Ten Tips for Managing Anger and Aggressive Behaviour

At time we are all faced with people who are displaying anger and aggressive behaviour. It can be, at best, uncomfortable and, at worst frightening and potentially dangerous.

In Ten Tips for Managing Anger and Aggressive Behaviour, we’ll look at ten things that can be done when confronted with this type of behaviour to minimise the risks for all those involved.

Managing Anger and Aggressive Behaviour
Over assertive communication skills
Tip One: Be empathic and non-judgemental.

You are only seeing the output of the person displaying these behaviours. It could be that, underneath, what they are dealing with is the most important thing in the world to them.

Remember the iceberg theory. A large percentage of what drives behaviour is hidden. We should never assume we fully understand. Instead we should listen, empathise, be non-judgemental and pay attention.

Tip Two: Respect personal space.

Allowing personal space tends to decrease a person’s anxiety, can help with conflict resolution and de-escalate angry or aggressive behaviours. Try and allow at least half a metre between you and the other person. If you must enter a person’s space to provide care and attention, be sure to explain what you are going to do and why.

Tip Three: Use non-threatening, non-verbal communication.

Be mindful of your gestures, facial expressions, movements and tone of voice. Keeping your tone and body language neutral will go a long way towards defusing the situation.

Tip Four: Avoid overreacting.

Remain calm, rational and professional. Whilst you can’t always control the other person’s behaviour, you can have a direct impact on whether the situation escalates or diffuses. Pay attention to your breathing, tone of voice, body language, choice of words etc.

Tip Five: Focus on feelings.

Evidence and facts are important but it’s how a person feels that is the likely driver behind angry and aggressive behaviour. Watch and listen carefully for the person’s real message. Empathise and ask questions that show you are at least trying to understand.

Tip Six: Ignore challenging questions.

In situations where a person is displaying angry or aggressive behaviour, they might use challenging questions as a way of getting a reaction from you and, thereby, justifying, in some way, their actions. It’s very important to recognise this and avoid where possible.

Ignore the challenge but not the person. Bring their focus back to how you can work together to solve the problem.

Tip Seven: Set limits.

Give the person clear, simple and enforceable limits. Offer concise and respectful choices and point out the consequences of not respecting these. Choose words, tone and body language carefully whilst doing this.

Tip Eight: Choose wisely what you insist upon.

It’s important to be thoughtful in deciding which rules are non- negotiable and which are not. In the workplace you may have some flexibility over which rules always need to be adhered to and which are more guidance based.

Tip Nine: Allow silence for reflection.

The power of silence. Silence can be an extremely effective communication tool. Allowing a person who is displaying angry or aggressive behaviour a period where they can reflect on what is happening can often be enough to help them calm down or at least start to behave a little more rationally.

Tip Ten: Allow time for decisions.

Most of us understand, usually because we’ve learned the hard way, that making decisions during times of heightened emotion usually isn’t the best course of action. When a person is angry, or displaying aggressive behaviour, it’s important to give them time to think more clearly and, therefore, make better decisions about what to do next.

During this post we’ve focused a lot on the importance of body language when faced with a person showing angry or aggressive behaviour. Enjoy this short video which provides more information on the subject.

Further Reading:

An article providing more information on how to recognise the signs of aggressive behaviour in the workplace.



Negotiation – When is the right time to walk away?

What is negotiation? And when is the right time to walk away?

 Ideally, negotiation should be a discussion to achieve the best deal for both parties by working towards a Win-Win result and subsequently maintaining a long-term trusting relationship.

However, have you ever regretted paying so much more than you intended for goods or services; or felt that you obtained far less than you had hoped for during contract or salary negotiations? How about being set ‘impossible’ deadlines?

negotiation course

Would you be able to retain an ongoing relationship with an organisation after being ‘forced into a corner’, rushed into a decision or overcharged; or wish to continue doing business with a company or individual trying to ‘squeeze every last penny’ out of you?

Negotiating is not confined to business and there are numerous occasions in your personal lives when you negotiate with your partner (choosing a restaurant), children (TV time), salespeople etc. When is it time to find another dealership when your car salesman won’t ‘give an inch’; or advertise for another buyer when someone is unwilling to offer a satisfactory price for your precious heirloom?

In all these cases, any agreement tends to be short-term, usually with a ‘winner’ and a ‘loser’. Even a compromise (meeting halfway), may result in both parties ‘losing’ and walking away unhappy, not caring about the consequences.

Planning for negotiation

How can you work towards a Win-Win outcome to ensure a long-term, productive relationship and a willingness from both sides to engage in future opportunities beneficially?

The key is to plan your strategy in advance, know exactly where your limits lie and, critically, the point at which you will walk away to find a more acceptable solution. Of course, you then need the courage and conviction to do so.

Let’s consider a 3-step approach to a negotiation which could involve money, time frames and/or additional elements/conditions depending on your objectives.

You need to decide on your:

  • Ideal Position
    • The best option or deal for you
  • Realistic Position
    • What you believe both parties will agree to
  • Fallback Position
    • The one you won’t go below (or above)

For example, if you are negotiating to purchase parts from a Supplier, you would start low:

  • Ideally, you would like to pay £5,000
  • Realistically (based on experience and research), £7,000 may be achievable
  • You would not be willing to pay more than £9,000 (Fallback)

The Supplier, however, wishes to sell to you at the highest possible price, so they would start high:

  • Ideally £10,000
  • Realistically £8,000
  • Fallback £6,000 (no less)

These Positions should now allow some flexibility in reaching a mutually satisfactory agreement during discussions.

BATNA Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement

Understanding BATNA

In the above case, if the Supplier insists on £10,000, for example, you now have to assess your BATNA since that figure is above your Fallback Position.

Therefore, you are unable to reach a satisfactory conclusion and risk sacrificing too much. What is your best alternative and do you wish to maintain your relationship with that Supplier?

  • Decide if and when to walk away
  • Ask for more time to think about it
  • Discuss possible add-ons or incentives
  • Find another Supplier
  • Produce the parts yourself
  • Take legal action

If you apply the above example to buying a car you really like, maybe you can ask for extras (higher spec sound system, longer warranty, free services etc), delay your decision or reluctantly leave to find another dealership (that might even encourage the salesperson to reconsider the price).

The underlying factor is how important you feel it is for you to continue working effectively with the other party.

Find out more about Negotiating Skills with STL.


Prior to a negotiation, ensure you are clear about your objectives and, particularly, the three Positions you are aiming for.

Decide whether you wish to maintain an ongoing relationship with the other party in order to leave your options open for future opportunities together and consider the implications of the BATNA you choose.

If you cannot reach a mutually agreeable outcome, don’t be afraid to walk away in the face of risky and/or unacceptable conditions imposed by the other party.