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                        Understanding Aggressive Behavior - A Critical Weapon in Survival

                        I went into a major retailer the other day and, unfortunately, got there about 10 minutes after it opened (as opposed to right when it opened). I wont mention the retailer however I will say that they consider themselves to be a “best buy in electronics”! Why such a big deal? I was there to purchase a new tablet and when I arrived there were three people already being helped (by three store employees) and there was 1 additional person waiting for assistance ahead of me. That ten minutes between opening and my arrival would become highly detrimental! When I arrived I was in a great mood as I was very excited to get a new tablet! So I started this experience in an extremely good mood, and quickly transitioned to frustrated, and ultimately to becoming very angry! This range of emotions went from best to worst in a matter of approximately 35 minutes.

                        Why Did This Happen?

                        It happened because I stood there for an inordinate amount of time without being serviced. First of all, when these major brick-and-mortar retailers end up loosing all of their business to Amazon and other far more user-friendly online retailers, they will have no one to blame but themselves, their lack of care for their customers, their lack of training of their employees, and the lack of appropriate staffing. As I stood there waiting, more-and-more people began to enter the department and stand around. Suddenly I now started to wonder if I would have to fight for my rightful turn as there was no system in place for determining a rightful place in an order! And, as I stood there, several other company employees walked into the department, giving me this false hope that help was finally here only to quickly leave the department without any acknowledgement of the waiting customers. I noted, at one point, that the store manager recognized the now numerous customers waiting for service and was taking steps to remedy the problem. There was no organization in this company’s service plan! Ultimately I was assisted and went on my way in a decent mood after being there for well over 1 hour.

                        As a result of this experience I started to analyze exactly what could have made this a better experience for me under the circumstances. My conclusion was extremely practical and surprisingly simple! You see, as I stood there waiting, never one time was I acknowledged by any of the employees in the department. Never one time was I given anything that would have placed me in an order for service so I would have to be concerned about arguing about who got there in what order. So what would have made this experience better and likely OK? Had one of them simply acknowledged my presence and their understanding of the fact that I needed assistance; had they provided me with the assurance that I had a rightful spot in an order; and had they given me an approximate time of wait, - I would have been fine! Instead, no greeting, no acknowledgement, and no smile or show of respect for my time or appreciation that I was a customer.

                        Now it would’ve been really nice had they provided additional help in the department, but few companies these days want to “over-staff” at the risk of raising overhead. We have an excellent grocery store in our area called Market Basket. Rarely, if ever, do I have any more than one person in line in front of me at checkout, even in the busiest of times. Why? Because they care about giving their customers a highly pleasant shopping experience at their stores and they respect their customer’s time. I am digressing but its highly frustrating!

                        Anyway, the solution to this problem, besides extra staffing, is extremely practical and would cost nothing! Just training their employees to acknowledge clients that are waiting for assistance. And smile and show that you care! Extremely simple if you just think about it and put yourself in the shoes of another person.

                        So What Does This Have to Do with Anything?

                        There are many, many training programs out there on how to deal with, and de-escalate, aggressive people and situations. They cover all kinds of highly scientific understanding and remedy. They cover defensive tactics that require much practice and repetition with the hope that when you are attacked it will be by one of the exact methods, at the exact speeds, that you have trained to defend. But is this stuff really practical? Do you really think that when you face an aggressive or suddenly angry person that you will instantaneously be able to determine exactly what type of mental state this person is in and locate a solution and plan, based on this instantaneous diagnosis, that will enable a successful conclusion to the incident? Likely not!

                        We Have to Think Practically!

                        Granted, there are numerous mental states and reasons for these mental states that few techniques will remedy (like drugs and mental disorders). Regardless, making a successful diagnosis and formulating a plan “in fractions of a second”, is highly unlikely. And few of us really have the time to devote to getting degrees in psychology.

                        We all, on a very regular basis (maybe even daily) have to use de-escalation skills, observation skills to foresee a problem or conflict, and the skills to determine exactly how to approach potential problems, arguments, and (sales pitches) solutions that will successfully allow us to convince someone that our side of a situation is the best side, that our solution to a problem is the best one, etc. Yes, we are all salespeople and, for the most part, we are all really good at it!

                        So when you consider conflict resolution, don’t overcomplicate it and think that you have to spend thousands of dollars and spend years learning how to deal with conflict. There are however techniques that can improve your skills in this area. You certainly don’t need much more than you already have in the way of conflict resolution skills, its more understanding the situation and your adversary to find a successful conclusion quickly.

                        First you need to have confidence when attempting to de-escalate through understanding that you possess the skills to do it. Am I saying that you will successfully de-escalate every situation? Not at all.

                        Think about the things that calm you when you are really angry about something. Think about the things that enflame your anger when you are already angry. Its really fairly simple. The ability to calm is inside of us and we use the skills almost every day of our lives. What takes work is quickly analyzing a situation and finding the right solution. As Police Officers we deal with this each time we interview someone associated with a crime. Every person that we deal with is different and there aren’t many times that we can actually study the person that we will interview in advance. Each person reacts differently to various techniques. As a result, we have to be able to quickly analyze the person and find the most effective solution. Many times this happens “on-the-fly”; we adjust as we go along. But we get really good at it. The good thing is, you can get good at it as well however it takes some training and work. Again, if you have a passion to survive, we must spend the time to prepare for survival.

                        Think about what a “bad guy” is looking for when he has a goal to accomplish. He wants to create fear and chaos to in order gain compliance. The problem is that when people become fearful they cannot respond the way the bad guy is hoping that they will respond.

                        Consider this scenario:

                        You are a Receptionist inside of a company and a “bad guy” comes in yelling and making demands. How do you respond? Really think about it and start down the path of finding your answer by visualizing yourself as that “bad guy”. Would it help, or hurt, to tell this person that you really want to help them but they are making it difficult for you by scaring you? Would showing a calm, friendly, genuine desire to help work to create calm? How about yelling back at them or attempting to “put them in their place”? Maybe refusing to do what they want? Is the bad guy capable of aggression? Will they get aggressive even if you do exactly what they want? I don’t have the answer because every bad guy will be different. Your job is to quickly read this person and have the ability to find the most appropriate way to deal with them as quickly as possible. This requires understanding human behavior and recognizing the signs of aggression.

                        As is the case with any aspect of survival, this takes effort, time and practice. Think, however, about the importance of your life and whether you truly have a passion to survive, or not. You can’t think “it’ll never happen to me”. And these are critical skills that you are responsible for teaching your children if you truly want to keep them safe.

                        The Bottom Line:

                        We all have tremendous skills that were instilled in us when we were created. Skills designed to protect ourselves instinctually, intuitively, and without thought. Honing these skills can take us from a good possibility of surviving to a high likelihood of surviving. Its all about fine tuning and perfecting what you already have. Spend the time on the things that are critical to survival. Understanding Human Behavior, De-Escalation and Signs of Aggression are critical to survival!

                        Published Nov 22, 2015

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