How to stay calm when someone is being aggressive

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A  man who is not afraid is not aggressive, a man who has no sense of fear of any  kind is really a free, a peaceful man. Jiddu Krishnamurti

It doesn’t matter who it is, if someone puts me on the spot, I find it really hard to know exactly how to respond – particularly if they’re being unnecessarily aggressive about something. We’ve all heard these phrases at some point: “Why don’t you know that?”, “What are you going to do about it?”, “It’s your fault this happened!” … This week, Happiness Weekly looks at some tips for how you can best handle the situation.

1. You can’t control their behaviour
First, it is important thing to remember that the other person’s behaviour is their responsibility – you can’t control them, their words or their actions. Whatever they are upset about and trying to make your problem, it is still their problem – you can’t control how they’re responding to whatever has upset them.  They have come to you because you either have the power to change the situation or may be able to improve it – the lesson here that acting aggressively isn’t the best way to approach someone for help it simply puts pressure on the person you are trying to receive help from.

2. Buy some time to prepare your response
When someone puts you on the spot and they’re being quite aggressive, you need to buy yourself some time so you can plan what you are going to say to them, consider possible solutions to the problem and enable them to calm down. Ask the person if you can come back to them by the end of the day. If they approach you again, excuse yourself and explain you have a meeting or are going somewhere. Use this time to consider solutions to the problem, don’t just avoid the person to be difficult. Remember our mantra – if you can’t help people, at least don’t hurt them. If you can’t help the person, please be honest and upfront with them.

3. Know your key messages
Know what you are going to say to the person, and be confident in the messages you are about to give. The person may still be abrupt and aggressive as you try to help them, remain calm. Repeat your messages where possible. If you aren’t getting anywhere with the person escalate the issue to a manager, teacher, tutor or someone more senior you can involve. If there is no one that can help you with the situation, focus on empowering yourself.

4. Look for ways to compromise with the person
If the person is being aggressive because of something you have done or something you can control, but you don’t entirely agree with them – be honest that you don’t agree, explain clearly why and look for ways you can compromise. Where ever possible, try to introduce positive aspects if the person appears to only be seeing negativity. Encourage the person to have input into helping you to find a solution as much as possible – this takes some of the heat off you. Prepare yourself, some people are just jerks and will refuse to compromise – again, this is not your problem.

5. Consider what you can control and empower yourself
When someone is being aggressive and creating problems for you unnecessarily, it is advisable that you look at what you can control. I always find it helpful to brainstorm my options on paper – particularly if it’s a life-changing decision. It’s really important to remember that we always have choices and sometimes it’s aggressive people that teach us the best lessons in life. It also makes you realise what an ugly trait it is to be that way! Once you make a decision that empowers you, be polite and take it back to the person and let them know what you have decided to do. Generally we can make decisions where the other person has no choice but to cooperate with us. This may be leaving a job, asking a housemate to leave, breaking up with someone etc.

6. Brush off the situation
It might just be me, but when someone is nasty and particularly aggressive towards me, I can’t help but focus on that and replay the situation over and over in my mind. I always ask myself if there was a better way I could have handled the situation. This can go on for days – even weeks! It’s really important to learn to brush off a situation. Sometimes the thoughts in our mind is like rubbing two sticks together, we’re giving energy to it – good and bad. It’s worth considering if this aggressive person and that horrible situation we found ourselves in is worth our energy before giving it a second thought.

Has someone been unnecessarily aggressive towards you lately? How did you handle the situation? Would you have done anything differently? If so, what would you change next time around?

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Happiness Weekly encourages readers to proactively work towards a successful, happy and secure existence. Just like happiness – Happiness Weekly is for everyone.

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