Taxi drivers are regularly confronted with aggression. How can they best respond to that? We talk to Elke Fierens of the Belgian Impuls vzw, a recognized training institution for individuals and organizations. She gives courses on how to deal with aggression and conflicts.

Taxi drivers sometimes have to deal with aggression. What forms of aggression are there?

“Aggression can occur in various forms, such as threats, demands and accusations. It is important to recognize such behavior as aggressive behavior. Very few people consciously use aggression. It can then become difficult not to take it personally. People use aggression, for example, to express their own frustration, displeasure or anger (frustration aggression) or to get something done by threatening, putting pressure on (instrumental aggression). It is not so easy not to take accusations and threats personally.”

What makes that so challenging?

“In a taxi you have much less options to react. You can’t just park and get out. You have to keep an eye on the road. That makes it all much more complex. We also often work with bus conductors in schools. There, too, the possibilities to respond to aggression are much less.”

How should taxi drivers deal with aggression?

“It is mainly the point to be able to see whether someone who behaves in a difficult or aggressive manner says nothing about you as a taxi driver. Don’t take things personally. Especially if you get certain accusations thrown at you. Otherwise you yourself will end up in the spiral of anger. It says more about your customer than about you. That can help you as a taxi driver to keep your peace and to be neutral in the communication you give back to the people sitting in your taxi.”

Does the attitude play a role? of a taxi driver a role in this?

“Certainly. You should not underestimate the impact of a taxi driver’s attitude. Make sure that your own attitude does not add fuel to the fire. Try to keep your calm, even in case of aggression. Try to stay neutral. Don’t be guided by your own emotions. You can also practice this outside your taxi.”

How can you practice that?

“ Try to become aware of whether or not you are calm. What about my breathing? You have different ways to find your peace. When you are calm, you breathe with the belly. Try to figure out how to get that breath back into your belly. Some people do that mentally by thinking about images. Other people do that physically by breathing in very deeply through the nose. Still other people, for example, grab their steering wheel. They notice that they are becoming calmer and that breathing is going through their abdomen again.”

Does aggressive behavior have an effect?

“Yes, of course. It does something to you. You become insecure. You can stand with your mouth full of teeth. Or you feel anger yourself. That is normal. But if you have to stop someone else and let it guide you, that’s not going to help you. So park your emotions during the moment itself, making the messages you give more neutral. Also be firm. People want to say something through aggressive behavior, but the way it is not okay. If you can understand the message behind the aggressive behavior, that’s great. But you have to limit it. Calmness and empathy for the message are not enough.”

When do you feel the impact of aggression?

“When the people are out of the taxi. Then you will feel the impact. Try to figure out how to get those negative feelings out of your system. Then you can start again with carte blanche. Because five minutes later you have someone in your taxi again.”

This article previously appeared on sister magazine Read here the full article.

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