5 steps for dealing with aggressive people
It is almost certain that we will have to deal with aggressive people in our lives. Aggression arises during a conflict when one person feels the need to protect their interests or fight to gain something, often at the expense of others. So let's be clear that aggression is something at our expense.
First of all, you can recognize an aggressive person if:
- They interrupt you or talk loudly to keep you from speaking.
- They do not allow your point of view and input.
- You often have the sense that your boundaries are being crossed.
- Interaction with the person usually leads to tension.
- You feel energetically and emotionally exhausted after interacting with them.
Unfortunately, we can't avoid these people. So we need to find a solid balance between assertiveness and empathy to deal with them. Follow these 5 steps to master the art of dealing with aggressiveness.
Keep your cool
Fighting fire with fire will only make things worse and spur the other person's aggression. A few tips for staying calm, even when you feel like you're bursting with anger:
- Take a deep breath.
- Get up to get a glass of water or your phone. Doing something else diffuses the tension that is building up in the moment.
- Think of how much you will regret the things you might say out of anger.
Point them out
Call it as you see it. Don’t go along with the conversation as if nothing is bothering you. However, you need to point out that the other person is being aggressive with an empathetic statement rather than agitating them even more. Avoid using the words 'you' or 'your,' and try something along the lines of:
- 'There is no need to stress, we will resolve it/find a way/work it out.'
- 'Could you please lower your voice.'
- 'I’m sorry, can I say something I believe is important/might help?'
- 'I understand this can be stressful/upsetting.'
If you do this early on, it will help knock them out of the place of being unaware of themselves and be more conscious of what they are doing. As a result, it can help the person be more open to hearing whatever you say.
Put yourself in the other person's shoes, and try to understand the reasons why he/she is being aggressive. As we mentioned above, aggression is a natural reaction in order to protect or claim something. Try to consider:
- What does the other person have to lose? (time, money, friends and family, status, reputation, etc).
- How would you feel if you were in that situation?
- Is there something else going on in the person's life that makes him/her generally very easily agitated and quick-tempered?
It might sound contradictory that you can be empathetic and assertive, but one doesn't exclude the other. Understanding the other person's position does not mean you will allow them to be aggressive.
- Keep your voice low and steady. This will show confidence and will not spur the other person into trying to talk more loudly than you.
- Stand your ground, and don't allow the person to monopolize the discussion. Speak out on your opinion.
- Remain respectful, and ask for the same respect in return.
- If the level of aggression begins to increase, respond with more force and assertiveness to show that your tolerance is decreasing.
If someone is overtaken by their emotions, they lose sight of the matter at hand and how the whole argument even started! By focusing the conversation on the important things and facts, you are helping the other person revert to thinking and reasoning. For example:
- 'All that matters is that...'
- 'In a few years' time we'll remember this situation and laugh.'
- Try to make the other person laugh as it will completely disarm them.