Handling Difficult People – Aggressive, Direct and Dominating

Do you try to Counterattack Conflict with Bursts of Anger?

Or Perhaps simply wanting to shut down wishing you were invisible?

Losing Confidence trying to Defend yourself?

Waking up everyday dreading going to work?

Welcome to my series of articles and videos for Handling Difficult People. This information is based on the book ‘Dealing with Difficult People you Can’t Stand” by Dr. Rick Brinkman and Dr. Rick Kirshner.

There are 10 difficult people personality types in this series. These are the Tank, The Sniper, The Know it all, The Think I know it all, The Yes person, The Nothing person, The Grenade, the No Person, The Maybe Person and the Whinner.

In this article I will be taking you through a 5-step plan to use when you are under attack by the Tank.

“I see so many people struggling with Conflict in the workplace today”. Having to deal with different personality types is a skill that is learnt through experience.  I know how it feels, I used to suffer the same thing when I first left school and started by first job as a data entry operator.

I had absolutely, no clue in working with people. You see conflict, relationships and handling finances; simply were not taught as I progressed through the years of schooling, preparing me for the real world. I was busy at school learning how to count to 10 in German and how to sew and cook.   What great waste of time, don’t you think?

Meeting the Tank

I remember meeting Joe who was a fellow working colleague in the data entry department.  Now I had heard a few stories from others about Joe, and he was a person that you knew not ‘to mess with’.  On my second day, I found myself staring down a loaded cannon, right in my face.  Yes, Joe had found me, and his sights were aimed, Ready, Steady, Fire.

Joe informed, in no uncertain terms, that I was not to speak to the office manager. We had a co-working small office; and the manager oversaw the building. Eyes bulging and voice raised, I was put into my place. How dare you speak to the office manager, that is my role, and all communication will come through me, Joe screamed. If you can’t follow instructions, then maybe this job is not for you, after all there are plenty of others who would jump at this job.

I could feel the eyes of the other co-workers focused on this humiliating screen. Joe really wanted to ensure I knew my place straight away.  I was certainly in shock and at that moment was completely lost for words. Then Joe backed away and it was over within a few seconds.

But here’s what I learnt about overcoming this type of behavior, and I wanted to share my thoughts with you. Having over 30 years of work experience, with 18 years working in my own business as a trainer and coach, my confidence and skills have certainly developed since my first job.

Signs of the Tank

Joe had the classic symptoms of the Tank personality. His intense attack was simply motivated about being in control and having the status of importance. It was not personally at me; however, it certainly was an intense experience.  I just happened to be in line of fire.

When you are under fire with the tank, then you are targeted as part of the problem.  The aggressive behavior is eliminating the obstacle that you are representing. In Joe’s case it was control and status. 

When the workplace becomes a battlefield, and you hear the tank, then you know that it can turn ugly.  The Tank is completely focused on running over you, and impatiently pushes their point of view. There are direct, aggressive, forceful, impatient and simply just wanted to steam roll over others that are in their path.

You have three Options in how you to respond to the Tank

Option 1:

Counter Attack

You may be tempted to counterattack. Now the battle has commenced.  If you are an assertive person be careful not to turn into a tank yourself. Matching blow with blow, taking no prisoners.  You may win the battle, but you may lose the war. The Tank will rally the troops around them which will escalate into a divided team and culture.

Option 2

Defend Yourself

You may try to defend and explain or justify your position. Remember the tank is not interested in what you have to say. If anything, your defensive behavior will just add fuel to the fire, the Tank is not even listening to you, just reacting. I am sure you have listened to people making excuses before, knowing how infuriating this can be.

Option 3

Hide 'Please make me invisible"

You could completely shut down, say nothing, freeze in the middle of the battle, becoming a nothing person.  You withdraw internally and start to think about revenge or start to lose your confidence. Becoming smaller every second, doomed to be a casualty and left laying on the battlefield.  Fear fuels the tank as after all what they have said is correct, otherwise why would you behave like this. You hide away licking your wounds, saying to yourself ‘please make me invisible’, I just need to protect myself from the next tank blast.

Do not Become a Tank yourself and try to match Tank with Tank Characteristics

This will create outright War!!!!!!!

Tanks Respect People who are Assertive

You Decide that its time to Become more Assertive  - Here is  your 5 Step Action Plan

“You Decide to Step Over the Line

Commitment Leads to Action

Action Leads to Getting Different Results”

Lee Stemm

If you Commit - Do not Withdraw

Any attempt to attack or withdraw from the tank will not work for you. Instead, you must restrain these tendencies, and stand your ground. Having this strength of character to stand your ground, will influence the Tank’s perspective of you. Through Diversity your character is tested to its limits, and this will influence the Tank’s future behavior towards you.

