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From Fury to Focus: The STOP Technique for Managing Aggression

Last year, I observed a horrific situation. I was in line to pay for my groceries when I heard screaming from another cash register. A customer was aggressively gesticulating and yelling at the cashier, who looked terrified. It was painful to watch.

But what happened after shocked me even harder. Outside, I saw the same customer standing by her car, crying and saying - what have I done, what got into me!? Apparently, she wasn’t a heartless villain but an upset and confused human being.

Don’t get me wrong. Aggressive behaviour has no place, not at home and not at work. I just want us to remember that nobody is immune to losing it under certain circumstances.

Sudden, not typical aggression is a protective behaviour we exhibit when signs of perceived danger appear and we are too exhausted to react logically.

Leaders need to be aware that:

🔸 Often, it’s a protection mechanism, not a desire to hurt someone.

🔸 Anyone, even the most composed people, can be pushed to the limits.

🔸 Screaming back never works.

🔸 It affects everybody around.

But leaders are humans, too, and it can be challenging to stay calm when voices are raised and faces are distorted by anger.

I use the STOP technique. It helped me many times, and I wanted to share it with everybody.

S – Step back. Acknowledge to others that emotions are running too high to control and that you need a few moments for yourself.

T – Think. After taking a few breaths, think about the most important thing you want to accomplish right now: to win the argument, show who is the boss, or solve the burning problem.

O – Organize your thoughts. Before you say anything to anyone, try to write things down or at least say it once or twice in your head and see if you can use neutral language.

P – Proceed with the action if you feel calm enough to continue.

It probably won’t work every time, but like with any other skill, you will never know unless you try.


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