Every so often, we meet people who make comments and we are stunned to the extent that we don’t know how to respond. It could be a simple remark about your attire or even a derogatory comment. Stumped in the moment, have you ever rewound the situation after the event and played out what you could have said or how you could have acted?
Bullies or meanies, as I like to call them are essentially cowards or folks trying to raise their own self esteem by putting others down. I remember as a kindergartner in New York, there was a meanie in my class. The good news was that she bullied everyone; the bad news was that I got more than my fair share of nasty hurtful comments. None of the parents took our complaints seriously since Stacy (I have changed the name) was absolutely angelic when the parents were around and in fact she had a wonderful mother who in spite of being a working mother helped out at the kiddie events the school organized for us.
On one occasion things got out of hand and I turned to my father whom I considered an authority. Instead of promising to talk to the class teacher, he told me I had to learn to stand up for myself and suggested I first find out from her why I was being given the special treatment.
It took tremendous courage on my part but the next time she hit out at me, with great trepidation, I asked her, “What is it about me that you don’t like?”
Stacy the bully was stumped and ran off blustering incoherent words.
We did talk later about the root cause of her particular attention to me. Her parents were divorced and she only met her father for a few days during the holidays. Her anger against me was because my father dropped me off to school every morning.
When I told her that my father was a busy person and that the morning walk to school was the only time I really saw him during the week as I was in bed by the time he returned, melted her a bit. The happy ending to this story was that she targeted another kid and left me alone.
Looking back, that was a lesson in assertiveness for me. Very often, by asking for a clarification, it forces the aggressor to back off while buying you time to think of an assertive response. It is a far better technique than becoming defensive or crying.
So calmly ask the person who makes a derogatory remark
“What is it about my suggestion/idea/comment that you find ridiculous?’
“Can you tell me what it is about me that you find unacceptable?
“What is it about me that you don’t like?”
If the other person is targeting you to vent their frustrations, they will have to think twice. Quite possibly, there is something in your behavior that is upsetting them and they are having trouble being articulate. This might be the beginning of clarification and change of behavior; theirs, yours or even both.
Ever had to deal with a meanie? How did you approach the situation?
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