Posts Tagged 'bullying behavior'

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.

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What is Power Over Behavior?

babsPower over behavior is hostile behavior which is considered acceptable in most parts of our society. It is one-up-manship that assumes that in an interaction one person must be superior and the other inferior. It considers sensitivity a weakness.
This mentality is so prevalent on sitcoms, in schools, locker rooms and conference rooms that we hardly even notice it. We may wonder why we feel so tattered and torn after interactions with so many others.

Power over is a mentality in which I win and you lose and sharing power is a poor second to scoring power. I can insult or disrespect you and hurt you. If you complain, that shows you can’t take it. You are too sensitive. To a bully sensitivity is not strength but a weakness.

This model of power is typical among many middle school students, insurance company offices, and tribes of baboons. This mode of behavior is widely accepted, though to a discerning eye, bullies seem no more than knuckle-dragging Neanderthals.
The various forms of power over behavior listed below (and more) constitute verbal abuse. Oh, and by the way, the effects of verbal abuse are widely known to be more severe than the effects of physical battering; causing intrusive thoughts and interfering with the freedom to express one’s self.

So if you are dealing with power over at work, at home or at school, don’t be surprised if you have symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder and reactions that seem like they are out of proportion. Your reactions are not out of proportion. This form of abuse is subtle and insidious. It creeps into the cracks of your self esteem and can highjack your ability to see your own flaws, making you consider yourself at fault when you are not.

Cut yourself a lot of slack. Consider trauma therapy.

Here are forms of power over behavior.
• Not listening
• Failing to make eye contact
• Forgetting your name
• Interrupting you
• Using you statements to blame, shame or define.
• Acting superior with eye rolling, sighs, repeating things slowly as if you were incapable of understanding.
• Withholding – not speaking or failing to greet you.
• Not allowing you into a casual conversation by ignoring you or physically closing you out of the circle.
• Contradicting
• Diminishing or dismissing your feelings or your opinions
• Finding minute fault with what you have said and derailing your message.
• Chronic criticism
• Blame and often shame
• Defining you, for example, “You always have to be right,” or “You think you know everything.”

If you hear these, do not be deceived, you are dealing with controlling, one-up behavior.  I am not trying to be flippant, but the best thing to do is find another playground if you can.  Take it from me.  There are better ones where others play nice.


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