Suppressed aggressiveness is an expression of diverted anger in which an attempt is made to anger or hurt you for no obvious reason. The problem is that the person denies having done wrong. We can often act with suppressed aggressiveness because we have not learned to manage a conflict properly. However, there are ways to help a person to think about his behavior and to correct an aggressiveness returned through exchanges.
Part 1 of 3: Identify repressed aggression
Step 1. Recognize the signs
The insidious nature of this type of aggression allows the person practicing it to plausibly deny it. The person may say they don't know what you are talking about or accuse you of exaggerating when faced with this behavior. Stay firm on what you perceived in this situation and learn to identify suppressed aggressiveness.
- Some manifestations include sarcastic remarks and reactions, over-criticism, tentative acquiescence (the person accepts the request orally, but decides to act later), deliberate ineffectiveness (agrees to do as asked., but with much ill will), letting a problem escalate by doing nothing and deriving pleasure from the anguish that results from it, devious and deliberate acts of revenge, complaints about an injustice done as well as sulking. A person who acts with suppressed aggressiveness will often say that they are not crazy or that it was just a joke.
- Other signs may include hostility to demands that interfere with a person's schedule, even if they are quite low-key, animosity towards a figure of authority or someone more fortunate, the need to procrastinate the demands of others, a deliberate tendency to sabotage a job done for others, cynical, brooding, or quarrelsome behavior, as well as complaints because 'we don't feel we are being treated at our fair value.
- Retracted aggressiveness is defined as indirect resistance to the demands of others and to the need not to face problems head on. The biggest problem probably lies in this refusal to face the situation directly.
Step 2. Make sure you don't overdo it
You may be annoyed by this person, but you may also be overly suspicious and take their behavior too seriously. Analyze your own uncertainties. Have you been used to dealing with difficult people in the past? Does this person remind you of that time? Do you suppose she acts the same way as those people from the past that you think of?
- Put yourself in the other's shoes. Do you think, from this point of view, that a more reasonable person would have acted in the same way in similar circumstances?
- Also, be aware that some people may be systematically late or complete tasks slowly because of a neurological problem such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Don't assume too quickly that this behavior is aimed directly at you.
Step 3. Notice how you feel about this person
You may experience frustration, anger, and even distress with this type of person. It can make it seem like you just can't seem to make that person happy no matter what you do.
- You might feel hurt. The person may sulk you for example.
- You might get frustrated because the person keeps complaining, but never takes any action to improve their situation. Trust your intuition.
- You might feel tired or flat around this person, since you have expended so much energy to deal with their suppressed aggressiveness.
Part 2 of 3: Responding to Re-entered Aggression
Step 1. Maintain an optimistic attitude at all times
The power of positive thinking enables you to meet the obligations of everyday life. People who express withdrawn aggression will seek to lure you into a whirlwind of pessimism. Sometimes they're looking for a bad reaction so that they can focus on you again without being accused of having done so. Do not allow this type of behavior.
- Maintaining a good attitude means not to put yourself down to the level of the person. Do not be it in your turn. Don't insult him, don't yell, and don't get angry. Staying calm will help you stay focused on that person's actions rather than your own. You will distract from the real problem if you get angry.
- Try to behave well. Correct your own problems so that others know how to behave around you, whether you are dealing with children or adults. Repressed aggressiveness diffuses emotions through a mask of indifference. Be honest, open, and direct about your feelings, rather than hiding. Steer the discussion in a more fruitful direction, when you are faced with passive aggression where you are shunned.
Step 2. Always keep calm
Calm down if you are angry, before fixing the problem (go for a walk, turn up the volume and dance, do a crossword) then figure out what exactly you should do in this situation, such as the likely outcome of you can accept.
- Don't overdo it in any way, especially when you're upset. Do not accuse someone directly, as this opens the door to denial of anything and allows the person to accuse you of interpreting the situation or of being overly touchy or suspicious.
- Don't get angry no matter what. Do not let the person realize that they have been able to get you to react. It will only reinforce their behavior if you do, which can also increase the likelihood of it happening again.
- Resist the temptation to spontaneously express anger or an overly emotional reaction. You will give an impression of greater mastery of yourself and of a person who cannot be unsettled.
Step 3. Discuss the problem
The best approach is still to express what seems to be happening, for example, to tell the person that they are probably furious because we did not invite such person to the party, assuming you have a certain emotional stability, which you know how to respect and are calm.
- Be direct and specific with the person. A person who acts with suppressed aggressiveness may distort your words by using rhetorical formulas if you speak in a way that is too vague or too general. Be clear about the problem in question if you have to confront someone who is expressing repressed aggression.
- One of the dangers of confrontation is making generalized statements with expressions such as "You act like this all the time!" This won't get you anywhere, so it's important to confront the person about a specific act. If, for example, sulking is what annoys you the most, give the example of a specific incident where you were shunned and how you felt at the time.
Step 4. Try to get the person to admit that they are angry
Do it without accusing him, but stand firm. You can always tell her that she seems to be pretty uplifted or that you feel like something is bothering her.
- Express how you feel about the behavior, for example say that you feel hurt when she talks to you in such a blunt manner. The person must therefore admit the effect produced by their behavior on you. Focus on how you are feeling and don't use accusatory language that berates her.
