Dealing with Aggressive Behaviours

Aggressive behaviours are those that are hostile and violate other people’s rights. Learn about reactive and proactive aggressive behaviours, the mental disorders associated with aggressive behaviour, and more in this lesson.

What is Aggressive Behaviour?

Aggressive behaviours are a type of behaviour where people attempt to stand up for themselves or exert power over others in ways that are hostile and violate the rights of others. People who are on the receiving end of aggressive behaviour, usually feel dominated, embarrassed, guilty, or shamed as a result of a situation. Aggressive behaviours differ from passive aggressive behaviours, which seek to disguise feelings of anger in that they:

  • Are usually intentional and meant to harm someone, either psychologically or physically, or destroy someone’s belongings
  • Can be directed toward another person or the self, such as a teenager who likes to injure herself by cutting her wrists
  • Are a major violation of the norms or rules of a particular society
  • Can cause major impairments to academic, social, or workplace life

Types of Aggressive Behaviour

Aggressive behaviours can be reactive or proactive. Reactive aggressive behaviours are unplanned and impulsive, and are usually a response to feelings of anger, fear, or a need to retaliate against someone. When Mary pushes Deirdre she’s demonstrating reactive behaviour. By comparison, proactive aggressive behaviours are calculated and planned actions that have some motive other than harming someone.

Bullying is a form of proactive aggressive behaviour. For instance, suppose that Tom is a seventh grade boy who bullies the other children in his class. Tom’s bullying may be motivated by his need to feel superior to his classmates. Furthermore, Tom’s bullying behaviours are preplanned. He knows exactly who he is going to bully and when.

Aggressive behaviours in the workplace

Examples of aggressive behaviour include:

  • Physical violence, such as biting, hitting, and kicking
  • Verbal hostility, like sending threatening messages through emails, phone calls, or social media, or making threats against someone’s life, shouting, and swearing
  • Non-verbal intimidation, such as making threatening gestures, sending unwanted gifts, and sexual harassment
  • Destruction of property, like breaking someone’s computer, destroying someone’s cell phone, or other forms of vandalism.

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