Under Pressure

Life moves quickly, and with so many people under so much stress at work and at home, aggressive behaviour can come out of nowhere to challenge us.

Customers, colleagues, friends and relatives can suddenly turn on us, without a moment’s warning. How do we stay calm in these instances, how do we control our reactions, how can we best deal with conflict?

Here are a few ideas for handling aggressive people in a truly resilient fashion.

  1. Time Out– when someone is losing their self-control, or behaving in a way that causes you concern, give them the opportunity to take time out, a chance to cool down. You can suggest a later time to talk, or, you could change the location, moving the conversation to another room.
  2. Show Understanding– by which I mean, very calmly and very politely, telling them that there’s no need to get angry. This simple statement is often enough for people to reflect on their behaviour and calm down. It can be helpful to openly state that you recognise their feelings, showing that you care.
  3. Concede Ground– don’t fight fire with fire, and don’t respond with your own aggressive behaviour. That’ll just make things worse. Remain calm, let the other person’s aggression burn itself out. Respond in a reasonable tone, in measured terms, show that you are keeping control.
  4. Focus on Facts– acknowledge the other person’s key facts or ideas, this will help to reduce their aggression and make them more open to a solution. That doesn’t have to mean that you’re agreeing with them, but it does show you respect their right to their point of view. Respect goes a long way in conflict situations.
  5. Ask Lots of Questions– take the sting out of the situation by showing the aggressive person that you are determined to listen and get to the bottom of the issue at hand. By doing this, you can also buy yourself time to think your way towards the solution.

Conflict between ourselves and others is inevitable, it’s going to feature more or less every day of our lives. But we have to able to deal with it as grown-ups, we need to maintain and develop our relationships, not let them deteriorate. Humour is a great weapon to deploy, in any conflict situation – if you can think quickly and find just the right words, it can really help to reduce the tension. But be careful, the aggressive person might not think you’re taking them seriously if you crack a joke. Sensitivity and measured politeness are definitely the order of the day.

It’s more important to keep your friends, relations, customers than it is to win an argument with them. So, giving ground wherever and however you can, is the intelligent, resilient thing to do – so long as we’re not compromising on fundamental principles.

So, under pressure, we’ll take our time, we’ll show understanding, conceding ground where we can. We’ll focus on facts and we’ll ask lots of questions. By the end that process, we’ll hope to have improved our relationship with the person who started out being aggressive.

One final caveat is that when aggressive behaviour crosses the line and becomes threatening, we walk away. We seek immediate assistance. None of us deserves to be the target of insults or abuse. Resilient people don’t put up with that.

Have a great week everybody.