Saturday, February 21, 2009

Aggression: Ironically a Sign of Fear

You know when you have that nagging thought buzzing inside your head and feelng coursing through your heart and you just need to deal with it. I experienced this recently thinking about a particular work relationship that seemed a little frayed at the edges at the time. The other person in the relationship was reacting aggressively and I didn’t quite know how to react positively myself. It caused some inner, but positive, angst--impetus to change we might say. I felt a burden for the situation.

Then, lo and behold, I came up against an article for a leadership program that I’m taking part in as a part of my professional work. In discussing the topic of Communicating Effectively, it described the defensive mechanism of an aggressive response in communications, and importantly, the why of this response.

It states:

“Aggressive behaviour is frequently the result of a recognition that one has lost the argument. Paradoxically, aggression is frequently a defensive reaction. Just as normally timid animals, when they cannot run away, will bite as the last line of defence, so we will attack, physically or verbally, when their (sic) is no acceptance of our arguments, wishes or values - and no apparent possibility of such acceptance. Again, in management, aggression indicates the need for care. It interferes with feedback by threatening the giver of feedback with pain.”[1] (Bold added.)

It was a flashbulb moment for me. I went and saw the person immediately and asked them, in as sensitive a fashion as I could, whether they feared something as a result of our relationship, without using those actual words.

The acknowledgement came that yes, there was something the other party was losing as a result of the interactions. It was then my opportunity to reassure this person that I was aware of how they felt and that I’d be doing the best I could to ensure their feelings were accounted for--being that the issue itself was unavoidable. A cogent but caring understanding seemed to do the trick.

As a result, there was a relief in both of us. Suddenly the congesting load rolled off the chest and we were closer as a result. It’s only the first step however; I’ve needed to keep a ‘watching brief’ on this relationship, like all my important relationships.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

[1] PrimeXL, Communicating Effectively article. No other identifying features as to authorship and date etc.

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