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How to de-escalate conflicts in bars

On Behalf of | Apr 11, 2024 | Criminal Defense

Nobody goes out to the bars hoping to end up in a fight – but alcohol can fuel a lot of complicated interpersonal exchanges, and conflicts can and do erupt with regularity.

If you want to get out of the situation without exchanging blows that could potentially lead to criminal charges and/or injuries, consider the following tips.

Stay calm and assess the situation

Iowa is a “stand your ground” state that puts you under no duty to retreat before defending yourself – even when you have that option. So long as you are lawfully present where you are (meaning you haven’t been banned from the bar already for fighting or another reason), you are within your right to stay put. All that being said, there’s no shame in beating a hasty retreat if you’re outnumbered, the other guy is bigger or you just want to get home without being in an altercation. Look for signs that the other party’s aggression is escalating and consider your response carefully.

Control your own response

Your body language and your words can have a big impact on the situation. If you raise your voice, you’ll also raise the tension in the room. A clenched fist can signal to the other party that you intend to attack. Keep your posture as relaxed as possible, your hands open and meet the other person’s eyes with a steady gaze that conveys neither fear nor aggression. Keep your voice level and calm, and don’t let them draw you into a war of words.

Offer a distraction

Sometimes a temporary flare of tempers can be soothed over with a quick distraction. Acknowledge the other party’s point of view and then offer to buy them a drink, or excuse yourself to go out on the patio (and out of their reach). By refusing to engage and diverting their attention even a little, you can interrupt their thought processes and take the momentum out of their plan of attack.

If you do end up in a fight in a bar, it’s always possible that you’ll end up facing charges. The authorities may not be terribly discerning when it comes to deciding who was really the aggressor. It’s always wisest to invoke your right to remain silent until you can seek legal guidance.