Dealing with highly confrontational behaviour

This blog post poses more questions than answers. It’s a reflection on highly charged situations and how best to respond.

For example, when John Prescott had eggs thrown at him that time – was he justified in lashing out and punching out?

When former PM the Rt Hon Mr Brown received comments from the female member of the public who he, unfortunately, was overheard and recorded to say was in his view a bit bigoted: was this justified but perhaps avoidable? The impact was indeed a shame on that particular election campaign.

Anger and intense views, while sometimes not great for the heart, are nonetheless part of our human makeup. What are the best ways to deal with and respond to such outbursts though?

In a school environment teachers try generally to model the behaviour they expect students to imitate. Also easy to say and harder to implement sometimes.

What are your strategies for dealing with such issues? What would you have done in John Prescott‘s shoes or with the benefit of hindsight as Mr Brown?

If you can rehearse such situations in advance it can help. What are your thoughts on the following?

⁃ If someone eggs you as in Mr Prescott’s situation: might it be possible to diffuse this by turning palms up and saying “scrambled eggs anyone?” And then perhaps arranging an appointment to be offered to the egger for discussion on what prompted the emotion behind the incident?

⁃ If someone with views that don’t sit right with you confronts you – how can you avoid the mental steps that might lead to you labelling or branding them a bigot before you even say it out loud? Even though you may feel justified? This is a very complex one actually and could also relate to the no platform debate. The answer would have to be purely to either discuss the issue honestly and openly or not to pass judgement at all. Also easier said than done. Again, opening dialogue and talking at a later time and exploring thinking is the strongest way forward, without having to compromise your own integrity.

⁃ Another top tip which may cause confusion and derision often if not understood by the recipient… if someone is angry and verbally or aggressively launching at you, you can just sit down. Literally and physically. It’s not often a situation will escalate if one person isn’t standing up. You also don’t have to say anything. This doesn’t mean you won’t take action such as by withdrawing yourself from a situation or relationship later. And it doesn’t mean you are weak. It often takes a lot of strength actually.

But hey, we are all human. We all have our weaknesses. And sometimes w initiate the situation too. None of this is easy. What top tips do you have for dealing with explosive situations?

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