When you’re in a situation with someone who is verbally aggressive, you can feel defensive, or a little scared or intimidated. Verbally aggressive people aren’t shy. People who are verbally aggressive don’t hold back when it comes to their feelings and opinions, so getting into an argument, altercation or a heated discussion with someone who is verbally aggressive can be difficult to maneuver.
Here are five healthy and mindful ways to respond when you find yourself dealing with a verbally aggressive person:
1. Choose Kindness
People who are verbally aggressive may have a past history of violence. When they begin to raise their voice or show anger, they are most likely expecting you to get angry in return. Instead of adding fuel to the fire, don’t raise your voice. Attempt to have a calm conversation. If it’s clear that they are too fired up, be the bigger person and walk away before things get out of hand.
2. Try to Calm Things Down
Nurses often need to apply non-physical methods to keep verbally aggressive patients from escalating. Follow steps similar to the ones below to attempt to calm the aggressor:
- Identify the person’s level of aggression on a scale of 1-10. If there is a potentional for injury, call for help.
- Attempt to understand the meaning behind their aggressive behavior. Listen carefully and let them know that you are hearing them and understanding.
- Try to connect with them. Use language such as “I understand why you would be upset” or “I can see how that would be frustrating for you.”
- Find a solution to their needs. Ask the aggressor what exactly they want or need, then find a compromise.
What a verbally aggressive person really wants is somewhere to vent his or her anger. When the person is frustrated, he or she wants someone to really listen and empathize. If a verbally aggressive person comes to you upset, let him or her know that you are willing to listen, but only if he or she takes a few deep breaths and calm down so you can have a conversation at a normal volume. Advise the person to breathe, sit, and search for a solution.
4. Don’t Overcrowd Them
While verbally aggressive people want to be heard, they can easily become overwhelmed when they’re upset. Too much sensory input can cause them to feel even more frustrated. If you’re in a loud, busy or crowded environment and a verbally aggressive person becomes angry, lead him or her to a more quiet, calm place to cool down and tell you what’s going on. Removing some environmental stressors can help tone down the situation, so the person can focus on what’s upsetting. You’ll have better control of the situation in a calmer environment, and it will help to deescalate the verbally aggressive person’s anger.
5. Discuss Help in the Future
Once the situation has calmed and a solution has been found, sit down with the verbally aggressive person and ask how you can help next time. Find out what makes the person tick so you know what to avoid, and ask how you should approach the next time he or she is upset. Knowing what to do and what not to do the next time anger rises will benefit both of you. If the verbally aggressive person truly has a problem and you believe the person may be in danger of harming him or herself or someone else, seek professional resources for help.
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