Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Polly Want a Cracker?

Don't want to speak up to the bully yet? Too scared? Too unsure? Don't worry. There's actually something you can say that's not quite a comeback, but it's not just "taking it" either. It's called, "Parroting." You don't have to feel brave or sure of yourself to do this.

When someone bullies you, either at work, home or school, you just state what happened, or what she said, in a question, without making a judgment about it. This technique allows you to speak up enough so you show the bully you noticed a criticism or a slur, but requires very little courage to pull off. You merely parrot what she just said back to her. Here's an example.


You're collating and binding multiple folders. It's a process that your boss, Jan, normally pays no attention to. She has never timed anyone else's work, because everyone, including you, always does this quickly. You've noticed she has been nit-picking you for little things for several months, and you've never said anything to her about it. You've hoped she would stop on her own. And besides, it's not "that bad." Maybe she's been having trouble with her husband or her kids, and it has nothing to do with you. (By the way, these explanations to ourselves only allow bullying to continue.) Today, you finish in your usual amount of time. But Jan decides to criticize you.


"That took you an awful long time. You're going to have to pick up your pace around here."

That's unfair, you think. I'll try what I read in Abbey's article the other day.

"I'm taking too long? And I'm going to have to pick up my pace?" You look at her emotionless without confronting orbacking down either."Yeah, just try to speed it up a little."

...when you parrot back what she's saying, it's not necessarily challenging to her. Why? In her own mind, she's not being that critical of you. To her, there's nothing wrong with her words. In fact, she may feel she's hiding her distaste for you rather well. Hearing them back may not sound all that bad to her. It's the fact that you repeat what she said, not her words, that give her notification you may not quite agree with what she said. It throws her off a little, if it doesn't completely stop her. She back pedals a bit, "Just so you know, for future reference."It may not stop her completely. But you'll have registered your objection for her benefit ... and for yours.


So, what are the benefits to you for doing it this way? First, it shows her you're not a doormat who will take anything she dishes out. Repeating what she says is both gentle and noticeable. It may discourage more bullying ... a little. A little is better than no discouragement. Second, it requires very little thinking on your part. You just use her words verbatim as a question back to her. Very simple to do. You don't have to be the least bit creative. You don't have to memorize a comeback. The bully hands you what to say when she puts you down. It's right there for you to turn back on her with a question. Third, and most important, you don't feel like a doormat. In fact, you feel pretty good. It feels good to register your opinion, no matter how subtle. It may leave you longing for more of that powerful feeling when you do assert yourself. You may like the way you feel so much that you'll want to speak up more.

From Abby Whitehall, Author Bully Blaster: How I Stopped the Bullying, and You Can Too

Monday, July 7, 2008

Understanding Power: The Pistol That Fires In Both Directions

THE LOCK: I am not a powerful person. Those I face are always more powerful than I. How can I win against them?

THE KEY: All power, yours and theirs, is yours.

The secret source of power: When I argue, I face power, the power of the Other. It is the Other's power that I wish to overcome and that I fear. I am therefore fascinated by power and I wish to trace its source. If I understand power, if I understand its nature and where is abides, if I understand how to get it and how to resist it, I will have attained great power of my own. I want power. I need power to win.

Understanding how power works: Power is first an idea, first a perception. The power I face is always the power I perceive. Let me say it differently. Their power is my perception of their power. Their power is my thought. The source of their power is, therefore, in my mind.

The power others possess is the power I give them. Their power is my gift. I give them all the power in the universe, as, indeed, the faithful give to God, or I give them no power at all... if the Other possesses power, but I do not perceive the Other's power as effective against me, he has none - none for me.

An excerpt from How to Argue and Win Everytime, by Gary Spence

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Crazy Guy

The other day I was headed to my lunch appointment in a high rise building. In order to get to the restaurant on the 40th floor, I had to wait in line for one of the elevators that stopped only on floors 21 through 40 to arrive. I spoke with my associate as I waited, hungry, and slightly annoyed just like everyone else around that we’d had to wait this long.

As we stood there, a man with something like crazy wild-eyes came pushing through, his assistant in tow. He pushed his way through the crowd until he’d pushed clear through to the other side, almost gasping for air has he realized we were all waiting for the same thing: the 21st-40th floor elevator. He then made what seemed to be a subtle but very clear classic-temper-tantrum-foot-stomp. It was just one, but I swear I saw it.

The elevator finally arrived and as the doors opened, “Crazy Guy”, as my associate and I had so cleverly named him, stood leaning forward slightly with one hand on his hip, and the other waving his assistant through the crowd to cut in and hop on and be sure they made it on this particular elevator ride. The next one was clearly just too long of a wait for wherever they were headed (hopefully not to the same place I was) and whatever business they were attending to. It must have been so very important for him to act this way.

As so often occurs on these particular trips to the restaurant on the 40th floor, no one got off until floor 40 was reached. Crazy Guy, because he’d been so eager to get on the elevator, had overshot and managed to push his way all the way through the crowd to the very back corner of the elevator. Now, that we were all getting off to put our names in for a table near the window, Crazy Guy found himself at the back of the line.

As we waited for the party of three in front of us to finish their personal business with the hostess, we heard cries from behind us. It was Crazy Guy, commenting on the long wait to someone he was standing near. His assistant stood there quietly by his side, while my associate and I gave each other a look that said, “I hope we don’t have to sit near him!”

Over lunch my associate and I mocked Crazy Guy for his seemingly ridiculous behavior, and after a couple of good laughs, we realized that what we’d really been doing is calling this man a bully. The man never said a word to either of us, and the only talking we did hear was muffled angry comments coming from the back of a line. How then, did we know he was a bully?

We knew because of his body language. He leaned forward slightly during that entire interaction. When he caught you looking at him, he glared right through you, his eyes fixed upon yours as if he was going to take your soul (hence the granting of the name “Crazy Guy”). He pushed through the crowd of people as if he had the right to, and as if we should know better than to get in his way.

The most interesting part of the whole scenario? We let him act that way. All of us did. We all let him bully us. No one said anything to him. No one asked him to apologize for pushing. No one told him to pipe down while we waited. No one pushed him back.

I propose that if someone had asked him for an “excuse me,” that person would have eliminated him or herself as a target of the bully antics. If someone had glared back at him, instead of diverting their eyes to the floor as so many of us did, that person would have easily become exempt from the soul-stealing stare the rest of the elevator ride. If someone had told him “It’s not that bad, just be patient,” while we were in line at the hostess stand, they would have become void to the irrational commentary.

Give it a try…