Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Do unto others as they would do unto you...

Remember the Golden Rule? Treat others as you would like to be treated.

Let's tweak it a little... how about: Treat others just like they treat you.

I know, I know, it seems rude. But communication experts call it "mirroring" and I recommend giving it a try when dealing with your office asshole.

Mirroring is essentially playing copy cat with a person's nonverbal communication style in order to create a more relaxed situation. Nonverbal communication is of course any gestures you make while speaking, but it also includes:

  • rate of speech
  • tone of voice
  • facial expressions
  • breathing
  • attitude
  • tempo
  • word choice

Essentially, nonverbal communication is everything but the bathroom sink, or everything but the actual words you say.

So, for example, I advise my customer service trainees to slow down their speaking rate and volume to match the customer on the other end of the phone. I tell them to do this because it creates a sense of comfort and trust on the client's part, and the client feels a subconscious connection with the customer service representative. This leaves the customer with a warm fuzzy feeling and a good impression of the company when the call is over.

During your next interview pay attention to the interviewer's body language, and as she changes her leg cross, you do it along with her. As he picks up his cup of coffee to drink, you pick up that bottled water you brought along and take a quick swig. If she's talking at a quick pace and seems very excited, then you should do something similar. (Don't do this with every single gesture he or she makes, that will make you seem weird. Do it strategically throughout the interview silly.) Again, this creates a subconscious connection within the interviewer's mind, and you may very well land the job because of it.

What does this have to do with handling a bully? Obviously anything you do at this point isn't going to bring a warm fuzzy feeling to the bully when he thinks of you, or get him to assign you that project you've been wanting. But it will allow you to create a bit of a subconscious connection - which isn't a bad start.

Start mirroring the bully during conversations, meetings and phone calls. Match the rate of speech, the tone, the tempo, the volume, and even some word choice. If he speaks at a slow pace speak at a matching one, and if his volume goes up so should yours. Try to emulate the bully's attitude, and if she drinks you drink, if he folds his arms you fold yours.

This is going to take a bit of practice, and it's also going to take some courage - particularly matching tone and volume of voice because it's more noticeable than copying something like a leg cross. But you can do it, with a little faith in yourself. And remember that you don't deserve to be treated that way.

This is a start to standing up for yourself. This is a resistance strategy will help keep the bully from targeting you.

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