04/30/2012 01:55 pm ET Updated Jun 30, 2012

Calling All Female Executives: How to De-Fang a Bully (Part 4)

Let's face it. Many men are masters at baiting (okay, so I had some fun with those words), in that they know how to easily bait you and press your buttons in a way that causes you to take the bait, go off balance, become submissive or defensive -- and then in that moment of imbalance, vulnerability and reactivity when you can't think clearly, they go for the jugular and, with little difficulty, find it.

And then, my dear lady, you are "toast!"

Don't they know that is no way to treat a lady or certainly motivate or inspire one to want to give their all for you? Apparently not. It's bad enough that so many men do this -- what's worse and even more outrageous is the delight they take in doing it. When that happens it becomes very difficult to remain a lady, when everything inside you want to tear their heart out.

What to do?
  1. Never expect such a person to not act that way when they want you to do something or don't want to do something that you're asking them.
  2. Instead always hold a little of yourself back when they go infantile and inside you go scared or ballistic.
  3. Keep looking at them in their left eye (their left eye is connected to their right/emotional brain) in a calm but steady way and look for the insecurity and even fear underneath whatever they are saying. If you practice this you will always be able to see it as their paranoia.
  4. After they act up, here are a variety of responses that will keep you centered, reverse the provocation and then send them through the roof, while you just demurely look at them in a puzzled way:
    • Pause -- just doing that calmly will communicate that whatever they did to provoke you didn't work
    • Say in an inquiring and non-provoked way, "What was that [the hyperbole in their tone] all about?"
    • Or say, "Do you really believe what you just said?" (great if they have used words such as "never," "always," etc.)
    • Or say, "Would you please say that again in a normal voice, because I can't think clearly when you use the tone you just used on me?"
    • Or just tilt your head, look puzzled and say, "Huh?"
    • They will probably become agitated, but don't become scared just see them as a tantruming infant who didn't get their way and wait for a few moments. If they don't stop say, "I guess we'll need to continue this at another time," then get up and leave.
    • A more sophisticated and deft intervention and response is to say the negative that they are thinking, but haven't said yet. For example, if you're dealing with a man (such as a financial type who only cares about the bottom line and can't stand people being verbose -- perhaps because he had to listen to his mother or wife be that way), as soon as you in a conversation where he is demanding or venting something at you, firmly and calmly raise your right hand in a stopping gesture and say, "Stop!" By interrupting him he will be taken aback and go off balance. Then say, "Given that you are only interested in the 'bottom line,' could you please tell me what 'bottom line' you want me to address so we can make this conversation as short as possible which something we both want to do." When you do that, you will have not just taken the words out of their mouth, you will have taken the wind and bluster out of their sails.
BTW, if you can do this all in a playful (not to be confused with ridiculing) manner, not only will you stop (and even retrain) a bully in his tracks, you might even find some of them wanting to become your friend.


Because inside, many of these bullies know they go too far and know they need someone to stop them when they can't stop themselves. It's like the mouse taking the thorn out of the lion's paw.

Of course it then remains to be seen whether or not you would want to be their friend. My counsel to you is to just say, "No," to their invitation unless they start treating everyone with respect.