Signs of aggressive or hostile behavior

Updated April 17, 2017

Aggression and hostility come in three main forms: Verbal, passive and physical. Dealing with an individual who displays signs of these behaviours can be frustrating and stressful. Knowing how to recognise the signs of aggression can help determine how to respond to aggression and hostility.


Verbal aggression and hostility can manifest in several forms. An individual may be verbally abusive, hurling insults at people, berating others or belittling people for minor mistakes. For example, a colleague may call a co-worker a "moron" for incorrectly assembling a file. Verbal insults can escalate to further aggression and hostility and should not have to be tolerated as harmless.


Passive signs of aggression or hostility are actions an individual takes that aren't overtly aggressive but still send signals of hostility to others. This can be as simple as sitting with arms crossed or speaking badly about someone behind their back. It also includes spreading gossip or outright ignoring someone who is trying to talk to you.


Physical aggression and hostility are the most extreme signs and should be stopped immediately. Physical aggression can be a flick on the wrist or throwing a ball at someone. Its extreme can include hand-to-hand fighting. Physical injury is not the only type of physical aggression or hostility. Vandalism or theft can also be grouped in this category.

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