Tips on De-Escalation of Aggressive Behavior


Aggressive behavior is something that most people will either display or have to deal with at some point in their lives. This is because things often happen that make people angry; maybe someone you work with is having a bad day, maybe a customer views you as the final straw or maybe your roommate has anger management problems. Regardless of the cause, you need to deal with aggressive behavior in a calm, logical manner to de-escalate it and get the situation under control.

New Setting

  • Change the setting. If you are dealing with someone in a crowded area and he is becoming aggressive, ask him if he'd like to talk somewhere more private. This serves two purposes. For one, it gives everyone involved a chance to calm down. What's more, it brings you both to a less noisy area. If there is a lot of noise, people have to raise their voices to be heard, which means the situation can quickly turn into a shouting match.

Calmness First

  • Aggression comes from somewhere. People generally show aggression when confronted with a problem. While it can be tempting to just solve their problem and expect the aggression to stop, aggression often comes from deeper causes. You need to first focus on calmness. Try to get voices lowered and tensions diffused, then try to solve the problem. If, for example, someone is yelling and screaming because she did not get enough ice in her water, it will not be effective to just throw some ice in her glass and walk away. You need to get her into a more relaxed frame of mind first, then address the task.

Fact Questioning

  • Ask people questions that can be answered with concrete facts. These should also relate to their feelings. So if someone is upset, you should ask him, "What has made you feel upset?" This is giving him an opportunity to air his grievances and also shows you recognize that he's upset. People feel better when their feelings are recognized and addressed, as it validates those feelings. Finally, it makes it clear that you're not attacking them. If you say, "Why are you treating me like this?," you're focusing on their negative actions; instead, you should focus on their negative feelings.

Listening Skills

  • You need to show good listening skills. Ask someone a question and listen attentively. This is a matter of looking at her and taking in what she says, and also showing that you are doing so. A good way to do this is to regularly rephrase what she says. When you do this, you are showing the person that you heard what she had to say and processed it. This will de-escalate the aggressive behavior by validating the person's thoughts and feelings and making it clear that you empathize.

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