“Use your knowledge of these aggressive body language signs to read the situation and either de-escalate or exit. ”
The Body Language of Aggression
We’ve all seen the social media videos and news reports. From road rage to mask shaming, society is becoming more and more unglued and it’s all being caught on cameras for the world to see.
Knowing how to read the body language of anger can give you the edge in a fight and provide you an opportunity to de-escalate the tense situation before it gets to the point of physical assault.
When the human body is preparing to fight, the nostrils flare out to allow more oxygen in through the nose. Additionally, when someone is taking a deep breath to try and calm themselves down, the nostrils flare as the lungs fill with air.
- Clenched Jaw
Whether it’s anxiety or anger, clenching of the jaw is a sure sign that tensions are rising. People often clench their jaw and grit their teeth without even realizing it as they unconsciously are trying to hold their tongue and choose their words carefully.
- Pursed Lips
Much like a clenched jaw, a person’s lips will tighten around their teeth and purse together in a slim line as they are experiencing rage. Although not a good habit for preventing wrinkles, this coping mechanism is common when a person is angry and attempting to control themselves from an angry outburst.
- Lowered Eye Brows
Lowering of the eyebrows is a very animated facial cue that someone’s anger is about to explode. This change in facial expression is a display of dominance with the intent being to intimidate the victim.
- Glaring and Narrowed Eyes
Much like lowering of the eyebrows, a person will narrow their focus and glare at the source of their anger. In fact, many animals do this when they are about to attack. For example, two dogs or cats about to fight will exhibit many of these same behavior cues when they are in a conflict.
- Dilated Pupils
As tempers rise, blood flow increases to prepare the body for a fight. Dilated pupils are, similarly, the body’s response to getting prepared for a fight. Biologically speaking, the body is adjusting so that it can see as much of its’ surroundings as possible in a violent scenario.
When a person is clenching their fists in an intense exchange, it most certainly means the situations has escalated to the next level. Clenched fists always mean one of two things in an argument. Either the person is trying extremely hard to control their anger or that person is getting ready to hit you!
Using coping mechanisms such as clenching the fists is a very outward expression of uncontrolled emotions inside a person that they are trying to restrain. Unfortunately, this is also the same position taken when someone is about to forfeit self-control and lash out by hitting another.
“Keeping your voice calm, non-threatening and rational can aid in de-escalating an angry person.”
If you’ve ever seen two cats about to fight, you know that vocal changes are one of the biggest warning signs that a fight is about to go down. All mammals do it when they are in the fight or flight mode. Yelling, screaming, pitch and even the speed of how we communicate are all affected by angry emotions.
Body Size Changes
- Increased Animation
Intimidation plays a large role in the dynamics of aggressive behavior and “getting large” is a good way for an angry person to achieve that. Hot-tempered people not only get louder, they also get more animated. Filling the confrontational space (and even crossing into yours) with a pointing finger or flailing arms is an attempt to gain dominance and control of the argument.
- Chest Puff
Body language experts agree that when an angry person puts their shoulders back, raises their chin and puffs out their chest it is an outward expression of their internal desire to deflect any responsibility for the tense situation at hand. Think of it like a force field for the conscience. The angry person is preparing themselves emotionally to deflect and justify the physical attack they are about to unleash.
- Squared-Off Stance
Squaring off is a body language cue that a person is claiming their space and taking their stand. Psychologically speaking, this non-verbal cue is meant to display dominance and intimidate their target. On a physical level, a person will spread their legs to shoulder width and lower their center of gravity for better balance when they are getting ready to become physically aggressive and attack.
Knowing how to recognize these behavior signs of aggression is one thing. Knowing how to de-escalate the aggressive is another. When a person becomes aggressive and begins exhibiting threats of dominance and control, do not match their rage with your own. Step back, give them space and speak in a calm and rational tone. Or just walk away and place yourself in a safer space.
If you are attacked, be prepared to defend yourself with more than just your words. Carrying a stun gun or pepper spray will allow you to defend yourself in a non-life-threatening manner and give you an opportunity to escape to safety.
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