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Responding in the moment to an emotionally charged bully

Knowing how to manage yourself in the presence of a bully is a critical step to gaining control
Knowing how to manage yourself in the presence of a bully is a critical step to gaining control
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The topic of workplace bullying has been studied and discussed broadly over the last decade. According to the Workplace Bully Institute, 37% of workers have been bullied. We’ve seen this behavior on the rise as of late and there maybe multiple reasons for its cause. Unless it’s quelled, the trend will continue. Careful and diplomatic handling of your exchanges with the bully, no matter how contentious is your best defense. There are a number of long-term strategies that will be important for you to employ with an emotionally charged bully that will be published in a succession of future articles. Let’s address what you can do to actively manage in the moment with a bully who is emotionally charged in your presence.

Most importantly, it’s critical that you switch on your logic brain and turn off your emotions. It may be your first inclination to get sucked into an emotional reaction, but you’ll need to resist that temptation and take on a thinking stance.

Do not threaten the bully or use sarcasm; don’t go on and on. Pointing out how wrong the bully is and raising your voice will absolutely heighten the emotion in the room. Ask yourself the question, are my comments going to improve my future or just the immediate situation?

Watch your body language; it may be inciting them by posturing with contrasting strength. The bully may seek ways to take an aggressive action to shoot you down.

Distract the bully with information that would engage their logical side of the brain and disconnect from their emotional side, even if temporarily. This can be done by sharing a file with them, or an important name to remember. Asking them a question that involves thinking about a sequential process would also help this effort.

Altering your mental view so you do not give off a reaction the bully is looking for in you is a way to preserve your self control. Moving your thoughts to a pleasant feeling would help as long as you don’t get distracted, which could annoy the bully even more.

Once you’ve moved past this exchange, it will be important for you to record the incident carefully, citing direct quotes and your responses. Identify if there were any witnesses to the exchange. Dating the incidents and others to follow is a wise move to arm yourself for a future action when you’ve developed a plan to address the situation constructively.


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