How to defuse aggression

In one of our previous blogs, we gave some tips on how to spot potentially dangerous situations and avoid them.

Unfortunately though, avoidance isn’t always possible.  All of our students are trained in methods to defuse a potentially dangerous confrontation, rather than taking steps which may help it to cross into physical confrontation.

This takes a lot of tuition and study.  Space here does not permit us to go into detail but we can give you a flavour of some of the techniques we explore in our training.

How to Defuse Aggression

Avoid looking intimidated

When someone is demonstrating aggressive behaviour towards you by confrontation but has stopped short of physical action, it is important not to look intimidated.  That’s because large numbers of people who behave aggressively, look for indications that the person on the receiving end is likely to be a relatively easy victim.

That can be all the encouragement they need to move into violence.

For many bullies and other violent individuals, there a deep animal instinct to risk-assess the situation before they “cross the line” into violence. If they believe that there is a high risk they will suffer damage or injury as a result of physical action, it may prove to be a powerful, even if subconscious, deterrent.

An important point here is not to simply turn your back on the individual and walk away.  Although it is often recommended, it carries serious risks, as some people who have lost control of themselves can take this as insulting them or worse, an indication that you are totally vulnerable and therefore it’s safe to strike.

In this respect though, keep the following points in mind too.

Don’t behave provocatively

For some aggressive people, the above logic doesn’t always apply.  They interpret someone who refuses to look intimidated as issuing a direct challenge to them – and use that as an excuse to move to violence.

There is no easy way to define what the right balance is in such situations.  Generally speaking, try to avoid staring “hard” eye contact (seen as a challenge) and above all try to avoid responding with verbal aggression.

Keep your voice and tone calm, don’t look flustered and don’t issue direct verbal challenges of the “who do you think you’re talking to like that?” or “I’ll make you regret this…” type.

Try also to avoid making statements that suggest the person concerned is out of control.  Examples there might include:

  • “get a grip” 
  • “stop being stupid”;
  • “you’re losing it mate

Be conciliatory

For most people who are not either entirely inebriated or suffering from significant psychological problems, conciliation by words and smiles can often be very difficult to respond aggressively to.

Try admitting a degree of fault (even if it’s false), including things such as:

  • I’m sorry you’re upset, can we have a beer and talk about it?”
  • Sorry, not sure what I’ve done but can I do something to sort it out?”
  • I’m really sorry if I’ve annoyed you. Can I apologise?”

Be prepared

All the above advice is intended to be useful in doing everything possible to avoid aggression turning into physical violence.

However, you should be clear that in some circumstances, whatever you do, the other person concerned is going to cross the line and get physical.

In confrontation situations, it’s therefore important to:

  • anticipate the possibility that violence might arise;
  • take steps to physically prepare yourself, though without adopting a challenging physical stance if possible;
  • be certain that you have the self-defence skills necessary to deal with any aggression, should it come.

That last point is where the martial arts taught at WAIMA can help!