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  • Writer's pictureL. Darryl Armstrong

Are You Responsible for Building Trust?

As a manager or employee do you understand your responsibilities when it comes to reducing aggression? Or do you contribute to it?

Those of us who have been managers and employees over the past several decades have witnessed probably every conceivable reaction there is from the public.

I know that during my Federal service and corporate career there were public meetings where I saw unempathetic and out- of-touch presenters who induced either lethargy or plain outrage because they stood up, read their scripts and then fumbled their way to the door. They never acknowledged nor recognized their contributions  to the public’s disinterest or outrage.

While serving as an “aide-de-camp” to a corporate CEO, I saw members of the public become so incensed at public meetings that I had no alternative but to ensure the safety of my charges by exiting them through the back door of the meeting facility.

So, is there a way that ahead of or during the meeting or the event that we can “predict” when someone may become physically violent or disruptive?

According to Dr. John Byrnes the answer is yes!

Byrnes, a violence prevention expert and founder of the Center for Aggression Management (, says there “are phases” that a person goes through before he or she reaches the point of acting out in an aggressive manner.

Although most people typically think or believe that aggression is simply an “explosion” of emotions, Byrnes says that his research shows that there are specific phases a person moves through that when understood allows us to diffuse aggression and the possibility of violence.

The Early Warning Signs

Byrnes says that a person is usually “triggered” by something in his or her environment. These triggers could be another person, an event, a situation or even an object.

As the person’s anxiety level begins to rise, their ability to think clearly and act rationally begins to lessen. Brynes says this is why it is critical to take notice at this stage of the process early on. Otherwise, the outcome can be an emotional explosion and possibly result in physical violence.

Most all people across cultures, creeds, sexes and age groups exhibit early warning signs, which serve as signals to you as an observer that they are feeling very anxious about something.

These warning signs include:

Sweating profusely



Swearing (especially for those who don’t normally use profanity)

Fidgeting excessively

As the aggression begins to evolve the person will also begin to lose verbal control — their words will become garbled or their sentences mixed up and unintelligible.

There are other clues as well. Look for such signs as:

Twitching lips

Shallow breathing

Veins standing up on their necks

Facial color changes (‘red’ with anger or ‘white’ with rage)

Even barring of teeth!

When the person moves beyond these signs, they are most likely to become violent and lash out physically.

Early Recognition Can Prevent Violence

“It is important to recognize these early warning signs,” says Byrnes, who for the past 15-years has extensively researched aggression management. “When you recognize these early warning signs then you can take action where you can most likely be successful in getting the other person to talk about what’s making him anxious. If you are able to keep someone talking you may be able to keep that person from becoming violent.”

Byrnes notes that everyone operates at different levels of communications, and cautions that often times you must be exceedingly patient when dealing with people that are moving toward aggression and don’t speak as clearly as you do, or who aren’t skilled at saying what it is that is bothering them.”

However, if a person quickly escalates from these early warning signs to visible anger, assess your own situation as well and determine whether you need to ask someone to step in and help or exit the situation. – LDA

Sources: Center for Aggression Management and Safety Check. Dr. L. Darryl Armstrong is a certified aggression management trainer (

Dr. Darryl

L. Darryl Armstrong

ARMSTRONG and Associates

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