Avoid “Triggers” When Taking on an Office Bully
The dictionary defines “trigger” as “the device that activates the firing action of a gun.” There’s also another kind of trigger. That is “an act that sets in motion a course of events.” If you have been the target of an office bully, you know that certain words or phrases act as “triggers.”
When an office bully hears these words, he knows he can attack more fiercely, more often and to greater effect. Learn to avoid these triggers when taking on a bully, and you’ll have greater success. Try the following strategies:
- Above all, take the high road. Remain calm and in charge. Don’t resort to insults—and never, never stoop to the bully’s level.
- Always (in your mind, if not to the bully’s face) question the truth of an office bully’s statements. A bully will say anything to be right. You don’t have to, and in fact never should, believe he is either correct or telling the truth.
- Remain on the offense. Defense only works in basketball. Defending your actions by explaining why you did or did not do something, signals weakness. Defensiveness comes from the need to be understood. Release the need to be understood by the bully—it will never happen.
- For the same reason, don’t argue with the bully. Argument triggers an assertive response from the bully—and you don’t want that! Getting angry doesn’t work either. The office bully meets aggression with aggression. Stay calm and purposeful. Less is more.
- Finally, stand your ground. You can’t appease a bully. He will always come back with the next hurdle to remain in control over you. There will never be a win-win—don’t look for one. All is not dark, however. Can you find a way to use humor against a bully’s attacks?
When used correctly, humor confuses the bully, because he doesn’t see it as either a trigger or a confrontation.
Studies show that people who smile often have higher self-esteem than the “gloomy Gus’s.” Those than can use humor are perceived in the same way.
Use the following techniques to respond with humor:
- Smile as you repeat the office bully’s words. Show you are in control by acting amused. Many political debates have been won by using this confident stance. Consider this one: Al Gore and Ross Perot were on Larry King live; during King’s famed NAFTA debate between Vice President Al Gore and Ross Perot in 1993, Ross Perot made a strong point and got somewhat defensive. Al Gore paused, chuckled with confidence, answered briefly and moved on. Al Gore won the debate—clearly. The show to this day, garnered the highest cable rating in CNN history.
- Identify the fallacy in a bully’s criticism, and point it out, using a light-hearted tone.
- If you’re sure of your facts and behavior, mock your own shortcomings. Make them larger than they are, in contrast to the bully’s arrogance. Those that can make fun of themselves show confidence—a great weapon to protect you from the bully.
The point to remember is: You are not powerless. You have many strategies—trying them can help.
Valerie Cade, Founder
Bully Free at Work