Friday, August 27, 2004

How to Kill Fear When Dealing with Aggressive People

The book Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers is
regarded as a self help classic. Have you read it?

I read it many years ago and I was disappointed by the content
of this book that has helped a lot of people take control of
their fears. Why? Because I believe we all have the power to go
far beyond feeling the fear.

And I really think it is important to learn how to transform fear
into courage by learning how to use more of your mind and how to
take charge of your emotions.

There are two ways to take fear and transform it into a different
emotional state:

- Release the fear by letting go of it.

- Change the way you represent the experience so that it no
longer makes you feel fearful.

Today I want to look at changing how you represent experiences to

1 Pick a person you deal with on a regular basis who you find
intimidating. Get started by choosing someone who causes you to
feel mild fear.

2 Ask yourself -- what does it get me feeling fear around this

Typically you will answer that the fear causes you to be more
alert and careful. However the irony is that when you feel fear
you are less capable of responding well to the challenges of the

Let me give you an example. When I lived the corporate sales life
a number of years ago I had a crazy boss.

He would scream down the phone at me, thump the desk with his
fist in meetings and threaten to fire me if certain goals were
not achieved. I never took this personally because he treated
other people in the same way. Still I did feel fear when dealing
with him.

What did I get by feeling fear?

It meant I was careful to say the right thing and to do my job to
the best of my abilities to ensure he had no reason to have
another go at me.

Nevertheless it was not an ideal situation!

3 If you cannot influence the behavior of the intimidator change
how you feel.

In the case of my boss I matched his behavior to get rapport.
When he shouted at me I raised my voice to speak back. When he
slammed the desk I became more animated in how I talked and I
used my hands more when expressing myself.

This pacing will help. However it is not enough you also need to
change how you feel.

Before you start working with the following approach make sure
you are feeling energetic and resourceful otherwise you could get
dragged back into the fear itself.

Now take a recent encounter with the intimidator and run the
scene in your mind as if you are watching it on TV. Pretend you
are outside the event watching as a bystander.

Next, distort the images until the other person looks absurd.
Dress the person in silly clothes or even no clothes! Change
their voice until it sounds squeaky like a cartoon character.
Slow down their speech until it sounds like a worn out tape. Then
speed up the speech until they sound like a bumble bee.

Play the scene backwards, upside down or with zero gravity. Do
whatever you have to until the scene is ludicrous.

Keep playing with the sounds and images until you are either
laughing or at least smiling when you think of the intimidator.

At this point you have turned fear into a more resourceful
emotional state. Well done!

When you are new to this technique you will need to run through
it several times until you get the hang of it. And for difficult
situations I recommend using it daily to shake off those
unpleasant feelings of fear you have associated to that person.

4 Keep the benefits of the fear and not the fear itself

After step 2 above you know how your fear is serving you.

Let us say the fear gives you alertness, safety and carefulness.

How are you going to behave carefully around the intimidator
without feeling the fear?

You need to write down or run through likely scenarios in your
mind until you are well prepared to handle whatever is thrown at

This step is very important and you are in trouble if you skip it.

In my case I was mentally ready to work elsewhere, I saved up
some money so that if I did get fired it would not be the end of
the world and I was always careful to only promise what I knew I
could deliver.

If I had just changed how I felt without dealing effectively
with the situation I would have been in a very difficult

Your goal ought to be to feel resourceful and to be intelligent
in how you deal with difficult people.

Using these tips will help you. How much this information helps
will depend on how much energy you put into applying this

When I look back on my aggressive boss situation I know that I
could have done even more to handle it better. So like you I am
always learning.

The important thing is to get started and keep heading in the
right direction. And take even one step each day to take you

NB: get help immediately if you are dealing with a violent individual

Peter Murphy is a peak performance expert. He recently
produced a very popular free report: 10 Simple Steps to
Developing Communication Confidence. Apply now because
it is available for a limited time only at:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks Peter for the helpful information about dealing with people who intimidate you.

I can't wait to view my coworkers and superiors in absurb ways...

I have a question about regarding intimidating people. By nature I am a bashful person, but know one can tell. People tend to view me as this confident person with a ideal life. Infact, I'm just the opposite.

I am a kind person by nature and people tend to try to ridicule when I say or do something incorrectly. I'm always the center of attention, because I am such a humble diplomatic person that wants to create harmony with others. But what I endure are over hearing derogatory insults of comments about my appearance, or the way I am dressed.

How can I handle being the ridculed for being the diplomatic kind, and respectful person I am?