Aggressive people are usually highly competitive personalities. They have an objective in mind and they aim to achieve that objective. Subtlety is not their strong suit.
They will use threats, intimidation and verbal abuse to get what they want. These people may be a demanding boss, a controlling relative or an angry driver on the road.
So how do you deal with them? You could go head-to-head with them, but usually that just leaves you with a bigger headache afterward.
If you keep your cool, maintain composure and understand where they are coming from and what they want, you might be able to turn that aggression into cooperation.
Here are six ways aggressive people try to control you (and how you can use it to your advantage):
1. Be the Mountain
Aggressive people will try to put you off balance from the start. They will look for a weakness, whether a weakness in you personally or your situation. They will find that button and push it repeatedly until you get angry.
When you are angry, you are not thinking straight and will tend to make unsound judgments. Essentially, you lose sight of your goal and focus on whoever or whatever is getting under your skin. Once they have distracted you, they will use that vulnerability to manipulate you into doing what they want.
Be like a mountain. No matter how hard or angry the wind blows, the mountain is unmoved. Maintain your balance and focus on your objective. Once they realize they cannot throw you off balance, they will try a different method.
It may take them a few attempts at pushing your buttons, but if they do not get the response they want from you, they will give up.
2. Open the Distance
Aggressive people will try to close the distance and “get in your face” and force a confrontation. They are trying to dictate the terms of the argument. Don’t let them. Open the distance, refuse battle and frustrate them.
Not every argument or situation is worth getting into a confrontation over. Choose your battles. Keeping your distance helps you keep your options open and allows you to dictate the terms if you choose to engage.
3. Be a Matador
More often than not, people being aggressive has zero to do with you or with the situation. It has to do with their outlook and their mindset. Aggressive people are like bulls. They see something they don’t like and they charge. If you stand still and take it, they will gore you.
A matador is a bull fighter that uses grace and distraction to handle the bull. Avoid the charge by not taking things personally. The bull doesn’t hate the matador; it just wants the person out of their space. If you treat the aggressive person like a bull and dodge or distract their attacks by giving them an unfulfilling target, then they will get tired.
4. Float Like A Butterfly, Sting Like A Bee
The famous boxer, Muhammad Ali, is famous for this metaphor. It means to be light on your feet and to let your opponent “punch themselves out” by either dodging their blows or letting the elastic ropes of the ring absorb the impact of the punch.
When an aggressive opponent attacks you, don’t defend yourself. Let them tire out from attacking you, then go on the offensive by putting the spotlight on their lack of clarity in what they want, or pointing out that their actions will have negative consequences. If you defend yourself from their attacks, then it puts you under scrutiny.
What you want is to avoid responding directly to whatever negative thing they say about you and turn it back on them. As an example: When they say that what you gave them isn’t what they wanted, ask them if what you gave them is what they asked for. If they had wanted something different, then they should have given clear and concise directions. Avoid the attack and redirect it back at them.
5. Why so serious?
Aggressive people can also use inappropriate humor to either make you feel uncomfortable or to take jabs at you with the excuse that they are just kidding. Use your own humor to defuse the comment or to “counter-punch” and make them less likely to try it again. Humor can be a powerful tool.
Comedians and satirical cartoonists have been killed by groups for the things they have said about them. If it didn’t hurt them, why strike back in such a violent and over-the-top way? Ironically enough, most bullies are very insecure and can’t stand to be the butt of anyone’s joke. Humor can be a shield or a sword against the trolls of the world.
In non-critical situations, use humor to break the ice or lighten the mood. If someone is in a crappy mood, making light of it can get them to open up about their issues and maybe lighten their load a bit.
6. There Will be Consequences
When situations are serious, remind the aggressive person what those consequences will be. Sometimes just reminding someone in the throws of anger what the consequences of their actions will be is enough to give them pause and force them to back off.
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