Are you the type of person who is super hard on yourself and has a hard time in the workplace dealing with difficult people? Perhaps you WANT to be “more liked” and achieve greater success at work, but you aren’t overly happy about yourself in general or where you are in your life at this moment.

Bullying is quite common in the workplace. In fact, in a 2010 study conducted by the Workplace Bullying Institute, 35% of the American workforce (or 53.5 million people) has directly experienced bullying or had “repeated mistreatment by one or more employees that takes the form of verbal abuse, threats, intimidation, humiliation or sabotage of work performance”, while an additional 15% said they have” witnessed bullying at work”. This has to stop!

What many do not know is that there are simple and effective techniques that can help you deal with these difficult personalities and help you give off a “certain type of energy” that will benefit both yourself and the people around you.

Here are 10 tips that will help you handle these difficult people at work.

1. Avoid The Guilt Trip

Bullies love asking extra favors and often guilt you into doing things for them. It is important to stand firm on your decisions and not get suckered into things that you feel aren’t right. For example, many employers bully their younger staff into doing extra work for them that no one is aware of, or asking them to work exceptionally long hours on a consistent basis.

You are not obliged to please him or her! Also, no matter what he or she says about you, you are not worthless or useless or the incapable worker that he or she wants to make you believe.

2. Disarm Them With Kindness

Most bullies feed off of your frustration and weaknesses. They are enjoying fueling the fire inside of you and just waiting for you to explode. So why not confuse the heck out of them and make them feel powerless?! The best way is by saying something KIND in return. For example, you could say something like this: “is everything okay? You seem off today.”

Now, make sure you are being kind from an authentic place, not just acting kindly. There’s a huge difference. When we are trying to manipulate a situation or someone’s opinion about us by merely acting kind, we are coming from our ego. True kindness comes from our heart, not our head.  Authentic kindness is also consistent rather than something we turn on when it feels useful.

Try to remember what it was that made you like this individual in the first place (or think of something very nice they did for someone else). With just thinking those thoughts, you will exude a different energy and it will show on your face for sure. You’ll also start to notice that when you set the intention to extend kindness to everyone, you’ll get a lot more back in return. It may not be from the people that your ego may want; however, I assure you that the kinder you are, the more you will be the recipient of random acts of kindness.

3. Keep Conversations Simple and Clear

Don’t tell these people to much about your personal life or what’s going on with you, just keep things really simple and to the point. The more you open yourself up to people at work, the more they will have to use against you or attack your weak spots. Talk about other things (not your personal life) if you absolutely are in a situation where you have to chat (e.g. the hockey/soccer/football game, or the weather).

4. Self-Compassion

It has been scientifically proven that when people hear the term “self-compassion” they often assume it is synonymous with self-indulgence or self pity. Surprisingly, the opposite is true. Solid behavioral science research shows that, the higher one’s level of self-compassion, the lower one- level of self-pity (1,2). Also, self-compassion can also help you emanate greater self-confidence, which can be a great tool in the workplace.

Self compassion delivers and impressive array of benefits: decreased anxiety, depression and self-criticism. This therefore improves relationships and can help you achieve greater feelings of social connectedness and satisfaction with life; increases your ability to handle negative events, and even improves your immune system functioning (3). Self-compassion can be taught through yoga, and this ancient practice called Metta (discussed below and highly recommend).

5. Stand Up Taller / Improve Your Posture

Posture and perception are everything! Our mother was right: Stop slouching. Instead of standing hunched, making yourself appear small and closed off, try opening up your stance, keeping your shoulders back and taking as much space as you need. One study in the Journal of Nonverbal Behavior even found that “assuming a ‘superhero stance’ actually reduces cortisol (the so-called stress hormone) and increases testosterone, a hormone that’s associated with power and strength” (4). Furthermore, numerous psychological studies have demonstrated that open postures convey a sense of the individual having power and closed postures convey a sense of the individual having little power (5).

6. Practice “Metta”

Simply put, Metta is the conscious practice of developing kind intentions toward all beings. Ever wonder why the highly charismatic Dalai Lama could radiate an incredible presence of warmth and caring, that even the most cold-hearted characters would melt in his presence? He ascribes much of his effect on people to Buddhist compassion practices, one of which is called Metta (translates to “loving kindness).

What was very interesting is that science actually shows it helps! For example, one study published in the NeuroReport found that when the brains of dedicated Metta practitioners were examined and tested by neuroscientists, significant differences came to light. Not only did they emit deeper brainwaves, but it was reported in the Psychological Bulletin that they were able to bounce back from stress scenarios much faster and that these “individuals showed particular enhancement in the left frontal lobe of their cortex, also referred to as the ‘happy region’ of the brain.” (6,7,8).

7. Say “Ouch” To Throw Them Off

Why say “ouch” after someone has said something extremely rude or is being a bully? Well, it actually makes that person look bad in front of other people and makes them more aware of the effect they are having on others. It almost makes them feel bad and speechless. I have seen people say this to others and it literally stops them in their tracks.

8. Be Firm When They Ask Things Of You

At all costs, remain firm on your decision and do not waver in your decision to reject the request no matter what they might say to persuade you to “help out”. If the situation turns ugly and the bully starts hurling verbal abuses at you, keep calm and politely tell them that you have to answer to your own superior and the tasks assigned to you are more urgent than the “favors” they are asking from you.

9. Keep Cool When They Are Freaking Out

By keeping your cool, it will be very obvious to the onlookers in the office that you are being more professional than the bully who might already be blowing their top and raising their voice at you. Do not feel intimidated or ashamed at this point, as that is exactly what the bully intended you to feel. Show that you are not affected by them and you will emerge the “winner” in your “negotiation” in saying “no” to the bully.

10. Give Yourself 24 Hours To React

When someone is being irrational or bullying you, whether it be alone or in front of others, the last thing you should do is feed into it right there and then. For starters, you are in an extremely emotional/anxious state and not thinking logically or clearly. It is really best to give the whole thing 24 hours and respond to that person after the fact when you are in a better state of mind.

References

1. K.D. Neff and P. McGeehee, “Self-Compassion and Psychological Resilience among Adolescents and Young Adults,” Self and Identity 9 (2010): 225-240.

2. K.D. Neff, K.Kirkpatrick, and S.S. Rude, “Self-Compassion and Its Link to Adaptive Psychological Functioning,” Journal of Research in Personality 41 (2007): 139-154.

3. Ibid. Self-compassion deactivates the threat system (which generates feelings of fear, insecurity, and defensiveness) and activates the soothing system instead.

4. Carney D.R., Hall J.A., Smith LeBeau L. (2005). Beliefs about the nonverbal expression of social power. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 29, 105-123. 

5. de Waal F. (1998). Chimpanzee politics: Power and sex among apes. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.

6. T.Barnhofer, D. Duggan, C.Crane, S. Hepburn, M.J. Fennel, and J.M. Williams, “Effects of Meditation on Frontal Alpha-Asymmetry in Previously Suicidal Individuals,” NeuroReport 18, no. 7 (2007): 709-712.

7. B.R. Cahn and J.Polich, “Meditation States and Traits: EEF, ERP, and Neuroimaging Studies,” Pychological Bulletin 132, no. 2 (2006): 180-211.

8. G. Feldman, J.Greeson, and J. Senville, “Differential Effects of Mindful Breathing, Progressive Muscle Relaxation, and Loving-Kindness Meditation on Decentering and Negative Reaction to Repetitive Thoughts,” Behaviour Research and Therapy 48, no. 10 (2010): 1002-1011

Featured photo credit: Handling Difficult People At Work via psychcentral.com

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