Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Difficult, Tricky Communication?

Comment from a reader (A) asking for advice about how to handle a particular type of person (B) and communication style. The quote is altered to protect the guilty. Unfortunately the irrational, bullying style described isn't a rarity in person, on the phone, on e-mail or social media. Here's an approximation of the conversation.

(A)  "I don't think there's a definite answer to the question of whether the debt ceiling should be raised or not. There are pros and cons to both viewpoints."

(B)  "Your stupid comments and your wrong opinions have just publicly humiliated me and f----d up at least one important relationship.  I'm pissed. You're a f------g idiot."

The reader wondered how to handle this type of aggressive communication. Aggressiveness in return? Apology? Defense? Shut down and click the off button?
Here's round 1 advice from me:

"I've found that what works best is to not respond at all if it’s in an e-mail, unless the person asks a question, which I answer literally. E.g.”What kind of an idiot are you Judy?” “I don’t have an answer to your question.” Or if it’s in person or on the phone, let the person run down without responding at all, just listening. Then say good-by, good night and walk away. It’s the denial of impact approach. It's is not a win-lose and because it’s a chosen strategy, I don’t feel punched out.  Those angry, bullying people are always better at it than I/you are. It never works to compete on their level. At least not in my experience."

(A) didn't like my advice and thought a detached approach would result in bad feelings — and found a solution that worked satisfactorily.

• Asked for and received an apology from (B).
• Was asked for and didn't provide an apology to (B).
• Commented that drama wasn't welcomed nor would it be tolerated in the future from (B).  
• Mentioned regret that the comment (A) made was upsetting and would not make such comments in the future.

All seemed well! I added this possibility for the future to (A).

"Try it (denial of impact) once with a lesser infraction or infractee. And read my post today about psychological distancing.
  I have gotten good at it over the years but fretted for a long time about winning, losing, fairness, my integrity, being a wimp, letting them get away with it, selling my soul etc. Now I find that by not getting engaged in the garbage I expend much less energy and time on the issue and it slowly leaves me.  I do not forgive or forget, but become indifferent."

How do you deal with this type of bullying or difficult behavior?

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