Having a plan and preparation is a crucial part of success. The boy scout motto is “Be prepared”, the business motto is “Fail to Plan, then Plan to Fail”. The Action Plan below will give you some direction of  how to you handle the Tank, and command respect, by taking action.

5 Step Action Plan:


Hold your Ground?

Stay where you are, not trying to counterattack or run away from the situation. If you are standing, sitting or trying to make up your mind, do not change your position.  Don’t go on the offensive or defensive.  

Watch your non-verbal language along with your verbal. Look directly into the eyes of the Tank and breathe slowly. Bring your mind down to your center (located just below your belly button) and breath deeply into this point. Intentional breathing is a way of maintaining self-control.

Wait until the Tank has completely offloaded. Now it is time for you to speak by questioning. Explore the following dialogue.

Just the Tank stops blasting you then respond by:

Is that Everything?”

The Tank may reload, and the blast may begin again. Wait and focus on your breathing, respond by:

Anything Else?

The Tank may reload, however eventually they will run out of ammunition. Your job is simply to hold your ground, remember the breathing.

The Tank now is waiting for the normal response from you. This time you do it differently:

You say calmly, to the tank, Well I am going back to work now, and simply move away not getting caught up in the natural response of retaliation


The nonverbal message that you are sending is that I am focused on my job, and your efforts of intimidation has not worked.

 Actions can speak louder than words. Holding your ground can be enough to gain your respect from the Tank, however in case it doesn’t then move to the next step.


Interrupt the Attack

This is known as the broken record effect. You say their name repeatedly until you gain their full attention. Ensure that you say their name in a calm assertive voice. Five or six repetitions should be enough to gain the attention of your Tank. 

The Tank may try to override your voice by speaking louder. Nether less just keep on saying their name over until they stop.

There is no need to try and overpower the Tank. People who can show assertiveness can gain the respect from the Tank.  Just remain assertive, ensuring that you are not perceived of attacking back. Then proceed to the next step.


Quickly Backtrack

Now you have the Tank’s attention, backtrack the main concern of the Tank. This conveys the message that you have heard what the Tank has been saying. It is a way of demonstrating active listening and paraphrasing.

The Tank now registers that you have heard what they were saying, and now there is no need to keep on repeating the message. Ensure your summary is short concise and to the point, after all the Tank hasn’t got time to hang around. They like action and work at a fast pace. Proceed to the next step.


Aim for the bottom line and fire

Your bottom line varies according to your situation. It needs to be short and concise, no more than two sentences. Take ownership of your message, by saying:

“From my point of view” or “The way I see it”- What you say after will depend on the situation.

Here is an example

 Ï know that you would prefer all communication to the office manager to come from you ( back tracking and blending”, I way that I see this is the amount of time lost, when you are not around to gain the information that I am looking for, to complete this task. (bottom line) When you are ready to speak to me with respect, lets take some time out to discuss this further, to uncover the right solution. (redirecting future)

By redirecting the future, you are showing the Tank, that you are open to continue to have an open discussion about the issue that has been presented.  You have a wiliness to be on the same side and are not trying to attack them.  Proceed to next step.


Respect and Honor

Never try to shut the door to the Tank. They will simply bust through it, reigniting the attack. When the accusations are untrue or unreasonable, then allow them to have the last say, but you decide where and when.  

Example:  When I am finished with this presentation, then let’s get together to discuss this further.

The Tank is measuring up your character, and to the Tank it is simply a give-and-take between two people. They fire off a parting shot before you move on. Remember you may not win every battle; however, you will win respect from the Tank. Don’t be surprised as you start to gain more respect from the Tank that they start to become your ally in some future skirmish with another Tank.

What Happens If I am in the Wrong?

The fastest way to end the battle is :

  • Admit your mistake
  • State briefly what you have learnt from this experience
  • State what you will do differently in the future, ensuring this mistake doesn’t reoccur

Ensure you do Step 3 – This ensures that you will be changing your behavior, which allows the Tank to lower their sights. Now you are no longer their target. The Tank’s approach is not personal, it is simply they want the task completely quickly and efficiently. Your assurance that this won’t happen again allows the Tank to bring the battle to a halt.

Remember your Goal 

 Gain Respect from the Tank - Gain this  by being Assertive

About the Author

I coach women, online business owners, to take consistent action to get their online courses launched and sold out.

My primary focus is on unlocking limiting beliefs that hold them back, list building, and live launching of their courses, primarily via webinars and easy-to-follow blueprints that step them through the complete process.

I lead the way by being in the trenches, studying with the top online course creators in the world, implementing all the latest proven strategies in my own business, experimenting, measuring, teaching from experience that truly works.

Through a mix of coaching, hand-holding, and honest feedback,

I hold my client's aspirations close to my heart, never leaving them behind feeling isolated or disillusioned

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