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Defend Against Any Bully in 2 Simple Steps

Defend Against Any Bully in 2 Simple Steps
Verbal bully
    Verbal Bully

    If bullies were actually like Nelson from the Simpsons, they would be easy to avoid.  Unfortunately, most of the verbal abuse you will ever experience in life will come from co-workers, friends, or family.  The people you like or love are often the worst offenders, whether they meant to or not.  Even worse, most of the verbal attacks will not be obvious or cutting, but instead, they will be subtle and sarcastic.  Individually, small verbal stings may not feel painful, but over time, these stings can take a toll on your confidence, stress levels, and relationships.

    You won’t have time to analyze the attack and think about how to defend against it.  That’s why it is important to have a response ready for any type of attack in any situation.  The following two steps will show you how:

     

     

     

     

    Step 1: Remove Yourself from the Role of a Victim

    You may be confronted with a snide remark such as, “Are you always this absent-minded?”

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    How would you respond?  Would you become defensive and say, “I am not absent-minded!”?

    Many of us would be caught in the moment and become defensive.  Some of us would freeze and say nothing.  But the last thing you want to do is respond directly to their attack and give them the response they were looking for.

    Your best initial move is to remove yourself from the position of the “victim.”  Place yourself above the attack.  Act like it doesn’t bother you.  Step outside of the attack altogether and comment about the content of the attack itself (this is sometimes referred to as Meta-Talk). Talk about what they said or how they said it.

    Let’s take a closer look at some example defenses:

    “Stupid? Is that the best adjective you could come up with?”

    “Wow, that was so clever…how do you keep coming up with such great jokes?” (sarcasm)

    “That sounded like it was meant to insult me…”

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    “The way you said that was kind of child-ish, did you mean to say it like that?”

    “Absent-minded?  That’s a strong choice of words wouldn’t you say?”

    “Wow, you sound so bitter…maybe you should go take a break for a minute.”

    “You’re still hung up on pointing out my flaws, let’s try to move away from that and get down to the real issue.”

    These defenses accomplish four primary objectives:

    • It demonstrates to the attacker (and the audience), that the attack did not bother you
    • It implies that you do not place much value on what the attacker says
    • It implies that future attacks will not affect you either
    • In case the attacker did not mean to attack you, this defense makes them aware that they crossed over the line

    By vocally analyzing and dismantling their phrase or their delivery, you can take away its power and place yourself above the role of a “victim.” If you step outside the attack, it becomes impossible to be hit by the attack itself.   In fact, not only are you avoiding the attack, but this type of defense can simultaneously mock the attacker at the same time.

    If you’re faced with a relentless bully, you may want to add Step Two to your arsenal.  Not only do you want to avoid their stings, but you want to make them think twice about attacking you again in the future.

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    Step 2: Place the Target Back On the Attacker

    After you dodge the bullet, your next order of business is to shift the focus back on to your attacker.  Not much good ever comes from keeping the focus on yourself when a verbal war is being waged.

    An easy way to place the target back on the attacker is by exposing their intentions.  You may be poor at comebacks and witty repartees, but that’s the beauty of questioning the attacker’s intentions – everyone has an intention.  You don’t need to know some special information or come up with a clever remark in order to complete this type of defense.

    A bully may state, “You’re always so defensive.”

    A poor conversationalist would take the bait and respond, “No I’m not!”

    Instead, expose the source with one of these lines: 

    “Were you trying to be funny just then?  I wasn’t sure…”

    “Why are you trying so hard to point that out?  Do you need attention?”

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    “Are you trying to make me act defensive? Because it’s not going to work.”

    “Are you obsessed with ________?  Can’t you think of something else?”

    “Do you really think you can persuade me to ______?”

    “Do you always side with ______?”

    “Are you always this angry?”

    “Oh, you’re trying to be funny now, huh?”

    “You think you’re pretty clever don’t you?”

    These verbal defenses can easily throw your attacker off balance.  When you question someone’s intentions in this manner, it can be very hard to come up with a good response.  And if they do manage a successful response, you can go back to Step 1 and make a comment about it!

    It’s important to note that the two tips will be rendered useless if you become defensive or over-react.  Thomas Jefferson wisely said, “Nothing gives a person so much advantage over another as to remain always cool and unruffled under all circumstances.”  That is still true today.  The person who seems to maintain their composure always has the edge.  If you can remain cool, calm, and collected during a verbal battle, you will always have the upper hand.

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    Last Updated on May 21, 2019

    How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

    How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

    For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

    If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

    Example 1

    You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

    You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

    In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

    Example 2

    You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

    People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

    You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

    Example 3

    You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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    The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

    Example 4

    You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

    Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

    If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

    Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

    • Understand your own communication style
    • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
    • Communicate with precision and care
    • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

    1. Understand Your Communication Style

    To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

    In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

    Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

    2. Learn Others Communication Styles

    Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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    If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

    “How do you prefer to receive information?”

    This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

    To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

    3. Exercise Precision and Care

    A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

    On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

    Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

    I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

    I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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    In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

    The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

    Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

    4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

    Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

    In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

    “Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

    Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

    Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

    It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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    It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

    It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

    Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

    Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

    The Bottom Line

    When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

    I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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    Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

    Reference

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