Aggression and incivility: how to cope
The threat and obstruction of our basic needs causes us tension, nervousness and frustration. In times of crisis, we are therefore faced with more aggression.
“We are all going through uncertain and difficult times. As a society we are struggling against a powerful but invisible enemy. This uncertainty can increase tension, which sets fire to powder and ultimately leads to aggression,” says Lode Godderis, director of Knowledge, Information and Research at IDEWE, a group that offers tailor-made prevention and wellness services. This is why he has published preventive advice for dealing with aggressive behavior during this time of coronavirus.
An aggressiveness which does not represent a majority behavior in the populations, let us underline it all the same. Bernard Rimé, professor emeritus of the psychology department at UCLouvain, “According to the data I have, in the population, the central tendency indicates neither fear nor anger, for both the second part of March and the first part of April. Despite the very specific living conditions, the indicators do not show high levels of negative emotions, and many adaptation indicators are positive“.
Calm brings calm
Lode Godderis explains, however, that cases of aggression at work have been traced to IDEWE: such as the incivility of people who cough or spit on the police, or people in a hurry and stressed in supermarkets who jostle the other customers or employees. Anne, 46 years old and a mother, knows what that means. She regularly feels assaulted by being brushed against too closely when shopping once a week “and since we wear masks, it’s worse I find“, notes this Schaerbeekoise who has decided to change supermarkets,”otherwise I was going to start yelling at someone, it rose in me, I was helpless in front of this painful feeling“. Now she does her shopping in organic stores, even if it means paying more,”the price of my sanity!“
In this case, Lode Godderis advises to stay calm, “Even if you feel anger or anxiety inside, try not to let it show. Because if you also show anger, a power struggle starts and the situation can escalate quickly. If you show your anxiety, the abuser may see this as a signal and persist in their aggression.“.
Lode Godderis reminds us that aggressive behavior affects us and has, no matter what, negative consequences for all parties concerned. “For example, when a nurse in the emergency department is attacked or even injured by a patient, this has an impact not only on him, but also on the patient himself, on colleagues in the emergency department, on any people present. and on the hospital. The consequences for the nurse could be not only physical, but also psychological following an assault.“.
On the prevention side, employers have the important task of guaranteeing the health and safety of their employees as well as possible, even in times of crisis. And that of their customers too! This mishap that happened to Chris, 73, still shakes her now: “Since the start of the crisis, like everyone else, I have been touched by the number of incivilities: people who filled their cart with pasta, today people who are not careful in stores. And then these joggers in the park who brush against us when they arrive from behind us, without being able to give us the possibility of deviating!“
But she makes up her mind. On the other hand, the attitude of a baker who poured all her aggressiveness on her upset her. “As we live close to each other, my granddaughter and I went for a walk while respecting the safety instructions. As I am a sweet palate, I wanted to stop at a bakery in Etterbeek. We go back, keeping far away, I ask for some Javanese, I add one more for my granddaughter that the lady puts in a small box. There, I kindly ask him to put a pastry in another box since it is not for me. And there, she explodes: telling me that I am unconscious of making her touch the food again, that she is in danger every day, that she is not going to use another packaging for a single pastry. She’s screaming. Outside, customers wait and do not understand. It is as if I had assaulted this woman when she totally assaulted me because she was afraid … I went out as if I was at fault, with the image that the other than that I was an “old woman” who must not have fully understood the situation. I would never go to that bakery again, I had nightmares about it. “All that … for bad Javanese in addition! Comments Chris who has not lost her (good) sense of humor.
Stop yelling or …
“When a person is aggressive, it is often an (inappropriate) way of communicating that certain needs and demands are not being met. It is therefore important to show, at first, understanding and recognition“, concludes the director of the Knowledge department of IDEWE.”But while a comprehensive reaction is a good technique to defuse the situation, it does have its limits. If the situation escalates, it is important to set limits for the abuser. For example : “Either you stop shouting, or I’m going to have to end this discussion.” ”
And tell yourself that in trying to influence a person’s behavior, empathy and the benefit of the doubt work best, far more than shame or meanness, the researchers say.