Most of us encounter confrontational and hostile people at some points in our lives. These individuals may exist in our personal sphere or professional environment. On the surface, they may come across as domineering, demanding, or even abusive. Sadly, many of us have to deal with people being aggressive, whether as part of our work, or in the course of our daily lives. In dealing with aggression, it is important to respond appropriately. Responding angrily will almost certainly escalate the situation and make it harder to defuse. Regardless of the reason, it’s important to respond proactively and effectively when your rights, interests and safety are at stake. Below are some guidelines to dealing with confrontational and hostile people.
1. Cool Down Aggressive behaviour can be frightening. It’s also a good sign that the person you’re dealing with has lost self-control. Therefore, give them time to cool down. Choose another time to talk when there is less going on. Alternatively, change the location. Move into a meeting room or corridor. 2. Remain calm The absolute most important thing to do when dealing with someone who is being aggressive towards you is to be calm and grounded. Whenever we are stressed, angry, and ready to really duke it out with them, then we’re certainly not going to make any kind of progress. As the saying goes, “You can’t fight fire with fire.” So, we have to be sure that we are calm and ready to openly discuss the issue. This will not only benefit you by being able to self-control, but it will also help the other person calm down as well. 3. Keep Safe The most important priority in the face of a confrontational and hostile individual is to protect yourself. If you don’t feel comfortable with a situation, leave. Seek help and support if necessary. Contact law enforcement if you have to. 4. The Importance of Listening and Accepting We all want to be listened to, especially when we are talking about something that is important to us. It is important to allow the other person time to express themselves fully. Listen to what they have to say and to encourage them to tell you the problem. An open, friendly approach helps to define your relationship as a supportive one, rather than one of confrontation. Show empathy and understanding about their situation. 5. Empathise When another person is being aggressive, more often than not, it’s because they’re stressed. Maybe they have a lot of work on their plate that is making them feel overwhelmed. Maybe they are low on sleep or they haven’t eaten lunch that day. Maybe they are still frustrated from dealing with the crazy traffic that they were just in and haven’t had a chance to “wind down” from that yet. Whatever the case, it’s important to know and recognise that the other person is stressed. Understanding this will help us to be more compassionate in any of our communications with them about the issue.