OK, readers- we’re at the point to finally discuss how to handle the adult bullies in your life who are lurking about. So far, we’ve discussed that feeling powerless and afraid is much more rampant than on the playground. We’ve identified that un-comfortably numb feeling that settles in just after we’ve been blown away by an unexpected encounter. And we’ve learned more about the in-your-face bullies versus those who are quietly pushing us towards discomfort and their agendas.
Before we get into it, take a moment to answer these questions about the situation:
- What’s kept you from addressing this before?
- What do you want to change as a result of your conversation?
- Whose support do you have?
It’s important to think a bit about these questions. For instance, the hindrances that have kept you from grabbing the bull by the horns and conquering this issue before now probably have some validity. Or else, you would have already resolved it. Is it the fear of confrontation? The fear of retaliation? The fear of losing a friendship? The fact that you have have to work together day in and day out? Or, maybe it’s your child’s other parent.
The change that you would like to take place is also important. For one, it allows you to have a realistic idea of what you’d like to be different. Change in hard enough to do in your own life. It’s impossible to make someone else change without their consent. Going to that person and saying, “I need you to be nicer to me” is too vague. They may think they are being nice from their view, especially if the uncomfortable tensions that are present come from a passive approach to bullying. It’s essential to get VERY specific with this answer.
And last, but not least, identify those in your life who are aware of this issue and the thoughts they’ve shared with you about it. While sometimes hearing their perspectives can validate your thoughts, they may also give you a different angle to think about the issue.
Let’s make this happen:
a) Sort through your reasons for not this before. Do the pros outweigh the cons? Is there a legitimate reason to continue to hold back? When the costs of holding back outweigh the benefits, you know it’s time to make an attempt to talk with them about it.
b) View this as a conversation as opposed to a confrontation. Often, we feel intimidated about having a confrontation. But we converse every day with people. Take some pressure off of yourself.
c) Know what specific change you’d like to ask the person to consider. Some ideas are: “Can we only communicate through email?” “Is it possible for us to have our meetings in a neutral location like the conference room instead of in your office?” In this case, it may be wise to ask a question that can only be answered, “yes,” “no,” “maybe,” or “I’ll get back to you.”
d) Hold the conversation at a good time on a good day. If you know that person always has a busy morning, talk to them in the afternoon. If they are doing their taxes that day- hold off! Part of the success depends on their frame of mind.
e) Be assertive but not aggressive. Being aggressive not only makes you like them, but it also puts them on the defensive. It’s extremely difficult for anyone to be receptive and agreeable when they are too busy defending their actions. Being assertive shows confidence and respect for yourself.
f) Converse in private. Calling people out on Facebook or in front of others puts the other person on the defensive. Plus, they have an audience to wow with their behaviors.
g) Keep the conversation to a minimum. That includes discussing only the topic at hand and keeping the conversation brief. Open the conversation with, “Do you have about three minutes? I’d like to talk to you at the table outside/take a walk around the yard/etc.”
h) Tell someone else that you're going to hold this conversation. Depending on the nature of the bully, you could need help and protection. At any rate, you may need a friendly showing of support afterwords.
In the next post, we’ll discuss what to do after the conversation ends.
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