people with feelings of low self-worth often inflict abusive behavior on others

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Have you noticed that people with feelings of low self-worth often inflict abusive behavior on others?

It’s hard to imagine that someone who likes himself with slam or hurt someone else.

When people are down on themselves, this triggers feelings of anger. For example, domestic violence escalates when people start losing their jobs.

A policeman we’ll call Paul told us he slapped his wife a couple of weeks ago. He confessed to us that he knows several other fellow officers who have been in physical altercations with spouses or close family members.

“We get dumped on by all of society,” says Paul. “Anger can build up in a cop just like anyone else.”

“I can divide people up into two general groups,” says a psychologist we’ll call Donna. “Anyone can figure this out pretty quickly. There are people who have healthy self-esteem and those who feel a lack of true self-worth. This causes big problems.”

Donna goes on to say, “If a man just got a compliment from the boss and a raise at work, he’s not going to want to go home and hurt his family.”

A minister we’ll call Rick says he’s getting reports of domestic violence in his church. Both men and women are hitting their partners when arguments escalate.

“Whether you’re religious or not, there are certain behaviors that can help to heal our society,” Rick insists. “We all need to build other people up versus tearing them down.”

Here are some of Rick’s tips:

— Compliment a hurting person. Dig deep, even if the person seems unlovable. For example, say, “You always have such a neat desk.”

— Love on people. Try to make others around you feel good. Listen to the words coming out of your mouth to help others feel supported, connected and appreciated.

— Use humor to get people off the hook. If your employees mess up a project, try to protect their egos without slamming them too harshly. Encourage them to fix what’s wrong by finding humor in the bad situation.

Rick says, “I’ll give you an example of how softening a blow saved my hide the other day during road rage.”

Rick and his brother were taking their mom to lunch. Rick had to kind of force his way into another lane of traffic to reach the restaurant.

“The man I pulled in front of went nuts,” says Rick. “He was swearing at me and making faces. He pulled in beside us at the restaurant.”

What came next really made Rick nervous. “The man made an obscene gesture at me, my brother and my mother,” Rick declares. “His finger was clearly in our faces, and my mind started to race. Should I fight? Should I flee?”

Rick’s mother, who is 81, saved the day. She slowly leaned in on the road rage man. She was riding in the front passenger seat.

“Mom very, very slowly raised two fingers in the air like she was returning his gesture,” says Rick. “I nearly fainted. She leaned over the steering wheel to make sure the angry man could see her fingers moving slowly skyward.”

Rick laughs, “Mom opened her two fingers into a V — a peace symbol. And she smiled sweetly.”

The road rage man started laughing and sped off. Rick’s mother had diffused a bad situation by treating the man friendly and getting him to laugh. Instead of directing anger toward him, she used humor to get him off the hook.

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(Judi Hopson and Emma Hopson are authors of a stress management book for paramedics, firefighters and police, “Burnout To Balance: EMS Stress.” Ted Hagen is a family psychologist.