Conventional wisdom varies on how to deal with aggression. Some schools of thought advocate for swift retribution, while others embrace turning the other cheek. As we enter a new year, it is worthwhile revisiting this age-old question.
Paul Linden recommends another approach to aggression that is neither passive nor aggressive: self-mastery. In this video by Integration Training, he demonstrates that our response to aggression is directly linked to our physiology and our perceptions. The central premise is that your ability to master your own responses directly corresponds to how you perceive aggression.
For example, do you immediately tense up when a stranger approaches you? If you do, then you are more likely to perceive their actions as aggressive and they will typically view your responses as defensive. You will see the world from a compressed and fearful perspective if you greet every move by tightening your shoulders and clenching your jaw. The message that you are sending is that you are ready to counter-attack, even if the person only says ‘hello.’ Any situation is almost guaranteed to get worse if you become stressed and lose your composure, no matter what the other person does.
On the other hand, if you are able to relax and remain centered as you are approached, you may find that the other person’s actions do not carry the menace that you initially feared. Dr. Linden’s video shows that a simple change in physiology directly correlates into a powerful tool for managing aggression. By merely changing our posture, breathing from our belly, and thinking of something that makes your heart smile, you can immediately diffuse aggressive situations.
Developing self-control is one of the most effective ways of dealing with aggression and one of the most underused tools for working with difficult people.