform the authorities; prepare to be a witness; video the incident or act after the event to address the root of the issue.

4. Choose an outcome – Think about what you want to happen. Is what you want reasonable? Is it necessary? Can it be achieved in the time available? Is it worth the risk?

5. Keep thinking safety – Keep yourself safe by: being aware of your surroundings; having an escape route; keeping out of reach and away from hazards (heights, traffic, etc); looking out for help (security; bystanders; CCTV); and being aware of all people – including those not yet involved.

6. Be non-aggressive – Show that you are not a threat. Look relaxed and friendly; avoid sudden movements; keep normal eye contact; leave your hands open and in view with your arms by your side; show them respect and listen.

7. Communicate clearly – Communicate clearly: state what you would like to happen and why. What you say is not important, what matters is how the other person perceives what you are saying. Check you understand each other as intended.

8. Save their face – People can refuse to cooperate to avoid losing face. Find non-embarrassing ways out: do not judge; allow small concessions without admitting fault; go slow; and make them look good for changing their behaviour.

9. Keep them talking – The more they talk, the more you’ll understand about the situation. If you show an interest then they may begin to trust and respect you. Without this you will be unlikely to influence their behaviour.

10. Prepare – If you are expecting to deal with antisocial behaviour, then rehearse your approach. Think about: what you want to achieve; what you might say; the ‘what ifs’ and a possible face saving way out.