How to Diffuse Aggressive or Hostile Behavior

Some people respond to difficult situations by becoming hostile, aggressive or argumentative. Perhaps they believe that they have been slighted, insulted or offended, and nothing short of revenge or retribution will even the score. They will stubbornly hold on to the belief that they have been “wronged,” refusing to consider that the way they’re perceiving the experience may be distorted or mistaken.

Any aggressive, dramatic or exaggerated reaction to an event is a sure sign that the person has blown the situation out of proportion and is experiencing a great deal of stress. Some signs to watch for are shouting or speaking loudly, interrupting others when they are talking, insisting that he or she is right and justified in their feelings, blaming, acting revengeful, breaking something (or someone), redness in the face, agitation or hyperactivity.

If you take the action personally, you become the victim. Set your feelings aside because this is not about you, it’s about how they feel about themselves in relation to whatever circumstances triggered their reaction. A little bit of understanding and compassion will go a long way here (remember how you felt when someone disrespected your opinion or feelings). Hear them out with an open mind and without getting defensive or resistant to what they have to say. Look for territory that you can both agree on and build from there.

By feeling acknowledged and understood, they will be more open to finding a solution in which everyone can win.

© 2001-2011 Carol James

For more information about managing stressful situations, visit’s Stress Reduction and Management Section

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