I grew up in Harlem in the 80s. It wasn't exactly Mayberry. And I was the grandchild of a well-known political and business figure. I went to a different school than all of the neighborhood kids and was a little quieter. So I was an easy target. But my mother taught me a few lessons that put kids at bay and have helped me in life in general. So, inspired by Governor Romney's actions in the first debate, and President Obama's reaction, I thought I needed to write a quick study guide for adults and kids alike: How Not To Get Bullied.
1. Your eyes and body say everything.
My mom taught me this as a little girl. "Always keep your chin up," she told me. Never divert your eyes. She was particularly insistent that I never looked down when a man was coming my way. She told me to hold my head high; to look him in the eye. Once you look away- or a thousand times worse- down, he knows you are vulnerable. I was so frustrated watching President Obama turn his head down to take notes for what looked like sixty percent of the time that Romney was talking. All the while, Romney had his eyes firmly planted on the President, as he rained verbal attack after attack on him! In fact, I had to rewind a couple of times when I saw Obama look up at Romney when Romney had looked to Lehrer and then quickly look back down when Romney returned his gaze to Obama. I was incredulous!
2. Never let them see you sweat.
For any kids reading this, that phrase used to be a deodorant commercial tag line and quickly became a part of American lexicon, and part of pep talks on game sidelines, in halls of corporate America and in the streets alike. Yet, people do it all the time. People show anger, frustration and disappointment. And I could not believe it when I saw Obama do exactly that: gathering his brow, probably quizzically (because Romney was flipflopping so hard I thought he was going to get whiplash). The problem is that it looked like anger on Obama's face. He pursed his lips seemingly in frustration. But more importantly, he seemed to have lost command of his talking points: he took way too long to get his thoughts out.
3. Know your opponent.
Know your attacker's patterns, weaknesses and strengths. As a private equity guy, we should expect Romney to have command of numbers (statistics) and to be arrogant (they get paid to believe that they can run a company better than the person who previously did so). President Obama seemed not to have been ready for Romney's style (attack mode), which he ought to have expected if he watched the Republican primary debates. Nor should Obama have been surprised by the "shift to the center" because he has been changing his positions at will for his entire career. If Obama knew his opponent, he sure didn't use that knowledge to defend his own record or call into question Romney's! That takes me to my next point.
4. The best defense is a good offense.
Romney is so flimsy, so open for attack: doesn't have a firm position on anything, doesn't give any substance or facts as to how he intends to execute on his "plan," has made his money on the backs of little guys yet disparages those same little guys for needing some extra help, attacks people for not paying taxes yet he pays less than I do. The list of ways to be on the offensive with him goes on and on. The best rebuttal to most of Romney's claims is an easy one: "Really? Is that what you believe? I ask because on XYZ date your positions was A. Two years later it was B. And now today, it is C. Which is it, Governor Romney?" And where was the 47 percent line of attack?! Where was the offensive?
If bullying victims are better with their words than Obama was during the first debate, they can use their verbal skills to shut the bully down. I sincerely hope that your kids - and the President - can use these pieces of advice to beat the bully back next time! If Romney succeeds in bulling President Obama, next will be the 99%.