5 Tips for Dealing with Frustration Aggression  

CPI Global Professional Instructor Mien Bhagwandin gives us her top 5 tips on how to deal with frustration aggression.

15 March 2024
Mother and son arguing

What is frustration aggression and where does it come from?

Frustration aggression is one of the most common forms of aggression. It results from an accumulation of irritations and negative experiences which eventually causes emotions to erupt.

Frustration aggression is therefore not directed at you: it is anger that someone directs at themselves. You just have the misfortune of being the one who gets all the built-up frustration thrown at you.

Frustration aggression is unpredictable and that is why it is important to know how to deal with it, because then you will be in a much stronger position to manage it.

5 things to do to de-escalate the situation

1. Stay Calm

If you find yourself in an aggressive situation, it is extremely important that you yourself remain calm both verbally and physically.

Make sure you do not go along with their anger, as this will only escalate the situation further. It helps to keep in mind that this aggression is not directed at you.

If you remain calm, it is easier for the other person to regulate their own emotions, even if this is subconsciously.

Behaviour influences behaviour circle chart graphic.

The Integrated Experience is defined as the way behaviour impacts behaviour—how your behavioural choices can impact others. This model is at the root of all of CPI training and it emphasises that to positively inform this Integrated Experience, you must understand that the only behaviour you can control is your own.

Overall, don’t get caught up in the other person’s frustration as behaviour influences behaviour.

2. Be cooperative

  • With frustration aggression, it is important not to get defensive. After all the aggression is not necessarily directed at you, so don't take it personally.
  • Try to be flexible where possible and don't act defensively.
  • Cooperation is key to calming your service user down and ensuring you come to a solution that is satisfactory for both parties.

3. Let the other person speak and vent

Every person wants to be heard, especially when it comes to things we care about.

In frustration aggression one simply, (you guessed it) needs to vent their frustration.

So, you want to think about how you can allow venting in a safe manner. For example: you may want to offer a different location for the conversation to continue or think about keeping the audience to a minimum.

4. Active listening and summarising

If someone feels they are not being listened to this can be a trigger for frustration aggression. Therefore, it is helpful to actively listen to what your service user has to say and summarise it briefly.  

When summarising, you address both the content (what happened) and the emotion (how it made the other person feel)

This way you give the other person space to tell their story and it shows that you want to understand the situation from their perspective. This way they feel heard and understood, which will help them to regain a sense of calm.

5. Be non-judgemental

Everyone is unique in the way they respond to situations. You as staff also have your own experiences, and this will influence how you respond. You might meet someone who is frustrated by something that you, as staff, may find quite trivial and couldn’t cause you to be frustrated.

It is not helpful to show this, it could escalate the situation. Being non-judgmental is key, it will help the person to feel acknowledged and heard.

As staff we want to be professional in our responses, so we need to be mindful of what we are communicating through our verbal and non-verbal communication and ensure we are conveying that we are listening and understanding.

These are the 5 things that have helped me to engage with someone who is frustrated and guide them back into a calmer state.



A woman looking at another woman who is consoling her.

Verbal Intervention

This programme focuses on prevention using verbal de-escalation skills.

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