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What is Verbal Aggression?

Verbal aggression, a form of verbal abuse, is any type of destructive, hurtful, or demeaning communication directed towards an individual. It can include criticism, insults, name calling, threats, and racial epithets. While research on verbal aggressiveness has primarily focused on its social causes, there is growing evidence that it may have biological roots, including genetics and innate personality traits. A recent study by researchers at the University of Buffalo (UB) found that a person’s 2D:4D digital ratio can predict whether they tend to be verbally aggressive.

According to communication scholars, people who are verbally aggressive have a goal of controlling and manipulating others through the use of language. This communication often involves attacking the self-concept of the target to inflict psychological pain. Verbal aggressiveness is often a hidden facet of communication, with the target having no idea that their messages are potentially damaging.

Verbally aggressive messages are often short and emotionally tinged with anger, fear, or hostility. The underlying message of the verbal attack is that the target is bad or undeserving. A common example is “you’re a terrible friend.” In addition to this anger-driven style, other types of aggressive verbal messages are used to inflict cognitive damage and cause the target to doubt their own beliefs and values.

The personality traits that are related to verbal aggressiveness are extraversion, neuroticism, and psychoticism. Verbal aggression is also linked to a person’s tendency to argue, though argumentativeness appears to be independent of both neuroticism and psychoticism. It is important to understand the nature of verbal aggression because it can be difficult for victims to handle.

Using verbal management techniques can help people control their own aggression and prevent it from affecting those around them. One of the best ways to do this is by focusing on lowering aggression levels before trying to get a person to comply with your requests. If you are dealing with a very angry or hostile person, it is best to temporarily stall or delay their aggression by asking them to think about what they have said before reacting.

This can buy you time to defuse the situation or to enable backup, assistance or law enforcement to arrive. During this period, you can also talk to the person about how their behavior is affecting others.

Another way to reduce the level of aggression is to empathize with the person and try to put themselves in their shoes. For example, if someone is yelling at you because they are unhappy about something that happened to them or to their family, instead of getting angry and arguing back, you can try saying, “I can see why that would really upset you.” This puts more of a human and personal face on the problem and might disarm their aggression by making it appear that you are actually on their side. It will also help them realize that they are not alone in the situation. This might also help diffuse the situation and prevent it from escalating into a physical confrontation.

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