“Fighting is fundamental, and human beings do a lot more of it in their daily lives than they have ever been willing to acknowledge. Fighting is not only basic; it’s a pervasive life occurrence. From the fierce partisan wrangling that characterizes representative government, to the competitive corporate environment, to the adversarial system of our judicial process, much fighting is woven into our societal fabric.”
– George K. Simon, Jr., Ph.D., In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People
The Nature of Human Aggression
In his book In Sheep’s Clothing, Understanding and Dealing With Manipulative People, George K. Simon, Jr., Ph.D., explores the roots and manifestations of human aggression.
Dr. Simon explains that there are two general types of aggressive behavior – overt aggression and covert aggression, neither of which are inherently violent:
1) Overt Aggression is best described as when an individual is open and transparent about what he/she wants and expresses clear intentions to get what they want.
2) Covert Aggression is more sublime as when an individual uses intimidation and/or manipulation to lure someone else into their plan to get what they what without outwardly stating it.
Although many books and concepts that deal with aggressive personality types propose they are victims of society and thus require our constant understanding in order for them to improve, Dr. Simon says that’s not necessarily true. Dr. Simon claims that some people are just innately aggressive: “Their main objective in life is ‘winning’ and they pursue this objective with considerable passion. They forcefully strive to overcome, crush or remove any obstacles in the way of what they want. They seek power ambitiously and use it unreservedly. They always want to be ‘on top’ and in control.”
Additionally, Dr. Simon disagrees with Freud’s theory that aggressive behavior is an emotional expression of the fears and hang-ups of a neurotic individual acting out in a disagreeable manner. Rather, Dr. Simon is much more absolute by stating that aggressive behavior is simply a result of overt or covert aggressive personality types.
How To Deal With Aggressive Individuals
For many of us, we find it is the people in our everyday lives being the most overtly or covertly aggressive. Many of these people are our co-workers, parents, spouses, siblings and even our own children. Thus, dealing with aggressive individuals or entitled individual can be a daily occurrence, especially for highly empathetic individuals.
If you’re a very empathetic person, you may frequently give in and fall into a habitual enabler role. Excessive compassion may be causing you to excuse away others’ aggressive behavior to the point that it emotionally harms you, people close to you, or even the aggressive individual them-self.
While it’s not uncommon for adversarial situations in everyone’s life to manifest themselves in a variety of ways, we do need to be self-aware and protect ourselves from the people in our lives who want to manipulate us, use us, or consistently seek power over us. The situation may not improve until you set firm boundaries to protect yourself from the tactics used by aggressive individuals to control you or the outcomes of situations that involve you.
Dr. Simon suggests that you redefine the terms of engagement with aggressive individuals. Let go of harmful misconceptions about aggressive personality types by acknowledging that aggressive people are not victims and do not necessarily need help. You can still be friendly and loving and interact with this type of personality. But the difference will be that they abide by your rules, or that you limit interactions with them.
Additionally, even though you may have a naive view of life and prone to bouts of neurotic denial, become a shrewder judge of character when presented with solid evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the aggressive personality. Be more self-aware, have more confidence, be less emotionally dependent, less over-conscientiousness, and don’t over-intellectualization situations.
Dr. Simon states, “You should reinforce the idea in your mind that the manipulator is merely fighting for something. Then respond solely on the basis of what you legitimately want or need. Don’t react instinctively and defensively to what they’re doing. Take your own independent, assertive stand.”
Dr. Simon provides 14 tips for personal empowerment to help you make that independent, assertive stand:
– Accept no excuses.
– Judge actions, not intentions.
– Be honest with yourself.
– Set personal limits.
– Make direct requests.
– Request direct responses.
– When confronting aggressive behavior, keep the weight of responsibility on the aggressor.
– When you confront, avoid sarcasm, hostility and put-downs.
– Avoid making threats.
– Speak for yourself.
– Stay in the here-and-now.
– Make reasonable agreements.
– Be prepared for consequences.
– Take action quickly.
Narcissists with an aggressive personality hate to lose or even share a win so attempt to arrive at a mutually beneficial compromise. Once you are able to better understand how to respond to an aggressor’s tactics and how best to defend yourself, then everything changes for the better, according to Dr. Simon.
Your Smartphone Can Help
If you are an overly empathetic individual having difficulty dealing with an aggressive person, there is help. Happego (‘Happy-go’) is a mental health and well-being app that can help you set boundaries and practice self-care in a simple, seamless manner. Happego incorporates science-backed stimuli on smartphones, or electronic screens, every time you wake up the device so that your unconscious mind receives subtle signals to help you embrace personal strategies for dealing with aggressive individuals, or accomplish other goals you set for yourself.
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The research study asks participants to complete a simple, three-minute survey each week for four consecutive weeks to qualify for monetary prizes. The research study is designed for Android users and runs through April 2020.