Try the silent rejoinder strategy -- an inscrutable, poker-faced stare, artfully timed to last a few, uncomfortable (for the detractor -- not for you) seconds. Don't raise your eyebrows, frown, or give any facial expression at all. Because you are utterly unreadable, your invalidator doesn't know if you're hurt, angry, befuddled, or amused.
This is unsettling for a naysayer, who feeds on others' emotional reactions to the surprise attack. Your power comes from the fact that you are betraying no reaction; your face is cryptic, a blank canvas -- he is left to wonder what you're thinking, robbed of the sense of having gotten your goat. Silently count one, one thousand, two, one thousand, three, one thousand, four, one thousand, five, one thousand. This gives you internal leverage by passing the time, in your head. Then, after that fifth second, simply say, "So -- see you in the meeting at four o'clock." Flash a brief smile and walk away. Your detractor will be left scratching his head wondering what just happened.
Say that, in a group meeting, a detractor says, "That's an idiotic idea!" Use the five second silent, inscrutable stare (no frown here, just a clear-eyed, indecipherable look), then pleasantly turn to someone else and say with an upbeat, confident delivery, "Continuing our focused brainstorming, I'd love to hear your thoughts on Project X."
A group "Hit and Run" occurs at the end of a meeting when people are almost out the door. Example: a naysayer says, "Phew, that was a waste of an hour." You, without missing a beat, say, "This has been a highly-productive meeting. Thanks everyone for such inspired thinking today!" Use names and fast, bullet specifics: "Ben, great job spotting that Beta glitch; Jill, congrats on your client win…." Don't include the detractor's name as someone who just contributed. You walk away cleanly, while the detractor is revealed as the difficult person she is.
The balanced people in a group setting will respect your limit-setting as well as your refusal to engage. People will remember your elegance in the face of an invalidator.
Dr. Debra Condren is a business psychologist, career advisor, and author of amBITCHous (BroadywayBooks), A Woman's Guide to Earning Her Worth and Achieving Her Dreams. To collect your complimentary downloadable 60-Minute Expert Brief career advancement seminar, email your request to: Debra@AmbitionIsNotADirtyWord.com. This article was originally published in MetroUS, September 17, 2007.
© 2007 Dr. Debra Condren
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