There are certain people who do not respect the conventional rules of discussion, who are not, or choose not to be, polite. Maybe they do not understand dialogue involves listening or that there are two sides to very story.
These are the people who shout, interrupt, talk over and refuse to listen to reason. They can be rude, discourteous, loud obnoxious, disrespectful, dismissive and even downright nasty.
Perhaps they have been improperly socialized.
This is a form of bullying.
This is unquestionably a form of bullying.
It’s hard to stay cool in the face of manifested strong emotion, anger, frustration, contempt, especially if you are not able to explain yourself or get your point across.
When someone is aggressive, refuses to listen or to allow you to have your say, when they shout, swear or otherwise demonstrate unacceptable behaviour, it’s almost impossible not to react in kind, raising your voice just in order to be heard.
It’s a normal response, however yelling or screaming tends to escalate the situation, further deteriorating the conversation, making it difficult, if not impossible, to halt the downward spiral.
When you fight fire with fire, inevitably someone gets burned.
When you’re in a situation like this, shouting louder will not make the other person listen.
It’s almost impossible for the conversation to end well.
Responding to aggression with aggression will only increase the tension, escalate the conflict and reduce reason; it will be virtually impossible to get your point across.
By responding in kind, you are entering into an emotional battle, where your opponent has already set the rules of engagement. Fundamentally, this person has taken control, and in accepting this, and responding in a similar manner, you have given your power away.
Any by giving your power away, you have inadvertently let the other side win.
So what can you do other than hang up or walk away?
Stay objective, endeavour to remain outside the situation. Try and pull back and retain your objectivity. If you can distance yourself from feeling that you are being personally attacked and keep your cool, you may be able to disarm or divert the downward spiral.
Stop the escalation before it starts.
If you notice the conversation is not progressing well, that it is becoming heated and voices are being raised, it may be time to draw attention to the matter.
Mention that this is not how you would like the conversation to go, you sense there is a problem and ask the other person a question to refocus the discussion.
Ask them about the problem, the situation, the background, the solution or even what they would like to see happen.
Generally asking them point blank about the reason they are so upset will only upset them further, so it’s probably wiser not to get personal.
Don’t let it get personal
Try to maintain your objectivity. By keeping a clear head and maintaining perspective you have a chance to manage your emotions.
If you can stay cool, not let your anger or frustration hijack the situation, and keep it from deteriorating to trading insults or name calling, you are exerting control. Not to mention avoiding the potential of a serious rupture
Sometimes, though, reason and accommodation just don’t work.
While you can try your best to hold your temper, speak reasonably, give the other person the benefit of the doubt, tell yourself it’s not personal, there will be times when this will not be enough to diffuse the situation.
Call the other person on their bad/unprofessional behaviour.
Advise the other person that you will not accept to be addressed in this manner. Firmly and quietly tell them that this is not how you wish to conduct conversations. If they don’t listen, offer to continue the conversation at a later date.
I worked in an organization where one of the senior managers had a reputation for haranguing other employees in meetings and presentations. Inevitably, in a meeting one day in, he took exception to something I was saying and in a very loud voice suggested I didn’t know what I was talking about. I looked at him and said, “I’m sure you know a lot more on this matter than I do, however I will learn. And you can help me by sharing your knowledge and by treating me with respect.” This gentleman never again raised his voice to me or gave me a hard time, he actually became one of my biggest supporters only because I stood up to him and let him know his behavior was out of line.
Break the flow.
Do something to break the flow of the argument. Ask for time out, a cooling off period, a break. Suggest you both take a moment to consider the purpose of the conversation and the desired outcome.
As a woman, I’ve found this works for me. In a shouting match, I’d have a problem outdoing a deeper voice.
In conversations where voices are being raised, I will begin to speak more quietly. Usually, in order to hear what I’m saying, the other participant(s) will stop talking to listen.
This helps reset the situation.
There are occasions when the only thing to do, rather than lose it completely and perhaps say something that you might regret, is just to walk away. No last words, no notice, just stop and leave the conversation (or hang up). Drastic, but it works.
I was at a meeting where two colleagues with an acknowledged adversarial relationship were actually yelling obscenities at each other and slapping the conference table. Shocked, I quietly got up, signed to another colleague in attendance that we should leave and walked to the door. As I opened it, one of the combatants said, “Hey, where are you going?” “Out.” I replied. “When you finish your tantrum and can behave professionally, please let me know and we can resume the meeting.” By the end of the day I had two apologies, delivered in deep embarrassment.
Avoid the bitter taste of frustration.
Situations like this have a lingering effect that takes a while to get over.
The toll of emotions like frustration, seething anger, indignation and injustice are heavy and the bitterness takes time to dissipate.
The only way to avoid these feelings is to hold on to your power, refuse to have conversations where bullying is present. Never retaliate or allow the situation to deteriorate into a free-for-all.
Don’t abdicate. Keep your power. You own it.