Assert Yourself with Power to Subdue Bullies

It is a tough world out there. Sometimes we deal with people who are aggressive, pushy and difficult to handle. Some happen to be our managers, colleagues or even family members. Whoever it is, dealing with aggressive behaviour is confronting and reduces morale. When dealing with a bully try to present a thoughtful composure where you keep your cool, by calmly asserting your position without losing your personal power.

By Tulika Sarkar

In 2014, the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI) conducted a survey that claimed 37 million workers in the United States reported being subjected to aggressive behavior, and 65.6 million American workers were affected by bullying.

Faced with a bully, it may seem there’s only two options; meet aggression with aggression or submit. Being selectively aggressive may work, but if it becomes a default mode, it may result in alienation or worse – you become the bully.

Before responding to your bully, take a moment to consider your response; “Will I meet aggression with aggression or, if I submit, will I lose my power?” The middle path is to assert yourself with logical and calm argumentation. Try to present a thoughtful response where you keep your cool, and your personal power.

We’ve put together a few thoughts on asserting your personal power

  • Assertive employees display behavior that incorporates interpersonal communication skills. According to the London South University Bank, employers and recruiters look for indications of assertiveness during the interview process.
  • A gentle, diplomatic nudge that allows others to make the first move, garners respect. This is a sign of being a good leader who is assertive, not aggressive.
  • Everyone admires someone who can stay calm while expressing their opinion. It demonstrates self-control and mutual respect. Asserting yourself with power means you can defend your position without apology and in turn respectfully listen to another person’s perspective – even if you believe what they’re saying is rubbish.
  • Being assertive with power at work shows leadership and, gives you ‘soft’ authority to delegate. Having the confidence to make positive contributions in meetings sends a clear message that you’re not someone who will easily be intimidated. The best news is assertiveness at work increases self-esteem and personal happiness both in and out of work.
  • Assertive employees tend to listen to their customers more, ask questions and repeat their statements so they can resolve client issues more effectively – which may help with client retention and overall client satisfaction. Indeed, the adage, ‘who has the confidence in himself will gain the confidence in others’ rings true in this regard.
  • Assertive communication promotes fairness and equality in human interactions, based on a positive experience of mutual respect during disagreements. Directly communicating your needs, wants, and opinion without punishment, reprisal or mockery demonstrates emotional maturity and integrity.

Assertive people generally feel connected to other people. They make statements of needs and feelings clearly, appropriately, and respectfully. Assertive power is expressed by calm and clear tones, good listening and maintaining eye contact.  Keep the following statements in mind when dealing with aggressive people –

  • “I am confident about who I am”
  • “I cannot control others, but I control myself”
  • “I can speak clearly, honestly, and to the point”
  • “I know I have choices in my life, and I consider my options. I am fully responsible for my own happiness”
  • “We are equally entitled to express ourselves respectfully”

Training in assertiveness, such as cognitive behavior therapy is one type of treatment that is firmly based in research. Some goals to increase your personal power might include a desire to be:

  • More outgoing
  • Feel less scared, inadequate, or anxious; and
  • Adept at problem-solving and control self-defeating thoughts.

How to assert yourself with power at work in the following three different scenarios-

Dealing with demands – Dealing with unacceptable demands can be a daunting experience and having the courage to be assertive in such circumstances is not easy for some people. It must always be acknowledged that everyone has the right to not want to fulfil a demand.

Giving criticism – Giving negative comments as ‘constructive feedback’ to change another’s behavior is a rational approach. This makes the feedback more effective.

Giving and receiving compliments – Some people find the giving and receiving of compliments difficult or embarrassing, and may feel the need to either shrug them off or return them. Complimenting is a positive way of giving support, showing approval and increasing the other person’s self-confidence. Learning to both give and accept them gracefully is an important life skill. As Stephen Covey once said, ‘Our ultimate freedom is the right and power to decide how anybody or anything outside ourselves will affect us’.

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