A Simple Way to Disarm any Verbal Bully
And the candy they love and use to get the better of you and others is baiting you because you almost always take the bait.
If you’re like most people who value civility and mutual respect, sorry to inform you, but you have a Shadow in your personality of dark, destructive and vitriolic thoughts, feelings and impulses that you will do anything to keep out of your awareness and consciousness.
A Shadow is a term coined by psychologist Carl Jung to designate some parts of your personality that you often want to deny exist, because they are so repugnant to you (plus many other parts that may not be repugnant, but that you’d just rather not be aware they exist).
That is because they are so unacceptable to you and your view of yourself, just the notion that you possess them threatens to riddle your conscience with deep and even disabling shame.
Not to worry, having a Shadow is synonymous with having a conscience.
All verbal bullies, especially the ones who are always bragging about themselves and berating, belittling, humiliating and ridiculing others, consciously and even unconsciously know that if they can so outrage you, that they enrage you, it threatens to awaken that dark Shadow and have it wreak havoc through your psyche and mind.
You may ask, does the verbal bully have a Shadow. When you’re dealing with someone with narcissistic and sociopathic tendencies, the answer is no. The reason for that, is that such people generally lack a conscience, compassion or empathy, and what is the Shadow of the civil, decent person is overt and in your face from the verbal bully.
I won’t go into events and interactions we are currently seeing in the political arena, but you can easily fill in the characters who brag about themselves while berating and belittling others.
When you watch that happen and you see a smile on the one being bullied, that smile is an awkward attempt to cause observers to not notice that the mild-mannered, civil, decent person is barely suppressing the impulse to eviscerate the verbal bully.
Part of the reason for that awkwardness is that the civil, decent person is not in touch and unskilled in internally managing the murderous rage that is screaming to come out from their Shadow.
What follows is a possible script for dealing with such a verbal bully that you can modify as you see fit and you will see it really is like taking candy away from a baby:
Verbal Bully (VB): Several minutes of grandiose self-aggrandizement mixed with contemptuous, vindictive statements (during which you are making intense, non-wavering eye to eye contact with them and being very quiet)
You: (pause for three seconds after they finish to indicate first, that you took everything they hit you with, without flinching. That will often be unnerving to them, because they know that you’re on to them and their effort to enrage you didn’t work) “Excuse me, with all due respect can you repeat everything you just said since you began speaking this last time, because my mind wandered?”
VB: (caught off balance) “What?” or “Huh?”
You: “Yes, I am really sorry, but my mind wandered since you started speaking this last time, and you sounded very passionate about it, so I’m guessing it was important and I don’t want to miss it. So please repeat it to me.”
VB: (intuitively knowing that they’re incendiary “knock out” punch didn’t work, they may resort to berating you, because they will now be on a combination of retreat and the defensive) “I can’t believe that. You’re so stupid and rude!”
You: “With all due respect, don’t confuse my mind wandering, because of some very pressing personal issues, with my being stupid or rude, especially since I have seen your mind wander on many occasions during conversations and I would never call you stupid or rude. Look, if it was important enough for you to say with such passion, then it’s important enough for you to tell me again so I don’t miss it a second time. It it’s not important, then I guess we can just drop it and go onto the next thing.”
VB: (If they do repeat what they said, let them finish speaking)
You: “Thank you for being willing to do that. And maybe now I am being stupid so maybe you could help me, ‘What was the most important thing you just said? What made that the most important? And how did you come to that so that I have a better understanding, because that will help me to then be most constructive in what I have to say?”
VB: (will unlikely become unhinged because they have used their approach to deflect you away from discovering one or two things that they will do anything to keep from being exposed. First, they don’t know what they’re talking about and/or second, they don’t care about anyone but themselves and how what they’re saying is so obviously self-serving as to be possibly humiliating. And humiliation is the one thing they can’t stand)
You: (if they become unhinged and lash out) “Hey, it did sound important and if you ever want to run it by me again, I’m open to listening, but I’m tuning out the way you’re talking to me now. That’s because you every right to talk to me any way you’d like, just as I have the right to refuse to listen to you.”
If you find the above approach to dealing with verbal bullies helpful, it is just one of the approaches you’ll learn about in my book, Talking to Crazy: How to Deal with the Irrational and Impossible People in Your Life (BTW Harper Collins Leadership Essentials is currently doing a book club on the book with a discount if you want to buy it, plus I’ll be doing a live Q & A on September 25 at 10 am pdt).