Faced with aggression? This is a difficult thing to handle. Naturally, our response is 'fight or flight.' When faced with agression we are naturally designed, due to our hormonal reactions, to immediatly react. Typically we will either freeze in shock or lash out at the aggressive person. This is the 'fight or flight response in action.
Our natural reaction is to have a personal and emotional response. To be hurt, insulted, shocked or angry. So how to handle aggression from others in a balanced way when our natural reaction is otherwise?
It is possible and advisable to take a moment to calm and centre yourself when faced with aggression from others. Keep your composure.
Fighting fire with fire is not going to calm the aggressive person. Think a moment before you say something you may later regret or will just add negatively to the situation.
You can actually calm the other person down or make them realise they are getting out of control simply by how you react to them.
This is something that people can be trained to do as part of their profession. Paramedics and the Police for example are highly trained in dealing with aggressive people as they deal with hurt, angry & intoxicated people as part of their job.
In some aggressive situations we have an opportunity to walk away or tell the person we will get back to them later. We can assure them that we have heard their grievance and give them a time frame as to when they can expect to hear back from us.
If the aggressive person simply wants to vent, and has no intentions of being reasonable, then you are in a bullying and harassment situation. Do not allow yourself to be intimidated by handling the situation as calmly as you can.
If the aggressive person has begun to be insulting to you personally then this is a situation that is already out of control. Personal insults are never ok.
It may be possible for you to say to this insulting aggressive person, 'I know you are frustrated and can see it, we will have to end this conversation if you continue to speak to me in this way, I am listening to you.'
Then, if the person continues, you have warned them and can back away from this situation, having kept your composure and dignity.
The other person is then in the position to have to realise that they allowed the situation to get out of hand with how they reacted and spoke to you. Therefore owing you an apology.
Of course, if you are in fact dealing with a bully or manipulator, any apology if ever there is one, would be for them to gain an advantage.
'Fighting fire with fire is not going to calm the aggressive person.'
You have natural human rights and amongst them is basic respect. You also have a fundamental right to say 'no' to something that you dont feel comfortable with doing.
An explanation may be necessary, depending on the circumstance, however you do not ever need to explain your right to feel what you do.
An aggressive person can be someone who wants to control you and the situation. Remember that bullies test and will poke to see what reaction they get. To see how far they can go in this situation. Uncaring of your feelings.
Aggression is anger expressed outwardly, so this person you are dealing with is unstable emotionally. You may not be able to reason with them, especially not while they are in an angry state. Understand this, trying to reason with an unreasonable person defies logic.
''Aggression is anger expressed outwardly''
Some people are 'drama' driven and frame the world in that way. They will expect you to react and want you to. They can't be in a drama if you don't play along.
This is how they see communication and interaction. They may even see their aggression as a strength. Some hostile people see their passive aggressive behaviour as a badge of honor.
If this person begins to display to you manipulative, aggressive behaviour then observe and believe that you can expect this from them. Understand at the outset as soon as you observe this that this is what you are dealing with. You are unlikely to be able to change that person. Only they will change this perception of themselves and their communication style and internal anger, by themselves.
You may well be in a toxic environment with unhappy aggressive people on a regular basis.
Your workplace for example or your family and social environment can be toxic. You may be in a position to have to make a decision as to what to do about it. Make the decision in a calm balanced way. Understand that acceptance is the first step and change typically takes time.
Reflect on it as an environment issue. Be careful not to generalise with your thinking. This behaviour is not everyone, not you and not all situations. To generalise in this way is a cognitive distortion. Be mindful if your thinking is taking you in this way. Realise this way of thinking is not a healthy true perspective. It is them and not you, however you get to choose how you react and what you allow further into your life.
Being treated and spoken to in this kind of aggressive or intimidating way can affect our self esteem. Be careful about taking this behaviour personally as a reflection of your worth. Notice if your self esteem has become affected. It is time to make decisions if you are being negatively affected by a toxic environment or person in your life.
About the author:
Clair O'Brien Meany is a psychotherapist with a Bsc. (hons) Psychology & is based online and in the Costa del Sol area of Spain. If you have a personal issue with aggressive situations or passive aggressive people who are upsetting to cope with and would like someone to talk to I will be happy to help.
I understand toxic relationships and work environments. You will find me to be supportive and empowering to help you. Feel free to get in touch to schedule your first call.