Ask Joy: Dealing With Aggressive People

Note from the Editor:
This article was kindly written for the SDC by retired psychologist/ member @Joy Straw.

Several people have commented on the forum about dealing with aggressive behaviour, usually related to neighbours. It can be difficult to confront hostile behaviour when it is so close to home. The following are some ideas for approaching belligerent behaviour.



When confronted by an aggressive person, our body goes into fight/flight/freeze mode:
  1. Flight mode is usually the better option, as staying may only increase aggression
  2. Freeze mode means an inability to get away or even call for help
  3. Fight mode is often the most common reaction, e.g. ‘You can’t say that to me,’ ‘Who do you think you are?’, or the all too frequent rant using expletives.
These are all normal reactions. However, one only has to read the news to see the results of fight mode—the last thing you want is to be arrested, whether you are in the right or wrong.


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Source: Shutterstock



Rather, it is advised to seek ways to de-escalate a hostile situation. Have a look on Facebook to see how police are trained to use a quiet tone and a non-confrontational attitude (also, notice what happens when police don’t use those strategies). There are several other approaches that can be used to de-escalate a situation before it gets out of hand. A quiet voice and a gentle and respectful manner can go a long way in helping to resolve the issues in a positive manner.



Key things for dealing with aggressiveness

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When my grandson was little, he was having issues with a bigger boy in the playground. He came to me crying and would not go back into the playground.
I sat down with him and explained that it was not about him, but more about the naughty boy who needed to be called out on his teasing and name calling. I told him how I thought he might deal with it and stayed close when he went back to the lions den.
He was approached again, stood his ground, put his hands on his hips and said to the lad "you are being very, very naughty. My grandma says that is not acceptable, so do I. Stop, or I will ask my ma to talk to your mummy."
He was amazing. The taunting stopped.
He's a strapping 18 year old now, and, has said to me he will never forget that day.
Sometimes, the simple approach is just as effective.
 
Thank you again for your words of wisdom @Joy Straw. I especially take note of dealing with people suffering dementia. Most on your list, I practice, but is good reinforcement from a professional.

I’ve always maintained that yelling and screaming in situations show a loss of control of oneself. If I’ve lost control, I feel I’ve lost the ability to put my views across. Then, who would want to listen?
 
Thank you again for your words of wisdom @Joy Straw. I especially take note of dealing with people suffering dementia. Most on your list, I practice, but is good reinforcement from a professional.

I’ve always maintained that yelling and screaming in situations show a loss of control of oneself. If I’ve lost control, I feel I’ve lost the ability to put my views across. Then, who would want to listen?
You have seen my aggression first hand but it is 5% of what it was 40 odds years ago. If that ever happens again, run far, very far and very quickly. I never want to experience that ever again. 😿
 
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