“How To Avoid Assault By Observing Aggressive Body Language” – Negotiation Tip of the Week

“To foretell assaults, observe someone’s body language. All insights into someone’s mind starts there.” -Greg Williams, The Master Negotiator & Body Language Expert (Click to Tweet)

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“How To Avoid Assault By Observing Aggressive Body Language”

One moment, he was standing there, and everything was fine. Then, in the blink of an eye, he was punched in his eye. As he winced in pain, he thought, I didn’t see that coming. His lack of focus on the changing demeanor of his assailant led him to be unprepared. And now, he was under attack.

Such assaults can occur in business settings and your personal life. And while they may not always be physical, the emotional pain caused by such attacks can still be traumatic. But there are ways you can avoid potential assault, be it verbal or physical, by observing body language that foretells aggressive behavior.

Facial Features

Wincing – Imagine for a moment that some form of annoyance happens to you. What’s your reaction? Depending on the stimuli you imagined, you may have swiped it away, winced at it, or made another gesture to ward it away. Wincing is one such gesture that indicates someone’s annoyance. When you see it, understand what it means and what thoughts may be occurring in the mind of the person displaying the gesture. He’s just given you a glimpse into his mind, notice it and heed the signal he’s sending. It could be the moment a situation begins to escalate to aggressiveness.  

Eyes – When someone narrows their eyes and become fixated on you, they’re pinpointing their focus and attention. That means, in their mind, they’re dispersing outside distractions so they can lend their full attention to what’s occurring between you and them. If this happens in a situation that’s begun to become heated, interject an action to defuse it, or prepare for the festering aggression that will follow.


Someone’s hands can be the most reliable indicator that they’re about to become aggressive, which can then lead to an assault. If you observe someone flexing their hand(s), opening and closing it, take note of the speed at which it occurs. The faster the speed, the more aggressive will be the behavior that follows. The moment someone’s hands close into fists can indeed indicate that there may only be seconds before an attack occurs. Before that happens, take steps to escape the environment or prepare to defend yourself. An alternative is to go on the offense. That can take the form of talking the other party down or taking physical action before he initiates his. Either way, the more equipped you are for the inevitable, the better positioned you’ll be to deal with it.   


When two people are confronting one another, and both individuals have their feet directly aligned with the other person, they are in full commitment to each other. That means, if you observe someone pointing their foot away from you after they previously had their feet aligned directly with yours, they’re in the process of disengaging. That doesn’t mean you’re out of harm’s way. They could deliver a sucker punch, physical or verbal, as they depart. So, don’t let your guard down until you’re sure of the act they intend to commit has occurred, and you know you’re safe.


Have you observed when two professional fighters are brought to the center of the ring to hear the rules before the fight confront one another? They cast a no-nonsense demeanor that’s usually accompanied by a death stare to indicate the seriousness that they’re adopting for the battle to come. To a degree, some of the posturing’s are an attempt to psychologically defuse the other fighter’s mental energy, which would cause him to doubt himself and whether he can win against such a worthy opponent. 

Anytime you’re in an environment when you note such actions (i.e., someone, in your face), they’re also sending you a message. If you step back, you’re saying, take my space, and I’ll back down. If you hold your ground by not moving, you’re stating, I’m not backing down from you, nor I’m I afraid. Now, what are you going to do? Again, be prepared for what may occur next. If you’ve observed other signs of aggression, at this point, they may escalate or deescalate. Be ready in either case to take control of the situation.


Contradictions can lead to frustration, which can serve as a vehicle that delivers a crisis in confidence. When people become frustrated, they lose a form of rationality. That means, they can become more mentally unstable, which can lead to aggressive actions that they might not have participated in if they were in a calmer state of mind.

Always be aware of someone’s heightening level of frustration. It can be the bellwether to assault-like behavior to come. By becoming psycho astute, which means paying attention to the changing psychological mood of other people, you’ll enhance your vigilance about the mental mood shift of others before it occurs.

Trigger Words

Words cause reactions in people. And some words will generate more of an emotional charge than others. To that point, be aware of terms or phrases that trigger someone to adopt a negative point of view. Such as the ‘N’ word or alligator bait with some people of color, holy roller, or bible thumper for those of some religious persuasions, and Ayrab or Abbie of people from other ethnicities – all such words or phrases can lead one to adopt an unreceptive demeanor. Then, depending on that person’s temperament, it can lead to more significant hostile actions.

As the world becomes smaller through enhanced communication platforms, you should also be aware of how the same words can possess different meanings to people around the globe. In some cases, those words are the doorway to insults, while in other environments throughout the world, they may solicit a mild reproach or lightheartedness. To avoid a costly pitfall, be aware of the meaning that certain words cast.


An environment can become hostile at a moment’s notice, and aggression can ensue that leads to an assault. It can do so while not sounding an alarm about the pending state of change to come. And, if you don’t heed such signs, you leave yourself open to the whims of chance, and that can lead to and leave you in an unwanted place and position.

But if you’re aware of the body language and verbal cues mentioned and you adopt controlling actions, you’ll be more aware of their pending occurrence. That will give you more time to react and control imminent assaults. To untie that knot, once you sense mental angst turning into a potential attack, initiate action. It can be in the form of taking a more forceful position (beware of escalating the situation if you do), or it can be in the way of adopting a milder demeanor (be aware of being perceived as someone weak by the other entity). The point is, take action to confront it. And everything will be right with the world.

Remember, you’re always negotiating!

Listen to Greg’s podcast at https://anchor.fm/themasternegotiator

After reading this article, what are you thinking? I’d like to know. Reach me at Greg@TheMasterNegotiator.com

To receive Greg’s free “Negotiation Tip of the Week” and the “Sunday Negotiation Insight” click here https://www.themasternegotiator.com/greg-williams/

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