Master Baiters

I’m not naming any names, but you don’t have to look very far in the news or media to find people who continually bait other people as their M.O. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, to bait means “to persecute or exasperate with unjust, malicious, or persistent attacks and/or to harass.”

A few questions that come to mind regarding baiting behavior are:

1. What is the purpose of baiting?

2. What lies beneath baiting behavior?

3. What can you do if you are the target of baiting behavior?

1. What is the purpose of baiting behavior?

In the context of what we are seeing from certain unnamed individuals and members of the media the purpose of baiting is first and foremost to belittle others in hopes of inflaming and provoking them to act in a way that proves you got the better of them (becoming angry or defensive or merely glaring back at you while expletives flood their mind) and second to win people over to your POV who vicariously enjoy putting others down.

2. What lies beneath baiting behavior?

In nearly all cases, it is an effort to deflect attention away from oneself. To a certain extent that is successful, because when one person baits another, onlookers become glued to the recipient wondering how he or she will react believing that if they were that person, they’d feel very insulted and ticked off. And why would the baiter want to deflect attention away from himself or herself? It’s usually either to distract people from discovering something they are hiding such as a lie, being incompetent or at their core just simply not caring about anyone but themselves.

3. What can you do if you are the target of baiting behavior?

How you respond to being baited is one of your greatest opportunities to demonstrate calmness and presence that can cause onlookers who are rubbernecking to watch your reaction and response expecting you to blow up to instead be blown away by your poise under fire.

The way to adopt the proper presence of mind is to look at the person baiting you with a look that communicates to them that you know that the more they bait you, the more they have something to hide. The more unprovokable and unflappable yet present you are, the more agitated they will become because they don’t know what to do when their knockout punch didn’t even make you flinch.

Some of the responses you can make to communicate this are:

  1. Look at them directly in the eye, let them finish their remarks, pause for two seconds and then calmly say any of the following:

a. “My mind wandered when you just started talking and it seemed important, so would you please repeat it back to me?”

b. “Would you please say that again to me in a normal voice because I kind of tuned you out when you talked to me in the way you just did?”

c. “You sound really passionate and set on what you are saying, please tell me how you came to that conclusion as in what I did or failed to do to cause you to say it.”

d. Or simply, tilt your head and respond as if you are confused and just say, “Huh?”

2. If they interrupt something you are saying, remember exactly where you are in your statement and let them interrupt and berate you. When they finish, imagine deleting everything they have said and continue where you left off even and especially if you were in mid-sentence.

As a rule, identify these people ahead of time and never expect them not to resort to baiting or some other provocative behavior if your conversation with them veers in any direction other than the one they want it to go. And therefore, always hold a part of yourself back so if and when they lash out, you are not caught off balance.

If they are pleasant and nothing unpleasant happens count yourself as lucky that one time, but don’t count on it continuing.




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Mark Goulston

Mark Goulston

Dr. Goulston is co-founder of Michelangelo Mindset, a speaker, MG100 Coach & the author of "Just Listen,” the top book on listening in the world.