When faced with an aggressive person, your instinct may be to turn and run, but unfortunately that's not always the right thing to do. By familiarizing yourself with some simple techniques for defusing aggressive behavior, you can help yourself and others avoid conflict and violence. These techniques are useful whether you are dealing with aggression at home, in the workplace, or in a public place.
Act in Control
Even if you feel anxious or scared when faced with the aggressive person, give her the impression that you are confident and in control of your emotions and the situation itself. If she picks up on your anxiety, she may feel more anxious herself, which can heighten her aggressive response, warns the National Association of Social Workers.
Adopt a Calm Approach
The Crisis Prevention Institute recommends approaching the aggressive person in a calm manner and speaking to him respectfully, keeping the tone of your voice low. If you don't know him, introduce yourself. Ask him what you can do to help. Maintain a non-judgmental attitude at all times and focus 100 percent of your attention on him. Let him talk without interrupting, and only speak when he has finished. Acknowledge how he is feeling. Remember your aim is to calm him down, not necessarily to make sense of the way he is acting.
Use Body Language
Body language can help to defuse aggressive behavior, says the National Association of Social Workers. Maintain neutral eye contact with the aggressive person, but don't make it seem as if you are staring. Let your gaze drop every now and then. Keep your face relaxed, but don't smile. if she thinks you are laughing at her or making light of the situation, she may become even more aggressive. Use open body language: don't cross your arms or gesture toward her with anything that could be perceived as a weapon. Stand a safe distance away from her and be aware of the nearest possible exit, should you need to get away.
Work Toward a Solution
Wait for the aggressive person to calm down. Explain the consequences of the aggressive behavior respectfully but firmly, says the National Association of Social Workers. Suggest ways in which the situation could be resolved without conflict. Give the person more than one option, so that he has some control over the situation. For example, you might say, "Let's go for a walk for some fresh air," or, "Would you like me to contact a friend to give you a ride?"
- Louder Than Words: How to Intervene With Non-Verbal Individuals; The Crisis Prevention Institute
- National Association of Social Workers: Verbal De-Escalation Techniques for Defusing or Talking Down an Explosive Situation