The adventures (and non-adventures) of a marginally seasoned attorney.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

How to deal with a verbal bully

I'm a professional woman who does professional things, and I try to act professionally when doing said professional things. However, not everyone in this world treats me with the same respect that I try to show them. Yep, even at the ripe ol' age of 26, people try to bully me. Unfortunately for me, I have to deal with this far more than I'd like. Fortunately for you, though, I've developed some tactics in dealing with verbal bullies that I'll share with you. So when a mean ol' so-and-so tries to verbally assault you, don't feel afraid, m'dears! Go show them how things are by using the following tactics:

  • Forget the last word - be sure to get in the first word: Here's the thing - bullies LOVE control. And as such, a verbal bully will likely start in with their abusive, demanding language right off the bat. But no, ma'am, I won't have any of that. The second someone tries to tear into me, I interrupt right then and there and let them know that's not how I roll. If someone is going to communicate with me, they sure as heck are gonna show some respect. And I let them know that in no uncertain terms.
  • Speak strongly: You've probably heard that in verbal confrontations, you should lower your voice, as the shouting party will typically follow suit. I tend to agree with that, with one other thing to keep in mind: just because you're speaking softly doesn't mean you can't speak with strength. This combination of lower volume but higher intensity comes in quite handy while negotiating in the courtroom before trial. 
  • Redirect: A bully has an agenda. She thinks that the point of the conversation is letting her agenda be known and making you, the bullied, follow suit. Nothing could be more wrong. The point of the conversation, after you've gotten in the first word, is to let the bully know that you're not going to listen to what she has to say if she's going to be abusive about it. Bully will try to push her agenda again. Don't let it happen. If you let her push her agenda, then you're just giving her all the control. And you're too good for that, darlin', heck yes you are!
  • Lay it on thick: Okay, if the previous tactics work, then you can move on with the conversation. There's has to be a transition from the bullying to normal speak, though. I usually start out by saying something along the lines of "I understand you're upset, and I know you're just trying to work this out." No, I don't like to be nice to bullies, either, but there's no need to let ego get in the way of a peaceful resolution. 
  • Walk away: Sometimes, none of these tactics will work. And that's okay. Don't feel the need to stick around and fight it out. There are *plenty* of times when I've said, "I don't care what you have to say," and walked away. Ohhhh that makes verbal bullies SO MAD. Fortunately for me, I usually do this A) over the phone or B) in the courtroom where I can subsequently hide behind a bailiff.
And if all else fails, you can kick the person in the groin. 


Caroline said...

You're sounding more and more like ol' Charlie Cole Chaffin. That's one woman I wouldn't want to get in a fight with.

Dr. Juris said...

I LOVED this King of the Hill episode. Bahahahahaha. :) (And I just wrote about bullying too....must be the season for bullies.)

Anonymous said...

I know which lawyer this is about, me thinks...

Tracy Pierre said...

Arguments with a verbal bully usually spells trouble for the one being bullied. Usually the bullied person fights with a soft voice, wishing the bully would stop the abuse. But it doesn't happen that way. I'd always remember to share my friend Joanna's advice, "If you can't convince, confuse." I hope this helps.