“This Is How To Combat Aggression Through Body Language” – Negotiation Insight

“Aggression can be the expression displayed when reasoning fails to communicate.” -Greg Williams, The Master Negotiator & Body Language Expert (Click to Tweet)

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“This Is How To Combat Aggression Through Body Language”

People don’t realize; they’re always negotiating.

“… Up until that point, the first negotiator thought everything was fine. Then, he noticed his counterpart’s lips pursed, followed by a few moments of silence before the second negotiator’s voice escalated. And that was followed by negotiator number two’s furrowed brow, jutting jaw, and clenching fists, first the left, and then his right one. The second negotiator was displaying aggression and preparing for mental combat, if not an outright physical confrontation. Negotiator number one asked, “are you getting upset?” To which the second negotiator said, “yes, I am because you’re not fair!” The first negotiator said, “why do you think I’m not fair?” From there, the two negotiators discussed their perception of what ‘fair’ meant. In so doing, they averted what might have become an ugly situation.”

When was the last time you were in a situation that became troublesome, and you weren’t sure when it got on that path? When such occurred, most likely, you failed to recognize the body language gestures early, indicating that trouble lay ahead. And that was the real cause of the situation’s escalation. That won’t be the case in the future if you observe a few of the following warning signals that foretell possible aggression – aggression signs, which might lead to combat.

Body Language Signs of Aggression

1. Pursed Lips

When someone displays pursed lips, lips pressed together, they’re demonstrating restraint – holding back their words. The pressing of one’s lips alone does not have to indicate anger or pending aggression. But it may serve as the first warning signal that confrontation may be close, which is why you should take note of that action when you witness it. 

2. Escalating Voice

A person will tend to raise their voice when they perceive themselves as being ignored. Their heightening tone may stem from their perception of being over talked or being demeaned. Thus, when someone does begin to raise their voice, observe the occurrence. That person is stating through his gesture that he wants you to listen to him – he wants his voice heard. A further delay of that recognition, and possible lack of acquiescence, can heighten tensions within that person, which may quicken the pace upon which aggression arrives, leading him to become combative.  

3. Furrowed Brow

Furrowed eyebrows appear as horizontal lines jetting across the middle of the forehead. When someone displays that gesture, at minimum, they’re not pleased with the discussion or situation in which they find themselves. At worst, the concern extends, and their displeasure turns into aggression. Before a problem reaches a point of combat, control it by altering the conversation’s course.  

4. Jutting Jaw

When someone extends their chin in your direction, they’re indicating that they’re not fearful of you at that moment. Combine that action with them gritting their teeth, and it becomes one of pending aggression. And it can occur at a moment’s notice, which is why you must become tuned to this gesture. 

5. Clinching Fist(s)

When someone mentally prepares for combat, they may begin to flex their hand, open and close it, and have that action become a fist. When it becomes a fist, that’s a more vital sign of imminent danger. And that pending danger is heightened more when it’s combined with any of the activities mentioned prior. So, pay special attention when you witness this act.

Disarming Aggressive Body Language

Before you can disarm an increasing situation that may stem from aggression, you must recognize the initiation’s leading action. Because if you miss the most prominent gesture or give more significance to one that has less impact, you may find yourself in an altercation before you have an opportunity to disarm it. Thus, when seeking to confront, control, and even comfort those that display bruised emotions, you must be able to identify the pressure points from which the feelings stem. Only then will you be capable of combating situations that arise from aggression before it occurs. To that end, be on alert for the previous five gestures mentioned while you seek to:

1. Acknowledge your perception of the signs of possible aggression when you first perceive them. Then, ask the other person if they’re experiencing anguish. Give that person a chance to respond and don’t interrupt him. Remember, he wants you to hear what he has to say. Let him speak.

2. Display a calm demeanor. That demeanor can mentally signal that you’re peaceful, and it will subliminally suggest to the other party that they should follow your lead. If you begin to rant and rave, that will heighten the situation, which will make it more difficult to control.

3. Resist your feeling to retaliate by making statements such as, “well, you’re doing the same thing too.” Making such statements will only tend to inflame a situation that’s already tense and moving toward becoming more volatile.

4. Pursue ways to back out of an escalating situation that’s too far out of control. Wait for calmer times when cooler heads may prevail.


I’ve mentioned several facial expressions that signal pending aggression, lip pursing, brow furrowing, escalating voice, jaw jutting, and clenched fists. While one of those gestures may not validate pending hostilities, any of those signals combined increases the probability of pending aggression. That’s why before a situation reaches that point, you might consider de-escalating the problem that’s brought you to that point.

Understanding body language signals can help you in negotiations and many environments in which you find yourself. Being able to read body language accurately increases your advantage in those situations. If you want to control and avoid problems in which people display aggression and combat one another, take heed, and use the presented information. It will change your outlook on life and the way you interact with others for the better. And everything will be right with the world.  

Remember, you’re always negotiating!

Listen to Greg’s podcast at https://c-suitenetwork.com/radio/shows/greg-williams-the-master-negotiator-and-body-language-expert-podcast/

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 “Negotiation Insight,” click here https://themasternegotiator.com/greg-williams/

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