Developing Skills to Intervene

You can find many intervention skills throughout the UMatter website. When you know how to intervene safely and comfortably, you will feel more empowered to support the safety of others.  

While we are all living through the COVID-19 global pandemic, it is more important than ever to know how to intervene when we see something that might impact the health of our community. Consider using these skills to intervene if you see someone who isn’t following public health guidance.

Try these tips to protect yourself during interventions

  • Ask your friends to help.
  • Approach others in a friendly manner.
  • Avoid using violence.
  • Call 911 or Public Safety for help if violence or harm seems unavoidable.

After you feel safe, you can focus on keeping a friend, acquaintance, or stranger safe, too. Taking action on one another’s behalf is how we create a vibrant, healthy, and engaged community. When you intervene effectively, the rewards are significant – for you and for our campus. 

At Princeton, "we aim to foster a sense of shared experience and common purpose, along with a collective responsibility for each other's well-being".1

Try these suggestions to intervene effectively

  • Trust your gut! If the behavior worries you, someone may need you to intervene.
  • Get creative with your interventions! It does not have to work perfectly every time, but the important thing is that you DO SOMETHING, however silly, imperfect or unplanned.
  • Improve your skills and learn more about bystander intervention by submitting a request for any of our Bystander Intervention-related programs. You can be ready to act when the need arises.

Remember the “3 D’s”

Distract: Create a distraction or redirect a person’s attention. Make up an excuse to help a friend get away from someone who might pose danger.

  • Redirect the focus of those involved to let the situation cool down.
  • Use humor or an excuse, if it’s appropriate, to divert the attention of the person(s) engaging in the problematic behavior.


  • Ask for directions.
  • Spill your drink "accidentally".
  • Ask your friend to go to the bathroom or somewhere else with you.
  • Pretend you know the person being harassed.

Direct: Call it like you see it. Confront the harmful, threatening or inappropriate behavior directly in a safe, respectful manner.

  • Step-in to separate the individuals and use assertive language.
  • Use an assertive communication style to call out the problem and stand your ground, without resorting to aggression.
  • Consider when it is more effective to address a situation by "calling out" problematic behavior and when it might be better to use "calling in". 


  • Say "Hey, that joke was demeaning to women and not funny."
  • Ask "Are you ok? Can I help you?"
  • Say "I don't think they're into that. Why don't you give them some space?"

Delegate: Seek assistance from others to intervene.

  • Ask others to get involved to help take charge of the situation (e.g. a friend, supervisor, bouncer, eating club officer on-duty).
  • Familiarize yourself with the full range of resources available to you in an emergency and during business hours.


  • Ask a friend of the person being inappropriate to tell them to stop.
  • Ask the bouncer or eating club officer on-duty for support.
  • Get one of your friends to help you create a distraction.

1Princeton University's Rights, Rules, Responsibilities

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