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When a friend/group member overreacts aggressively

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Hello! This is a funny situation I happened to oversee, that got me thinking, how to deal with power-wise, and what are the power dynamics? It might be somewhat "common", especially when dealing with impulsive persons. And could be useful to be prepared to when dealing with heated argumentations.

Context: group of friends, who are working on a project together at a rented small "negotiation room"-style place.
While meeting and discussing about the project (how to proceed), two buddies get into an argument about it, and it gets heated on both sides. However, the other person really goes overboard, starts yelling (as both were talking over each other), stands up and throws his coffee mug on the wall to his side (not pointed at anyone) while yelling at the other person.

At this point the other (not the mug-thrower) argumenter just calls "I think this meeting is done for now, you cant get that mad, have to learn to deal with some argumentation", and leaves, while the other few friends just stare and wonder, and everyone leaves after.

What would the power dynamics be here? I think the person who left seems higher power, but could leaving in such situation also be interpreted as lower power.

What do you guys think, leaving after this sort of "over-reaction/aggression" correct in his case? Do you think this would be the end of their friendship and the project? If that project would be useful, could it be continued with the two in it?

Really interested to hear and learn!

Lucio Buffalmano and Bel have reacted to this post.
Lucio BuffalmanoBel

Wow, great story.

These are situations that if you handle well make you the de-facto, undisputed leader in a matter of seconds.

You don't exactly need those extremes, of course. If you're socially effective and power-aware, you'll likely become the leader -or reach near the top- anyway.
But in these situations, you can get catapulted there in under 60 seconds.

Curious though as to what others think.

Test yourself: what would you have done?

How would you have handled that?

What were the best courses of action?

How did Social Power's friend handle it?


P.S.: OFF-TOPIC
When I read "friend" in the title I moved this thread in the social section without reading the content.
It might have been better in the power dynamics section, but no biggies.
OFF-TOPIC

SocialPower and Bel have reacted to this post.
SocialPowerBel
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Thanks for the answer! Yeah, it truely was an interesting situation looking from the side (note: I wasn't a part of the group, just happened to walk by and see this, but I know the guys). Great to understand that there is that great possibility of upping your leadership position. Is there an possibility to gain also for the "aggressor"? Or does he automatically lose reacting this way? Presuming it happens in at least somewhat civilized population.

Testing myself:

Speculating courses of action: Depending on the level of "overreact/aggression", I don't think it would be power-wise to escalate it further, as stuff gets thrown around. De-escalation could be best, but if the person is way overboard and impulsive, might be too much of a hassle, and you probably would have to "let him yell" to make his point, therefore giving some control of the situation due to his aggression, which might not be good? If he looks real stupid then that might be good though to let him look stupid.

Power-wise, might be good to just say "dude, this is not the way we communicate here as adults, we'll continue planning next time if you can act correctly".
I think the negotiation/discussion should not be continued there after that, if you have the leverage to stop the whole thing you have going on and it cant be continued without you. However, is throwing stuff on the wall too much and why should this impulsive guy be given a chance to operate in your group? Would there be a point in trying to re-engage and fix that friendship, or would you consider the bridge burned after this sort of behavior?

I think it was nice learning to think about these, I'm not quite sure what would be the best option, really interested to hear others opinions and comments about mine!

"Yes you should leave.  We can discuss it again when you are feeling better."  Of course the challenge is not the words.  It is staying calm in such a dramatic situation.

SocialPower and Bel have reacted to this post.
SocialPowerBel
Quote from Lucio Buffalmano on April 9, 2022, 11:42 am

How would you have handled that?

I would probably have handled it by simply refusing to interact with the thrower anymore. But from reading the thread, I now understand it is a very basic low level way of addressing it.

SocialPower’s friend definitely handled it better, in the direction that Lucio mentions of taking a leadership position.

Maybe going meta before leaving would be even better, and could possibly avoid even having to leave:

“Are you ok? You understand that threatening people by destroying objects is unacceptable, no matter the heat of the moment. You should leave for now and calm yourself.”

