The John Vespasian Letter
Few skills will add as much value to your life as the ability to avoid aggressive individuals. In any population group, irrespective of geography and cultural background, you will find at least 1% of persons that can constitute a serious threat.
Disorderly minds defy logic
The reasons for their aggressiveness might be of transitory nature, such as a mild depression caused by financial difficulties, or might be deeply ingrained in their personality. If you possess a generous spirit and feel inclined to comfort those men and women, please make a pause and think twice. Your actions, however well-intended, risk making things worse.
Your willingness to help is commendable, but effective aid is only possible if your actions can improve the situation. If your assistance cannot bring about positive change, it will only cause irritation.
A realistic view of human nature calls for utmost circumspection when dealing with aggressive individuals. Disorderly minds defy logic. Without specialized expertise, it is difficult to determine the severity of someone's troubles.
Approaching those persons and intervening is seldom advisable. The risk of committing an error is too high, since they might interpret your friendly words as threatening and increase their hostility. Take heed of my advice and keep away from dangerous people.
An effective strategy
An effective strategy for dealing with aggressive individuals comprises two elements, namely, detecting and averting them. When you walk into an unknown territory and find yourself surrounded by a crowd, how can you recognize signs of potential trouble?
No matter where you work, you should never trust available security measures blindly. There is simply no guaranteed way to exclude the troublesome 1% from a large group of people. It is up to you to stay alert and ensure your own safety.
Early warning signs
How will you be able to tell who constitutes a threat? The following four signals are clues that you can use to detect dangerous individuals. If you keep your eyes and ears open, you should be able to remark these behaviours when they occur:
None of these factors is determinant by itself and each of them might denote other problems. Your goal, however, is not to pass judgement on strangers, but to protect yourself from danger. Aristotle considered prudence of crucial importance because this virtue ensures that you will be able to continue to play the game of life.* Threatening movements
* Repeated involvement in fights
* Irrational rigidity of attitudes or views
* Use of offensive or hurtful words
How should you react once you have identified a potential source of trouble? Trust your senses when it comes to detecting danger, but let your brains determine your course of action. Use your initiative and creativity to avert difficulties.
Ideally, you want to adopt cautious, discreet measures that spare you unnecessary conflict. Instead of confrontation, avoidance should be your preferred approach. Here are some practical examples:
You are waiting at a queue to buy a cinema ticket and you see a man approach. He is walking exceedingly fast, bumping into passers-by, and he does not even stop to apologize. His face shows a stern expression, his eyes are focused on the sidewalk, and he is talking to himself, oblivious of his surroundings.
He is headed to collide with people waiting in the cinema queue. For a moment, you think of calling his attention, but your prudence takes over. You take a step backwards and let him go through.
You hire a new recruit for your sales team, a young man who made an excellent impression during the interview. He possesses considerable drive and ambition, together with first-class verbal skills.
The young man seems to be the right kind of person to represent your company. During the interview, he gave good answers to your questions and you feel confident that you have made a great choice.
However, on his second week on the job, you perceive details that no longer match the first picture. On Tuesday morning, he comes to work unshaven, wearing yesterday's ruffled shirt, with a ketchup stain on his tie and a bruise on his forehead.
Gently, you draw his attention to how important it is for a salesman to give a professional image, but he tells you that he has been involved in a bar fight. Two weeks later, a similar episode takes place.
You hesitate for a short while, wondering if he is going through temporary difficulties. That might well be the case, but you know that you shouldn't take the risk of having any kind of aggression against co-workers. You summon the young man to your office and, regretfully, you fire him.
In the factory where you work, the Head of Finance assigns you to take part in a project with several persons from other departments. During the first meeting of the team, a participant defends an untenable approach and opposes all sensible suggestions from colleagues.
That person, whom you have never met before, makes an overall impression of obstinacy and does not even allow other team members to finish their sentences. His stubbornness surpasses all tolerable levels and goes as far as threatening anyone who disagrees with him. Should you face him head-on and engage in a verbal confrontation?
Your best option is to try to have all important decisions postponed and, as soon as the meeting is over, discuss the problem discreetly with a few team members that you trust. Then, together, you go to see the Head of Finance, tell him about the incident, and have the troublesome individual removed from the project.
You meet a very attractive woman and begin to date her regularly. Her charms make her irresistible. You feel that you have met the woman of your life and start thinking of marrying her.
The only aspect that troubles you is that, from time to time, she gets disproportionately upset about problems or inconveniences. One evening, when you arrive late for dinner due to a traffic jam, she becomes enraged and attacks you verbally. You put the incident down to her having a bad day and forget about it.
However, after spending a weekend together, you inadvertently wash her blue dress with the white linen and she reacts furiously, shouting insults at you. As a result, you decide to stop seeing her and call yourself lucky for having detected the problem early enough.
A better alternative
Are these recommendations exaggerated? Should you always be on the watch for potential dangers? No, but you need to remain alert to a reasonable extent. Wise men know how to separate their desire to live in a perfect world from the reality of human experience.
When you detect an aggressive person, avoid automatic reactions and behave as prudently as you do in your everyday business dealings. Do not waste time trying to fix the problems of strangers. Instead, move on and seek out the company of benevolent, kind individuals, since those are the type of people that are going to make a positive difference in your life.
[Image by randystoreyphotography under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]
For more information about rational living, I refer you to my books
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