Can you think of a "hostile" adult or child in
your life? Would people describe you as hostile
at times? How would you answer a 10-year-old
asking "What is hostility?" How about "What's
the difference between hostility, aggression,
abuse, dislike, and combativeness?"
Let's say that
hostility is (a) an attitude of dislike
and disrespect that (b) manifests in potentially
harmful, aggressive verbal and/or physical
behavior. People or behavior merits the
label hostile if they imply or overtly threaten
significant harm to someone else.
implies passive scorn, rejection, and
disapproval. Hostility is perceived
threatening (active) local or chronic behavior.
The term often implies attack, hurt,
destroy, harm, wound, injure, protection, and
Attitudes and behaviors can fall somewhere on a
line like this...
Dislike / rejection
Hostility can be unprovoked, or may be a
protective defense against perceived pain or
threat ("You call me that again and I'll knock
your teeth down your throat!")
Recall how you reacted the last time someone was
hostile to you. Submissively? Defensively? Confrontively?
Angrily? Aggressively? Numb out
(paralysis)? Escape? Pretend? Argue? Analyze?
Reason? Plead? Whine? Cower? Divert? Call for
help? Several of these? Something else? What did
you need from the other person? Did you get it?
Did you respect yourself after responding?
Understanding what causes personal hostility
promotes effective responses. What's your
opinion on the causes? Mine is - hostility,
aggression, and belligerence are all caused by
the person not knowing their
personality subselves - like a Bully, a Rager, a
Selfish one, an Entitled one, a Controller, a
Magician, and/or a Warrior/ Amazon. Any of these
may have sprung to the rescue of a
who feels pain and/or imminent danger.
When this is true,
reasoning, arguing, or
placating ("C'mon, just calm down!") will seldom
cause these protective subselves to relax.
Arguing, threats, or blaming will probably
escalate them. Consider these...
If there is an overly hostile adult or child in
your life, imagine responding to them like
yourself on these basic
Check to see that your true Self is
you, and that you
have a genuine mutual respect attitude about
the hostile person. If not, assume a false
self rules you. See
difference between hostility and aggression.
If you decide the other person is being more
aggressive than hostile, see
Get clear on (a)
what emotions you feel from their hostility,
and (b) specifically what you need from
responding the other person - to vent, to
inform, to learn, to assert your boundaries
or cause other action, and/or to avoid
review these mutual personal
are the basis of healthy boundaries and
it's "above the ears," use
to bring it down. Recall that
listening is not agreeing!
Estimate whether the person is locally
by a false self. If you think so, see
Ask if the
s/he's willing to hear some useful
not, use more empathic listening and/or
follow your own judgment. If you get "OK,"
select from responses like these with steady
To vent or inform: "(Name),
when you (describe their specific
behavior calmly and objectively), I feel
(name your specific emotions)."
Use steady eye contact, speak calmly.
and (option) use empathic listening with any
response. Avoid loaded terms like "When
you're so hostile, I..."
"(Name), what do you need from me
right now?" Then listen and
To assert your boundaries:
"(Name), when you (describe their
specific voice tone, body language,
and/or trigger words),...
(name your specific emotions);...
need you too (describe your
specific needs, like "respect my
opinions and needs".
you're not willing to do that, I'm
going to (name a specific action
that you can enforce, like "hang up /
walk away / end this conversation / .)"
expect the person to "resist" you
- e.g. bluster, verbally attack or threaten,
challenge, name-call, argue, swear, deny,
blame you, etc Use calm, respectful empathic
listening until their E-level falls "below
their ears," and calmly repeat your
"(Name) you seem to have a problem with
me. Are you willing to problem-solve now?"
If you get
"No," use empathic listening and the "to
learn" option above.
If you get
"OK," follow steps like
calmly and respectfully.
you need something else,
improvise, using the theme of these
now. Can you imagine confidently using responses
like these with overly-hostile adults or kids?
If not, why? Most barriers stem from false-self
dominance + lack of experience. Both can be
reduced! The benefits of learning to respond
like this are priceless - serenity, security,
and possibly enhancing your self-esteem and your
This is one of a series of brief Web articles suggesting
effective ways to respond to common irritating social
behaviors. This article offers (a) a definition of
hostility; (b) possible causes of
hostility, and (c) several ways to
respond effectively to a hostile adult or child.. The ways are
your true Self
clarity on your
feelings, needs, and mutual
fluency in the
relationship skills of awareness, assertion,
and empathic listening.
more perspective, see these options for