Then if he doesn’t leave and/or is not ostracized, one could solicit the group to agree on disbanding the meeting.

If they don’t, one could then follow SocialPower’s friend approach and simply leave.

How did Social Power's friend handle it?

I think he handled it quite well, considering that most friends also left soon after and this seems to entail a de facto approval of his position.

But if I have to think of something that can be made better, what comes to mind is that he did not try to see if there was a better solution for the group: eg one that involved ostracizing the thrower, instead of disbanding the meeting.

A personal consideration:

By the way, from this thread I am starting to understand that it is impossible to be fully trusted (eg in a work situation) by clients for important and bigger work, unless one is willing and able to deal with situations like this.

In other words, the mere fact that one is not willing (or rather I was not willing and able) to take leadership and address these situations is going to limit one’s growth (was limiting mine). There is no other option.

You either show you are able to deal effectively with these threats, or people won’t trust you with their big problems, especially if your career is based on knowing how to deal with conflicts.

SocialPower has reacted to this post.
SocialPower

In  situation mentioned by Socialpower the mug thrower definitely looks out of control and lower power than the other friend.

How did Socialpower's friend handle it?

If you consider the interaction between the mug thrower and Socialpower's friend, the latter did it well in the sense that he gained power with his reply over the former with his reply as indicated below.

I think this meeting is done for now, you cant get that mad, have to learn to deal with some argumentation.

As far as group dynamics is concerned he didn't handle it well and this whole statement along with him leaving is one-upping the whole group and assuming the authority by himself ("this meeting is done for now" and leaving) .

If I was in the group situation I would have pointed out that it was done for both of them because both of the lost cool as in below.

(to Socialpower's friend and mug-thrower) it is done for both you because both of you lost your cool. Now if you want to stay you will have avoid such arguments again.

(To the group) Sorry everyone for this disturbance, if you guys are cool with it we can continue this meeting

Socialpower's friend could have handled it better without one-upping the group as below.

Things got heated over and I suppose it happens when one's opinion is close to one's heart. Sorry for all that, now if you guys are cool with it we can continue this meeting.

SocialPower has reacted to this post.
SocialPower

Thanks for the great answers everyone! Learned a ton.

Another thing that got me thinking of how to deal with this sort of stuff: Would you guys deal with this sort of mug-thrower impulsive person in your life as a friend?
Unless it's really important and no way around it, I probably wouldn't. Would be interesting to hear other perspectives.

 

Bel has reacted to this post.
Bel

Hello SocialPower,

I think your friend who left handled it well. When emotions are this high that’s the only course of action.

He removed himself from the conflict ending the conflict. That was the mature thing to do. It was out of power that he left not out of fear or weakness. So no loss of power here. What he did was courageous not out of cowardice.

Actually he won in my eyes. It was eagle-like .

Regarding your other question, I would take some time to talk with the violent friend. I would calmly say how I feel about his behavior. For me this kind of individual does not belong to my close circle of friend if he behaves like this. It’s a red flag. I would keep him at arm’s length.

Of course it all depends how he will be behaving during the talk. If he sincerely apologizes and promises to never do it again, it’s a different story.

Cheers!

SocialPower and Bel have reacted to this post.
SocialPowerBel

I haven't read all the answers yet, but here are my thoughts:

He did the first part GREAT.

But he totally dropped the ball right in front of the finish line.

In the most heated moment of the "mug throwing", he avoided the two most common pitfalls:

  1. Too nice guy pitfall: getting scared, submitting, and/or conceding (BTW: unless you have no other option never concede after a domination or threat as that's equivalent to submissive capitulation)
  2.  Too aggressive guy pitfall: escalating, getting angry himself, standing up, yelling, or getting violent

Instead, he did exactly what he had to do, with the right mindset and right approach.

HOWEVER...

Issue 1: stick to the goal, don't let an asshole sidetrack the meeting, goal, or group

This is really huge.

And the difference between a great team member, and a great leader.

Social Power's friend had a great team-member-level answer -which in most groups and situations is more than enough to make you the leader, anyway-.

