AL in Action: The Aggressive Neighbour
For our first instalment of Assertive Life in Action, we’re going to look at handling a hostile situation. Those times when the moment is heated, when you have someone yelling and making threatening gestures. These are the times when our blood runs quick, and our adrenaline starts pumping. These are the times that call for calm. These are the times that call for poise. Here is one example of a guest contributor who did not meet fire with fire, but met it with a cool breeze of calm and measured language that helped to quiet a situation.
"Last night a man in my neighbourhood banged on my door. I opened it to find him, his wife, and three of his teenage daughters standing in the street. "I need your daughter out here to clear some s$#% up!" I stepped out onto the porch and shut the door behind me. "What's the problem?" I asked. His wife went on a tangent about my daughter and some of her friends (I won't share all the details, but short version their daughter is being bullied, and they think my daughter is in on it), threatening to go to the school board and the police. My wife and daughter came out, but I kept them between me and the steps of the porch. Meanwhile, the father was pacing, fists clenched, and kept stepping closer and closer to my porch step. I calmly said, "Do me a favour and back up off my property, please?" He stepped back out into the street and said, "If any of these kids has got a problem with my daughters, they can step out in the street and handle it. Hell, their parents can step out!" I stayed on the porch but looked at him. "Nobody's stepping out in the street. Look, I'm sorry for what's happened with your daughter, and if you want to go to the authorities, you can. If my daughter did have anything to do with it, we will handle it. Right now she's saying she didn't have anything to do with it, so I would go ask the other kids what they know." They didn't like that answer very much, so they yelled some more obscenities, but they did leave. I could feel my heartbeat in my temples and I was shaking a bit. But in retrospect, I think I handled it well. I stood my ground, kept my family at a safe distance from the problem, spoke calmly but firmly, and tried to de-escalate the situation."
A few points that stood out to me was the situational awareness to protect his family by putting himself between the aggressor and those he loves. He shut the door instantly to keep them safe. He was able to diffuse the ticking time bomb by showing concern, being firm and not giving in to the hostility. I have a friend who works in the police department, and she says her number one call out is to handle challenges in the home between people. This is an example of deescalation of a situation that may have ended with injuries and the police showing up. We all have great potential within us to manage our conflicts and release the tension that can arise between people. We can find solutions to our problems by being more assertive with each other and not giving in to aggression.
We have seen this scenario play out in a positive way, but how many times has this scenario occurred every day in the world? How many situations ended with someone getting bashed or going to jail? How many situations like this where problems were only enhanced rather than solved? How terrible would it have been if the parents didn’t communicate to find a solution for the girl who was being bullied? How loved would she feel if the parents communicated together to find a solution and provide the girls with an opportunity to learn how to communicate best with each other and learn that bullying won't be tolerated? This scenario and many others like it are playing out all over the world every single day. The more assertive we can be with each other the more success we will have. All we have to do is communicate.
Assertive Life 2016-10-24