- Speak in the first person. Do it, rather than blaming the other when you have to talk to someone, especially in a conflict situation. Rather than saying, for example, “You are obnoxious”, you could say “I didn't like you slamming the door in my face because I felt like you didn't want to listen to me”. The first statement is in the second person, which usually involves an accusation, judgment or reprimand. On the other hand, a statement in the first person allows you to express feelings without targeting anyone.
- Don't beat around the bush when the person takes this attitude. Be direct, but kind. Be frank, but good. You shouldn't downplay the situation either.
Part 3 of 3: protect yourself
Step 1. Set limits on the person who expresses repressed aggression
You shouldn't provoke a confrontation, and neither should you be that person's punching bag. Re-entered aggression can be very harmful and it is also a form of abuse. You have the right to set limits.
- We often tend to be way too indulgent. You no longer have a choice when you give in to a suppressed form of aggression. It is essentially a fight around issues of power. You can remain unmoved and calm, while still being firm about what you are willing to accept.
- Respect the limits you set. Make it clear that you will not accept being mistreated. Tell the person who is constantly late that you will go to the movies without them if it happens again on one of your dates. It's a way to let him know that you don't want to pay the price for his behavior.
Step 2. Know what the root problem is and fix it
The best way to deal with this type of behavior is to notice any changes as early as possible. The best thing to do is find the source of the anger.
- Talk to someone who knows this person well enough to tell you what can make them angry as well as the subtle signs they express when they do, if they are the type not to get upset.
- Dig into the problem and honestly assess what may be causing this repressed aggression. It is often a symptom of a different cause.
Step 3. Practice trading with confidence
There are exchanges that are either aggressive, passive, or aggressively withdrawn. None of them is an effective means of communication.
- A confident way of talking means being both confident and unlikely, while remaining polite. Be assertive, cooperative, and make it clear that you want to resolve the issue in a way that is mutually satisfactory.
- It is equally important to listen and not to accuse or blame during the discussion. Consider the other person's point of view and acknowledge it. Admit how the person is feeling, even if you think they are wrong.
Step 4. Know when you should avoid the person altogether
This is a very conceivable solution if someone regularly shows suppressed aggressiveness towards you. Your own well-being should come first.
- Find ways to limit the time you spend with this person and try to interact with them as a group. Avoid face-to-face exchanges.
- Ask yourself if it's worth hanging out with this person all your life, if they are doing nothing but emitting toxic energy.
Step 5. Give this person as little information as possible that they could use against you
Don't reveal overly personal information, feelings or thoughts to someone who is expressing intrusive aggression.
- She may ask you personal questions in a tone that sounds innocent enough or caring enough. You can answer them, but avoid going into details. Keep it short and fairly vague, but sympathetic.
- Avoid topics that are sensitive or that may reveal your own weaknesses. Individuals who express suppressed aggression tend to remember what you told them, even the smallest details, which allows them to use it against you later.
Step 6. Seek the help of a mediator or arbitrator
This person should be an objective third party, be it a personnel manager, a (neutral) family member, or even a mutual friend. It is a question here of appealing to a person in whom the individual with the repressed aggressiveness can also trust.
- Give the mediator a list of your concerns before you meet with him. Try to see the situation from the other person's point of view and understand why they are so angry. Do not be obnoxious and do not be aggressive in your turn because you are being pushed back, even if you try to help him.
- You might be told to relax or that it was just a joke or that you take it all too seriously when you have to confront this individual yourself. This is where the intervention of a third party is most useful.
Step 7. Specify the consequences for the person if they persist in this behavior
Since people with suppressed aggression act quietly, they will almost always resist when confronted with their behavior. Denial, pretexts and accusations are just a few of the likely retorts.
- State that you are prepared to crack down, regardless of what she says. You should especially propose one or more important consequences to force the person who expresses the aggressiveness returned to review his behavior.
- The ability to identify and apply consequences is one of the most formidable skills to use in defusing a person who is acting with suppressed aggressiveness. Well-expressed consequences will calm her down and force her to move from obstruction to cooperation.
Step 8. Encourage good behavior or one that is appropriate
In the parlance of behavioral psychology, encouragement is what you do after the person has behaved in a certain way. The goal of encouragement is to increase the frequency of this behavior.
- It can mean rewarding a good behavior that you want to see repeated or punishing a bad attitude that you want to ban. Encouraging someone is not easy, as bad behavior is better noticed than good attitude. Be on the lookout for good behavior, so that you can find every opportunity to encourage it.
- It's a good thing if, for example, the person who exhibits a suppressed aggression is honest about their feelings, when they admit to feeling like you are being deliberately obnoxious to them. Encourage her and let her know that you appreciate the fact that she lets you know how she really feels.
- This will encourage good behavior, that of communicating what the person is really feeling. You can set up a dialogue from there.
- You only escalate a conflict and give the other pretexts and extra ammunition to deny responsibility when you nag, scold, or anger them.
- You only further encourage a partner's suppressed aggressive behavior when you give in or relieve him of his responsibilities.
- People who engage in this type of behavior are often quite proud of being able to control their emotions.