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Tag: aggressiveness

November 28, 2016

I knew of a gentleman, an old friend, he is deceased now. Years ago, before he passed away, he was well known between circles as being obnoxious and aggressive. Then there was an incident in which he and I received unfair treatment from a professor. As I engaged the professor to engage to rectify the situation, I noticed that my friend was unusually quiet. As the disagreement between the professor and I intensified, my friend became even more uncharacteristically meek.

In the years that followed, I have seen this phenomenon repeat itself several times with different people. Heck, it appears that the more boisterous they present themselves, the more likely they are to respond passively during a serious conflict.

Now why is this?

Paper tiger ripping paper with tiger print background with place for your text or image. illustration.

Paper tiger ripping paper with tiger print background with place for your text or image. illustration.

With clients, I have worked with over the years, who display this phenomenon, one thing they all have in common is an emotionally abusive and sometimes physically abusive past. This is not to imply that anyone who experiences an abusive past will grow up to be pretentious, but those who are pretentious about being tough, almost certainly do have an abusive past. The reason for this behavior is due to the manner the person learned to interpret conflicts as a child. Specifically, for those who engage in pretentious behavior, these people came to the unfortunate conclusion that they were ill equipped to cope with conflicts. Thus, the obnoxious and aggressive behavior is an adaptation to ward off would be bullies and abusers.

This technique may have served its purpose during their childhood, however in adulthood, they run into the inevitable of having to deal with people intent on provoking conflicts with them and others. The problem with people who are pretentious in regards to the attitude they put on, is that in their private lives they habitually run away from conflicts. Examples of issues they deal with are, failure to stand up for themselves, on the job, in their personal lives and failure to protect their children from abusive situations.

I once witnessed a father threaten his daughter, after she confronted him for not protecting her from an abusive situation during her adolescent years. It is interesting that he felt comfortable with saying the things he said to her, even though he never addressed the poor treatment his daughter received with her aggressors. In truth, he lashed out the way he did, because he was ashamed and it was too painful for him to hear about how he had failed his daughter.

The good news, is that there a solution towards becoming more courageous and it has nothing to do with putting on an aggressive act. The solutions are a three-step method and is as follows:

  1. Calmly address the offending behavior by the other party.
  2. Listen carefully for a possible explanation, or a refusal to explain.
  3. Calmly state what actions you are going to take if the behavior continues.

In this video, I demonstrate with a colleague how to use verbal judo, in which I carefully integrate the three steps.

Of course, this is easier said than done, and that’s because issues of incompetency highlighted by feelings of intense fear will come up for some people who use this technique. A solution to this would be practice beforehand with a situation that you just experienced.

For example, let’s say you experienced a conflict with a supervisor, where you became tongue tied due to a fear of being let go. Write out the incident as it happened and document your feelings every step of the way. The goal for this exercise is to document how you reacted to each feeling and then document how you would have preferred to have responded to the feelings. Finally, you are going to practice visualizing yourself giving your preferred response to each feeling.

You should practice exercise at least once a day, to trigger the process of neuroplasticity. For best results, I would suggest working one on one with a cognitive behavioral therapy.

Ugo is a psychotherapist and consultant.

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November 14, 2016

Some years ago, while working for an agency, I found myself at odds with two therapists who were my coworkers. More specifically, they were at odds with me. They had learned about my verbal judo exercises and were offended about the scenarios I had practiced with clients where the clients would do their best to insult and upset me, while I got them to stop without retaliation.

They complained about me to our supervisor, alleging that my behavior was not professional. I defended my actions with solid arguments in addition to research to support my methods, and our supervisor gave me the green light. Shortly thereafter after one of the therapists who had complained about me, the most vocal of the two, experienced an incident in which he was verbally accosted and bullied by an aggressive client. I so happened to have witnessed the entire event in person. As the client laid into him, he became so flustered, he went speechless. I then decided to intervene and quickly deescalated the situation. I said nothing about the incident to him, and he never mentioned it on his end. However, by the time I had left the agency, he and I were on good terms.

The interesting thing about this guy is that among us, he was very vocal about demanding respect from the clients and would habitually communicate to us an air of importance about himself.

The point of this story is to elaborate a pattern with people who become easily upset and offended by the words of others. That pattern is this; they have no plans for a fight. No, I am not talking about a physical altercation (I do believe in self-defense), I am talking about practicing assertiveness to take care of oneself. People who place a lot of emphasis on how they should be treated, are mainly concerned with how they should be perceived by others because they have no intention, courage or comprehension of how to stand up for themselves when things get tough.  When we focus on how others should treat us, we delude ourselves into creating messages that convince us that we have control over the words and actions of others. This takes away from the process of learning and preparing for how to effectively respond to the unwanted words and actions of others.

The process of getting offended and harping on how one should be respected by others is an act to ward of bullies. The problem is, it is an act that seldom works with bullies. A proper bully sees through the facade and goes into attack mode.

If you struggle with confidence, assertive, courage and other anxiety related issues, you can learn cognitive behavioral strategies to rewire your brain to become more comfortable and embracing of conflicts.

Settling for the role of a pretentious tough guy or girl only alienates good people from your life, leaving for mostly bullies in your life. Even if you take on the role of a bully, the people in your circle will consist mostly of bullies, and fair weathered friends.

Ugo is a psychotherapist and owner of Road 2 Resolutions PLLC

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