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5 Steps to challenge negative criticism or verbal bullying


You know when you are quite happily doing your job but you have that boss or co-worker who just seems to want to make your life a misery, slowly destroying you with cutting comments or remarks. It could be a colleague or friend, partner or family behaving this way and it always seems that you have 2 choices, keep quiet and just carry on but internalise the hurt, or get embroiled in an argument because they are looking for a fight and you are going to give them one…..


Either of these choices can be destructive for your own wellbeing. Internalising hurt means that you will let it keep building up until one day you crack, and you either have a mini or major breakdown or do something that you really regret. If you fight back straight away, often it looks like you are the troublemaker because you have a fiery temper and the person that caused it all plays the innocent victim. Do these scenarios ring a bell with you? I went through this, alternating between the two when I had the boss from hell, and I wish someone had given me these tools to cope at the time! I could have also used this on my boyfriend at the time, it would have saved tons of heartache!


This is a 5-step process, escalating as required, but you have to remember that you use these steps in a calm and controlled voice so that you are not portrayed as the problem. These can be used in work, in personal life, with your partner or siblings, friends, enemies or even parents etc.


1. So, when someone says something to you that is unkind, unneeded and it has the power to upset you, just respond by saying ‘Thank you for sharing that’. This acknowledges that you heard what they said but signals that you are not getting into an argument about it. You can just say ‘thank you for sharing that’ and walk away with your head held high. Example: Joe says to you that 'you are getting a bit fat these days' you reply with ' Thank you for sharing that' and walk away.


2. If someone steps it up a gear and makes a rude comment or criticises you needlessly you can say ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that, could you repeat what you just said?’ This tells them that you heard it but are onto their game. Quite often, they will recant or say oh, don’t worry about it’ Example : Joe mutters that 'you keep screwing everything up by eating all the samples' you heard them the first time, but you just politely say ' I'm sorry, I didnt quite catch that Joe, could you say it again?' cue very embarrassed Joe dissapearing very quickly!


3. If at this point they are still being mean and haven’t given up and are still trying to bait you, you can say ‘Oh, are you trying to hurt my feelings?’ which shows that you know what they are trying to do, but are not going to bite and react in the way that you want. Example: Joe continues with his fat theme making comments like 'who ate all the pies?', you just calmly reply with ' oh, are you trying to hurt my feelings?' at this point you are shaming him, not him shaming you!


4. If they continue with something like ‘yeah and what are you going to do about it’, you can follow this with ‘it’s not going to work because I am not taking any notice’ you see at this point you are stating that their words will have no impact on you because you will not let it. Their opinion of you is irrelevant, you only want people in your tribe that will love and support you, this person is not in your tribe so who cares what they think!


5. By this point most people would have given up but you may have a particularly persistent family member or colleague that just wont let go, you can simply state ‘Since we are sharing, did you know that critical people have the most criticism reserved for themselves!’ You can feel sorry for them at this point, they are not in your tribe, they have repeatedly made it clear that they do not value you, and you have won the game - they tried to bully, belittle or embarrass you and it didn't work. You can walk away with your head held high that you won and you didnt have to resort to shouting, crying or behaving just like them!


This 5-step process should triumph in the most persistent of cases, if required, rinse and repeat as often as necessary. Print out the 5 sentences and put them on your desk, in your purse, or even on your mirror at home until you can drop them onto a conversation without pause or hesitation.


The first few times you use this will feel awkward and uncomfortable, but that is because you are moving your boundaries, persist and it will soon become familiar and a lot easier. Rehearse the phrases in your head, and even role play them until you are comfortable.

And then relax, because you’ve got this, and you don’t have to put up with this criticism or bullying behaviour anymore!


God forbid, but if at anytime this escalates into physical violence, pushing, shoving, hitting etc then call the police…...violence is never acceptable in any circumstances and from anyone, especially those close to you!


Share this with your family, your kids, your friends, anyone that you feel may need some extra back up, I wish someone had taught me these steps, it would have saved an awful lot of trauma and stress!


Feel free to contact me if you would like support and help in dealing with this type of instance via the website www.jennirockcoaching.com

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