The phrase "talk down" has two and a half distinct meanings:

To talk down to somebody means to speak in a less sophisticated or complex manner than you naturally would. Example include using shorter sentences, limiting your vocabulary, and avoiding sincerity or metaphor. Although this behavior might be perfectly reasonable (e.g., when trying to explain something to a seven year-old)], when it's called "talking down" it implies that the speaker is being inappropriately condescending.

Another form of the term is "to talk someone down." This refer to the act of calming down a person who is irrational and about to do something stupid. People you might talk down include a depressed person on the verge of suicide, or a friend who is about to cap a stranger over a rude remark.

Similar to the second meaning, it is occasionally necessary to talk down a person who has become mentally disorganized, disoriented, or fearful. This has less to do with restraining them and more to do with inducing calm and contact with consensual reality. These states might be induced by a panic attack, a PTSD-induced flashback, or by difficulties caused by dementia. However, the most common usage deals with people who have taken a psychedelic and are experiencing a bad trip.

Specific techniques for talking a person down are beyond the scope of this writeup. It requires compassion, rapport, and in some cases knowledge about mental illness or drugs. General guidelines include:

1) Be yourself: don't speak with excessive calm or in a fake soothing voice. Nobody likes being talked down to. If they're disoriented, they might even take it as a cue that you also think something has gone wrong.

2) Distract them: without ignoring or downplaying the person's problems, try to get their attention on something else. An angry person needs to realize that in the grand scheme, it doesn't make any difference that some punk took a potshot at them. A person on drugs or with a mental problem will often feel fine if they can just stop worrying about the possibility that they've gone crazy or will never recover. Get them watching a cartoon, telling dirty jokes, or giving you a great big hug -- this is where the need to know the person comes in.

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