Avoid aggression by 'self-distancing'

July 3, 2012 at 1:53 AM
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COLUMBUS, Ohio, July 3 (UPI) -- A simple strategy, so-called self-distancing, can minimize anger and aggressiveness people feel when they are provoked by others, U.S. researchers suggested.

Lead author Dominik Mischkowski, a graduate student in psychology at Ohio State University, and Brad Bushman, professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University, advise: "When someone makes you angry, try to pretend you're viewing the scene at a distance -- in other words, you are an observer rather than a participant in this stressful situation.

"Then, from that distanced perspective, try to understand your feelings," Mischkowski said in a statement. "The secret is to not get immersed in your own anger and, instead, have a more detached view -- you have to see yourself in this stressful situation as a fly on the wall would see it."

The worst thing to do in an anger-inducing situation is what people normally do -- focus on their hurt and angry feelings to understand them, Bushman said.

"If you focus too much on how you're feeling, it usually backfires," Bushman said. "It keeps the aggressive thoughts and feelings active in your mind, which makes it more likely that you'll act aggressively."

The study was published online ahead of the print edition of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

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