[A]ny advice on how to handle the following scenario: Say, someone tries to bully you into doing something and you hold your ground patiently but firmly — often they will claim you were “rude” in order to try to get you in trouble with your superiors. I’m not sure how to handle this type of feedback since a) complying with their request may not have been reasonable/safe/possible in any way, b) you provided a completely reasonable alternative that they rejected without listening, c) they actually tried to bully you and were rude to you. Do you stand your ground? Do you defend yourself? What is the best way to handle this sort of scenario? I had something like this happen recently, and I was wondering if there was any merit to proactively seeking out feedback about how the situation could have been handled differently in order to have avoided the frustration on everybody’s part. Thoughts?
Crucial conversations tends to suggest you pretend they’re not bullying you and to reframe what they’re saying to make sure you understand etc. etc. etc. You would then proactively seek feedback as you suggest, following their instructions on keeping the other party safe and focusing on the situation, not anything personal. But Crucial Conversations also doesn’t really get that women are treated differently than men. Some of their afterwards from the updated edition get into this idea a little bit but don’t offer any solutions, just say that although their recommendations usually work with even difficult people, they don’t always work with all bullies.
With bullies, I have found that what often works the best (as a woman in a male-dominated field) is to channel your inner mom/kindergarten teacher/nun (your choice) and sigh a bit, and then talk in your disappointed voice. “I wish we could do that, but you know that isn’t safe/wasn’t reasonable/could hurt someone.” “Oh, [name], I did give you a suggestion, but …” “I don’t like being treated this way/Did you just say [x] to me? Why did you say [x]? That wasn’t very nice/constructive/etc.” Some of my female heroes have this really cool way of being firm and disappointed at the same time. I’m mostly just disappointed– I’m working on getting more moxy so I can add just the right amount of underlying “they shoulda known better”.
People seem to be able to defer to a woman when reminded of a woman who once had power over them and you address them as if they’re naughty toddlers or elementary schoolers, especially when that’s what they’re acting like. Students stopped trying to bully me pretty much entirely once I had a toddler of my own and started treating them like preschoolers instead of adults. The same treatment works with overbearing white guys as well.
Grumpy Nation, do you have any suggestions from the trenches?