Some time ago I had the displeasure of working with someone who was an outright bully. His tendencies to dominate, intimidate and even humiliate were so overt and well known. However, management did nothing to curb this guy’s daily tirade of other people’s shortcomings. By doing nothing this guy was allowed to run rough shod over whoever he chose, without being held to account. In effect, the bully had become the ‘elephant in the room;’ everyone knew he was there but no one could stop him in his tracks. The knowledge this guy held in his head was deemed to be more valuable than the feelings of those who had to work with him directly.
This really was a sorry state of affairs and one that is all too familiar. It’s about ‘I win – you lose’ as no one else is considered to be as important as you. Holding ground too strongly can manifest itself in giving orders, shouting and interrupting; basically any situation where you don’t have the flexibility to compromise, which is not a sign of weakness. Indeed, such people have little or no concern for other people’s ideas, feelings and needs. Don’t despair, there are things we can do to turn this around. And we must.
As Benjamin Disraeli said, ‘Courage is fire, and bullying is smoke.’
The starting point is learning to stand up for yourself without losing your temper.
What I mean is, being assertive. Essentially, assertiveness is a set of personal skills for effective communication and relationships with other people. Assertive behaviour is ‘I win – you win’, with both parties expressing their feelings and thoughts openly and honestly while respecting the other person’s right to do so. Have you ever felt that you’ve not fully expressed your views or done so in an apologetic way? If so, you’ll realise that such behaviour is driven by the need to avoid conflict, be liked and keep the peace. In effect, you can interpret such behaviour as ‘you win – I lose.’
If you feel brow beaten you’ll also feel rotten and this can dent your self esteem too.
So what steps can we take to turn this situation around?
1.Understand yourself first, in order to understand other people’s points of view. Your natural default position could be that you want to avoid potential conflict. For some, just the thought of tackling unacceptable behaviour is excruciating. Is this because you fear upsetting someone else’s feelings or of being rejected? What’s the worst that could happen? Even if it did, what could you do about it? Are you valuing others over yourself? Why? Ask yourself these questions and make a note of your answers. What did you find out? People who normally display submissive behaviour are unlikely to stand up for themselves and allow others to push ahead of them in terms of their career or be taken advantage of in business. By contrast, confident people are assertive and successful people are confident. So being assertive is an integral part of your personal and professional development.
If you normally avoid difficult situations you’ll have to work harder to stand up for yourself but ultimately it’s worth it.
2.Determine the outcome you want to achieve Focus on the longer term where you can, as this is normally more difficult and work back by creating some smaller goals or milestones. How far away are you from your goals? Find common ground, as this is where you’re more likely to get agreement. So what could you do to achieve this?
3.Approach the situation with the right attitude, by asking a question like what can we do to resolve this? Tell me what you are concerned about. What’s your thinking behind this? Sum up the other person’s position, as you’ve understood it to be, and use some of their actual words; this will demonstrate that you have actively listened to them.
4.Get a DISC personality test as this will give you a valuable insight into what makes you ‘tick’ and suggest ways you could improve the way you communicate for better outcomes.
5.Use clear and unambiguous language, in a strong tone of voice and alter your intonation to highlight key words. Similarly, make sure your body language supports the message that you want to convey. Other people can notice a poor attitude without hearing any words. Therefore, your mindset and body language must be fully aligned and singing from the same hymn sheet.
6.Remember compromise makes good career and business sense and being aggressive does not. And, winning is not about taking it all but sharing it.
7.You’re in a stronger position if you can choose your response; something the aggressor will struggle with.
Let me know how you get on and please share this post.