Ways to Diffuse Confrontation & Aggression

It’s never a pleasant thing to witness or be involved in, but there is always a chance that we may find ourselves in a position whereby we need to diffuse a confrontation and soothe aggressive behaviour.

We may experience this through our work as aggressive customers are an all too frequent occurrence in the workplace or we may need to face it in our daily lives. Should the situation ever arise, do you know what steps you must take if the conflict is to have a peaceful and satisfactory conclusion?

Do you know what actions you must avoid if you want to prevent the situation from escalating further? How easy it would be if we could just tell every displeased adult to take a ‘time out’, as we would a child, but alas we can’t. So, what can we do?

The first thing we must remember is that aggression is closely linked with deep emotions. It is mostly a reaction to perceived threats or anger directed towards them. It is therefore important that we manage our own emotions when we seek to diffuse a confrontation. Take a moment now to reflect on the sort of behaviour that stirs up anger in you.

Do you react negatively to aggressive words, raised voices or physical contact? If you do, consider if this is appropriate behaviour to resolve a conflict or whether it would simply aggravate things. Feel free to be assertive, that is to be calm and positive when standing up for yourself or for others, but avoid answering aggression with aggression at all costs. Aggression is generally triggered by feelings of anger and frustration. It can be identified by raised voices, clenched jaws and fists, insults, threatening gestures, bad language among others.

Although it may seem very difficult at first, it is important to listen to the aggressive person and give them the opportunity to have their say. Try to convince them to open up to you and share their problem with you. Displays of openness and friendship help to establish you as a supportive figure as opposed to an antagonistic one. If you are empathetic and understanding, you will present yourself as a trustworthy and supportive presence.

Remember also that any epithets directed at you are spoken in the heat of the moment and are not to be taken personally. If you are attempting to diffuse aggressive behaviour, there are a number of techniques, both verbal and non-verbal, you should consider employing in order to achieve the desired result.

To start with the non-verbal strategies, the first to remember is to be mindful of your own body language and make sure you always adopt a neutral and non-threatening stance. Next, be sure to make eye contact with the person you are engaging with, but take care to avoid staring as this could be interpreted as a sign of hostility on your part.

Additionally, make sure any movements you make are slow and steady. A quick reaction on your part could be interpreted as an attempt to use physical violence and could result in both of you coming to blows. Lastly, try not to invade the other person’s personal space as this can be interpreted as attempted intimidation or domination and will only further.

As previously mentioned, listening and behaving sympathetically are key verbal traits in diffusing a confrontation. If there is more than one person involved, giving each party an equal and fair hearing will show that you are seeking to act as a mediator and not favouring one particular side.

It will help if you try to see each person’s point of view and acknowledge the positives of each’s argument whilst not losing sight of the negatives. Maintain a neutral tone throughout and avoid phrases which could be interpreted as expressions of power.

These include any sentence that begins with “You must…” or some other variant. Remember that your role is not to take charge of the situation, but to help navigate it towards a satisfactory and peaceful resolution. If the conflict is taking place within your workplace, you could persuade the angry customer to make a formal, written complaint instead of being verbally and physically critical.

This will show that you sympathise with the person’s distress, but would prefer a more practical means of expressing it. Once the situation has been successfully resolved, it is important to consider your own mental wellbeing. If the aggression occurred at your workplace, you should certainly report it to your supervisor.

If it has taken place in your daily life, share your experience with friends to help you come to terms with what has happened. If you can, try to play the incident back in your mind and analyse it.

Try to ascertain what caused it and whether your reactions were appropriate. Furthermore, be on your guard for possible effects from your experience, such as trouble sleeping, recurring dreams, feelings of anxiety and difficulties with concentration.

On the other hand, if you successfully diffuse a confrontation, as taught on this conflict management course, you may find your confidence increasing and your communication skills and relationships with others improving. Take steps to address any negative effects quickly and savour the positive ones.

Remember that very few people actually want to be angry and that the key to resolving any confrontation or acts of aggression lies with your own reactions and how you present yourself. Remember to be the voice of reason and support, not the voice of another aggressor or of someone attempting to take charge.

Listening is key and treating other people the way you would wish to be treated yourself is paramount. Your own safety is also of the utmost concern. If you feel the situation is becoming too much for you, then step away. Call the police if you feel it is necessary, but above all do not do anything that would jeopardise your physical and mental well-being.


This article is for educational and informational purposes only and must not be used or taken as a substitute in any form for any medical advice, medication you are currently taking or any alternative treatments without the prior advice, guidance and consent from your medical doctor. Please speak with your doctor fist before making any changes to your diet or medicine as a result of reading any information laid out on this website or in this or any other articles.

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