College Central®

Ask around. The Network works.®

Issues
Dealing with Difficult People: the Alpha Male

Susan Dunn, M.A. -- The term comes from monkeydom -- the dominant male in the hierarchy who basically runs things and gets what he wants. In the monkey troop, there's only one and one of his privileges is he's often the only one who gets to mate.

In a nutshell they're domineering, intimidating, impatient with people and details, thrive on responsibility, driven, irascible, know (not "think") they're right, often left-brained, and difficult.

Is there an "alpha female"? Studies have shown that females are not as innately** threatening as males. Also, across-the-board, males test lower in empathy and social responsibility -- two traits that contribute to this personality style. So, not really!

**Tests for innateness mean it's evident with newborns, and in every culture, therefore not something "learned."

How do you cope with one? Here are some suggestions.

1. Take a stand.

You won't get to hold it, but if you don't, you'll become irrelevant.

2. Learn their language.

This is helpful with anyone, learning how they speak, and essential with the alpha male. Listen to the alpha and parrot back, using his terminology. For instance, if you get an email saying, "You were wrong," you can reply, "How do I do this right?"

3. Maintain your dignity and self-respect.

It may well be under assault, and it's up to you. The alpha male isn't looking out for you, your feelings, or sentiments, or often even your opinion. If you show he's "getting to you," you'll likely get more of it. (To them it's a show of "weakness.") Learn to manage your nonverbal communication -- facial expressions, position of hands, posture, etc.

4. Come in equipped with Emotional Intelligence.

You're going to need it. They are results-driven, and this means they run rough-shod over people, whom they see as merely a means to their end. (You will be judged on how "useful" you are.) You will have to learn to protect yourself. Deal with the facts and don't take it personally. If you look around, it was just "your turn," that's all.

5. Right and wrong.

There's likely to be a lot of discussion about who was "right" and who was "wrong." If you made a mistake, say so up front. (Often it's good to put as much in writing as you can about what you did, when, in case it comes up later and is subject to his "selective memory.") If you did something because of lack of knowledge say, "I didn't know that at the time." Don't apologize.

6. Eliminate the ordinary "fluff."

Be analytical, logical, and direct. Since they are relatively insensitive, direct comments you might make to someone else, will bounce right off their tough hide. Their ends justify any "means," including disregard for others. They don't respond well to "I'm sorry," or "How are you feeling today?" They just don't like it, that's why.

7. If you're sensitive, you may need to find somewhere else to be. Period.

To the average alpha male, you're "a breathing body" and that's about it. He may not even bother to learn your name as he barks orders.

8. Stay neutral and don't admit to a weakness.

While it works with most people to say, "I'm learning this job and have a ways to go," to an alpha male, this is like waving a red flag to a bull. Stick with details, "Yes, I see. It won't happen again." (Or say "Yes, I hear you" or whatever your listening to his vocabulary has taught you.)

9. Avoid appearing (or being) submissive.

If you do, you'll lose his respect. Don't be intimidated by his anger. The basic reason is probably because it makes him feel good, so there's not a thing you can do about it. More than any other type, don't try to change him. It won't work. (If you do try, get something like a 360 -- evidence from everyone else is all he'll believe.)

10. Don't waste his time.

Which is most of the normal niceties and social amenities.

Susan Dunn, M.A., is an Emotional Intelligence Coach who trains and certifies EQ coaches. She offers coaching, business programs, Internet classes, teleclasses, and ebooks around Emotional Intelligence.Contact her at:. mailto:sdunn@susandunn.cc for information on this fast, affordable, flexible, no-residency program. For her FREE ezine, email her and put "ezine" for the subject line. For more information, visit: http://www.susandunn.cc. Also, check out the best ebook library on the Internet at: www.webstrategies.cc/ebooklibrary.html .

© 2004 Susan Dunn

Return to top

The views and opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily reflect those of College Central Network, Inc. or its affiliates. Reference to any company, organization, product, or service does not constitute endorsement by College Central Network, Inc., its affiliates or associated companies. The information provided is not intended to replace the advice or guidance of your legal or medical professional.