Rules Of Engagement With An Aggressive Person

winning at all costs

(Published in Huffington Post)

I’m currently taking a refresher course on dealing with aggressiveness in someone we want to have a relationship with. When someone tells me that they are chronically being treated aggressively, it is clear that people are not insisting on respect as the foundation of their communications. Often, because they don’t even know how to begin.

If someone behaves in a way where they chronically treat you disrespectfully, even if it is an old problem with a lot of history, it’s not too late!

This is what you have to do:

Here are the 3 rules fall under the roof of respect:

  1. Respect for yourself
  2. Respect from me
  3. Respect for me

It may feel risky to point out the obvious but if respect is lacking, then we must speak up and point these out to the other person.

Doing it respectfully means no name calling allowed, no dredging up old stories and no blaming. Just sticking to the current situation and stating it calmly and outlining your needs and expectations while trying to understand mine. Then you need to respect what we agree to.

Here are more details on those:

  1. Respect for yourself. If you don’t stop me from disrespecting you, you are not respecting yourself.  You are also not giving other people the impression that you expect to be respected. You must acknowledge your own needs. It is your responsibility to speak up and state how to respect you.
  2. Respect from me. If I don’t respect you, but, if I value respect, I am not respecting my own values. So, you can point out, that for my own good, I need to treat you with respect to feel good about myself. Besides, you deserve to be treated with respect! It is your responsibility to let me know how to do exactly that.
  3. Respect for me. Besides the basic rules of no name calling or blaming, you are not respecting me if you don’t give me the information and boundaries I need to be in good relationship with you. Respecting me also means treating me as though I am capable of being a respectful person and of having respectful exchanges. It is part of your responsibility to stop using the excuse of upsetting me to avoid telling me that truth.

Sometimes it may be too chronic:

There are bullying situations where the power dynamics and the risk factors feel very high. I strongly encourage people to consult with an unbiased person to help them create an action plan and get new tools. Exit strategies are ALWAYS part of those plans.

There are situations where the emotional attachment (or emotional blackmail) creates a fear which makes us stay quiet. A good litmus test is asking ourselves if this is the type of relationship we hope our best friends, or our loved ones have. If not, then there are some courageous conversations we must have if we want to turn things around.

Many of us have been taught that self-effacement and service are the highest value. I would argue that a foundation of respect in our relationships is truly a higher value. It defines us and creates resilient relationships while inoculating our mental wellness against self-doubt and sense of lack of personal competency.

So insist on respect as the foundation of all your important relationships!



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