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8 Ways to Deal With Aggressive People

Eileen Bailey Apr 11th, 2014 (updated Nov 30th, 2016)
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It’s hard enough to speak up, but it is even more so when the other person is aggressive or rude. You want to get away...as soon as possible. There might be times you have to stay. Taking it means standing there and allowing the rude person to yell, scream or otherwise humiliate you. Walking away means you can’t handle it. The following are tips for handling an aggressive person when you have social anxiety: 

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Don't try to match aggressiveness
Don't try to match aggressiveness

It doesn’t help the situation when you give aggressiveness back. This probably will escalate the situation. Instead, remain calm and polite. Focus on your response, not theirs. You are responsible for your actions, they are responsible for theirs. Choose to react in a way you are proud of, despite how this person is treating you. 

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Give a brief and direct answer
Give a brief and direct answer

Answer the request but don’t elaborate. For example, suppose you are at work and your boss is in a very bad mood. He barks, “This needs to be done today. Are you going to get it done?” You might answer, “Yes, it will be done by 2:00,” or “No, I am working on another project today.”  Stick to the facts. Answering this way shows confidence and doesn’t leave any room for further questioning. 

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Don't take the aggression personally
Don't take the aggression personally

You don’t know what it behind the aggression. If this is someone you know and it is their typical behavior (such as your boss), you might not have much of a choice while you are working there. If this isn’t someone you know well, you are only guessing as to why this person is being aggressive and rude. They may be having a hard day. Whatever the reason, it probably isn’t about you. 

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Respond with a comment that indicates you are not willing to be treated this way
Respond with a comment that indicates you are not willing to be treated this way

“Please do not speak to me like that,” “We can discuss this another time.” Be clear that you are not going to accept this type of treatment. Remember, if you want to be treated with respect, you must remain calm and not add to the confrontation. Simply state your point and wait for the other person to calm down or walk away. 

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Point out their anger
Point out their anger

In a calm voice state, “I understand you are angry. Can we work out a way to solve this?” Sometimes, pointing out someone’s anger is enough to get them to notice their own behavior and calm down. Remember, you want to acknowledge their feelings without accusing them of acting poorly. 

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Use definitive words
Use definitive words

Avoid words such as, maybe, sort of, kind of, I think, I’ll try. Focus on words that clearly convey your thoughts. If you don’t think you can state what you want, let the person know you need a few minutes to think about their request. Leave and write down your response. Practice it a few times and then go back to continue the conversation. 

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Keep your distance
Keep your distance

Whenever possible, keep your distance from outright confrontations. Choose a different method of communication. While you might think this is the cowardly way out, no one, even those who don’t have social anxiety, do not like dealing with aggressive and rude people. If you have a choice, choose not to deal with those who do not respect you. 

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Remember, you can’t control the other person’s behavior, you can only control yours
Remember, you can’t control the other person’s behavior, you can only control yours

Don’t let someone drag you into a confrontation or cause you to react in ways you aren’t comfortable. Concentrate on your behavior, not theirs. Keep your behavior consist with your values.

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Seek help
Seek help

Finally, if the aggressive person is someone you must deal with on a regular basis, such as your boss, keep a log of each confrontation. You can take up the issue with the Human Resources Department or discuss it with a colleague to come up with a way to handle the situation.