Eight tips to communication with aggressive or explosive people:
1. Do not respond in kind. Hostility often begets more hostility. Respond instead with a non-hostile message to defuse people who are behaving in a hostile manner toward you. The classic example of this is in when simple inconsiderate driving or even aggressive driving suddenly escalates into road rage due to two drivers ratcheting up hostility in response to the other's hostile acts, words, or gestures. Please remember that in these and other hostile situations, you contribute somewhat to the outcome by your decision to return hostility or not.
2. Take their upset seriously and validate their feelings. Listen to what they have to say and hear them out; ignoring them or minimizing their feelings will tend to escalate their anger further. There have been untold numbers of workplace violence incidents that could have been averted had supervisors or managers listened with empathy to disgruntled employees rather than responding in an insensitive, or uncaring manner.
3. Never argue with someone when they are intoxicated or on drugs. When someone is drinking or intoxicated, this is no time to try to solve a business, personal or other related problems (especially if you too have had a few drinks). Drinking often impairs judgment, decreases inhibitions (resulting in saying things we don't mean), and distorts your normally astute reasoning ability.
4. Respond to the feelings they are having not the content of what they are saying. Try to hear and respond to the underlying hurt or pain the person is experiencing underneath the angry words. Use statements such as "I can appreciate why you feel that way," or "It sounds like you are very angry right now, many people feel the way you do."
5. On roadway, don't make eye contact with an aggressive driver. This is the secret signal in the animal world to engage in combat and will frequently escalate things, sometimes into "road rage." Just ignore aggressive drivers and stay out of their way.
6. Allow angry people to physically escape the situation Don't block their way or prevent access, or you may be putting yourself in a dangerous situation. Take off the heat rather than increasing the pressure! Don't insist on solving the problem "now" when the other person is in an agitated state.
7. Don't defend yourself by attacking back at them or their character flaws. Defensiveness often escalates anger in the other person and, in fact, is one of the predictors of divorce, according to recent marital research. There is a time to present your side, but not when your partner is unable to hear it due to his or her anger.
8. Don't try to solve an emotional issue with logical arguments. Trying to diffuse an angry person with overwhelming evidence of their thinking errors or mistakes in logic, or facts to the contrary, or reasons for why they shouldn't feel the way they do, or why they should feel differently - usually makes the situation worse.Ari Novick, Ph.D.
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