He was an eagle team member.
But not an eagle leader.

What was the issue from a leader point of view?

It's that he let the hot-head sidetrack the meeting.
And that means that the whole group paid the price of the hot-head idiocy.

Think about it:

They all met to do something, and they all left without doing that something because of Mr. mug-thrower.

Does that sound like an effective team?
Nope.

Does that sound like a team with strong and effective leadership?
Nope.

As the leader, you should:

  1. Keep your eyes on the goal: reach a decision, do something, or at least discuss what was supposed to be discussed,d and end the meeting when it was supposed ot end
  2. Stay the course, against any headwind: you're the captain of the ship, it's your duty to get that ship to the finish line

Of course, anything can happen along that trail and not reaching the goal is a possibility.

Fine, that's life.

But at least you should strive to get to that end goal.

And the real worst that you can allow to happen is for a hothead or asshole to sidetrack the team without you doing anything.
It's the leader's main job to keep the team focused, healthy and, ideally, happy and close. And that includes handling -and removing any time it's possible- the bad apples.

There is an under-red and under-appreciated article, as well even better PU lesson:

And he failed the "remove the bad apples" law.

What happens now that the bad apple is still there, still with a reasonably high status?

The next time they meet it'll be a leaderless group meeting and hoping that somehow they'll manage things, hoping the hot-head can manage to keep it cool.

The whole team is now hostage to the hothead.

All because the hot head was not disempowered.

What he had to do

He had to stay the initial (great) course he had set until it reached this point:

  • Either hothead behaves properly, or he can't be part of this team or, eat least, not as a high-status member of the team. He can still get his points for the project and tag along, but he won't have much of a say

Isolate the hot head and re-state that this group meets to do XYZ, while discussing in a civil manner, and that anything non-civil is not accepted.
The whole team would have happily rallied behind that.

This is where he dropped the ball:

Issue 2: exiting before the job was accomplished (premature exit)

We might even give this phenomenon a name:

  • Premature exit: mimicking "premature ejaculation". To do everything right, but then to fail to capitalize and collect all the points you could have collected

While he did the first part great, he stopped short of going from team-member to leader.

He failed to capitalize on his great mindset, frame, and even his great initial response.

How did he fail?

He exited!

You can replay this same scenario in a number of different situations, and they'd all have the same dynamics.

For example, imagine the first time your girlfriend yells at you, and she throws a dish at the wall.
And you tell her "it's not cool to yell"... And then you exit?

Is that the time to exit?

NO!

That's a crucial moment in your relationship, it might be the only moment you must make sure you stay.

It's your duty to make sure your girlfriend is "normal" and relationship-material.
It's not the moment to exit, it's the moment to stay, and either go detective (highly recommended in initial relationships), or hold your frame.

If violence was a risk, at least push it before it gets there

Walking away was only a possibility in one case:

if there was a real danger of violence and/or if he was getting really scared.

In that case, it was a great strategic option as he got many points under his belt, while avoiding the risks.

BUT... It most likely this wasn't the case.

And even if it was, it still makes sense to soldier on sometimes (PU says it most often makes sense to hold ground on perceived threats of violence in "safe" environments, and uni is a safe environment).
O
r at least push until the other guy gets really threatening. Then, an exit is a big win because you basically surfaced the guy is not good to stay in the team. And everyone will agree to exclude him next time, and you'll re-enter as the leader.

So even if it was a real case of physical danger, he still exited too early.

By walking away he left the group leaderless, while he should have become the leader -and not even out of personal ambitions here, but simply because the options were "leaderless, poor performing group, or you step up to the plate-.

Leadership needs power-awareness

All in all, a great example of how leadership needs power awareness and good social strategies.

Most of all, how leaders need to be more strategic and power-aware than the assholes in the team.

As we say here, to be good, you gotta be bad.

SocialPower, John Freeman and 3 other users have reacted to this post.
SocialPowerJohn FreemanFabianMats GBel
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Damn, that was a long one :).

Let me know if it makes sense and/or if you think this thread is link-worthy.

Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?
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