Archive for December, 2014

Why Assertiveness Does Not Work with Bullies

babsYeah, really! I know what you’re thinking. Assertiveness is the gold standard for communicating with difficult people in difficult situations, right?

Wrong. Verbal assertiveness is a great communication skill, but without the personal power to back it up, it can simply be a red flag to a bully.

Let me explain. We communicate on more than one level. We are most consciously aware of the verbal level of communication; the words we say. Less consciously, we respond to another person’s state of mind, communicated by their posture, facial expression, body language, brainwaves, and electromagnetic field (yep.)

Guess which one has the least impact. Communications experts estimate that verbal messages account for only 7% of communications. I’m not sure how they came up with this measure. Judging by certain people in my family, I would say 7% is quite generous. So, 93% of what you communicate is stuff you are not really consciously aware of, like your posture, body language and that telltale facial tic.

So, you approach someone who has bullied you, and say some beautifully assertive thing about how you felt when that person yelled at you in a meeting, but you are feeling nervous about this assertion and half expect Mr. Bully to yell at you again. You fail to impress this person who wants nothing more than to have power over you.

Mr. Bully will unconsciously assess all your unconsciously projected messages and see that you don’t feel powerful. Mr. Bully is a predator, so he’s only impressed by those who project a powerful state. Furthermore, you just criticized Mr. Bully’s behavior, however nicely, and Mr. Bully doesn’t like criticism.

A normally empathic person would probably not yell at you in the first place, but your assertiveness would be effective in dealing with conflict with this person as he wants to collaborate and not to overpower you. Mr. Bully’s yelling is not a conflict, however, it’s a power play. Assertion to him is a challenge.

Animal wranglers are taught to never act like prey around a predator. Targets of bullies can learn a similar message: Act powerful around a bully. If you learn a mindset of personal power, and that power shows in your posture and expression, Mr. Bully is likely to unconsciously assess you as being powerful. You may not look like a good target and he may not get around to yelling at you.

If Mr. Bully is your boss, you should not verbally address his behavior at all, as he sees this as breaking rank. No, this is neither fair nor right, but realistically, if you have to be around a bully, learning a powerful state of being will serve you better than assertiveness.

You can learn a state of power by recalling the feelings of power and confidence and practicing them until you can recall them at will. And, if Will is power hungry, you’ll find it well worth the practice.

Why You Cannot Make the Change you Want

Perhaps you have noticed how millions of people saw the movie The Secret when it came out yet how few manifested Ferraris or millions or miracle cures – or anything beyond the odd parking space.  Andy Shaw, in his book Creating a Bug Free Mind, estimates that fewer than one percent of those who engage in self help methods actually have the life they want. That’s a terrible record!  Over 99 percent of us think but do not grow rich!

I have tried dozens of self help methods and I am quite accomplished at not being helped by them, so I have a clue what the problem is.  Actually, I have more than a clue, as I have a fairly consistent method to get good results with self help.  And, I have  an excellent method for failing to be helped.

I have seen both of these methods work with my clients, too. Those who get results always use the method I prescribe. Those who don’t get results are those who understand my approach too well.  Yes, that is what I said.  They understand, and that gets in the way.

Here’s how it works. To create more civility in your life, you need to be in a certain state of mind for interacting with others, especially with bullies, manipulators, and those with empathy deficits. A client hears this, thinks, “Oh. That makes sense,” and having understood it, their intellect tells them they’ve mastered that point and can move on. If I am working with a client directly, she may get into a powerful state and see what it feels like, but then wants to move on to the tricks that will defeat a bully.

Unfortunately for the client who is smart enough to quickly grasp the concepts I teach, the intellect tricks them into thinking that understanding is mastery. It is not. In fact this level of understanding is downright harmful because it gives the client a sense that here is yet another approach to her problem which did not work.

Say you want to clean up your diet, and you read a book on nutrition, you understand the concepts and you know to eliminate certain things from your diet. You can even engage in an intelligent conversation about nutrition and sound quite expert, all without ever having changed your diet. Your intellect has made you into an expert, and yet you have made no real change if you are still eating the unhealthy foods.

photo credit: millicent_bystander via photo pin cc

photo credit: millicent_bystander via photo pin cc

I maintain that you are not an expert until you have practiced and applied the concepts. I know this firsthand. Any time I have succeeded at self help has been a time when I have spent some time each day, or even most days, practicing the meditation or doing the exercise or eating the healthy food.  If you want to be in a state of mind which is quite different than your habitual states of mind, it takes practice, not understanding.

I have a friend who admits she has a shelf of self help books, each with a bookmark at the point at which she discovered the proposed solution to her problem. It is at this point, she says, she put the book aside, disappointed that she did not find the magic which would instantly solve her problem, or at least something she’d never learned before!

This is sad when I consider that some self help methods really could qualify as magic with just a little bit of practice. In my case, I have found that a mere fifteen minutes of practice a day creates a huge difference in personal power within a week and a lasting difference within a month.  That’s not much effort to feel better when dealing with difficult people.

But, you probably already knew that.