How to handle aggressive behaviour in meetings

meetings 3How to handle aggressive behaviour in meetings is a tough one to crack for many of us.

There is a tool called the ‘Verbal Handshake’ which is particularly useful for solving this problem, specifically when:

  • – the other party seems to ignore or refuses to acknowledge your opinion
  • – there is a deadlock and the other party refuses to cooperate with you

The Verbal Handshake requires you to show that:

  • you have understood their position and indicate  your acknowledgement of them
  • gain acceptance from them to agree and acknowledge your views and ideas

Below are three examples of a Verbal Handshake:

Brian, I appreciate that you don’t want to provide your support to this idea, because you think it’s going to fail and you’re angry that we haven’t considered all the options (pause)

Do you accept that we are running out of time and need to make a decision today?


Linda, I understand that you believe we shouldn’t make any unnecessary changes that might put the deadline at risk (pause)

Do you accept that I wouldn’t be suggesting this amendment if I didn’t think it was critical to the client?


John, I can see that you feel very strongly that you’re entitled to a further discount on price (pause)

Do you appreciate that if I go any further it means I’ll have no margin to cover the cost of servicing you’re account?


Notice that there is no ‘but’ between the acknowledgement and your question – your acknowledgement needs to be sincere and stand on its own.

In response to your questions in the above examples you may only get a nod of the head or a sigh from the other party, but this is enough of an indication to show that they have acknowledged you. Once this has occurred you have created a level playing field from which to continue the discussion and hopefully get to agreement. This is a pivitol moment as future discussion between you is predicated on the basis that both sets of needs have validity. There is no point continuing if this is not so, as you would then be working with an unspoken win:lose, lose-lose agenda.

The Verbal Handshake is successful because it supports the central theme of assertion which is to get to win:win with others. The first time you use it requires you to engage brain, pause and find the courage to do so. I promise that you’ll never look back. In the future with more practise at using the Verbal Handshake you’ll become competent and the envy of others as they watch and learn from you – how to handle aggressive behaviour in meetings.

photo credit: World Bank Photo Collection via photopin cc

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