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