Some of the lentil sandwich munching brigade live in a world of sweetness and light where everyone spends their life hugging each other. For the rest of us we don’t always get on and sometimes a verbal bitch slap is what people need. This article is about how you can use a bit of NLP to sharpen the business end of the angry stick when you feel that someone needs a good poke.
A recent email I received spurred me to write a little about dealing with subtle aggression. If you have a difficult person in your life that is never quite openly abusive but is constantly putting you down in small ways this article may help.
People that you interact with frequently, like family members or co-workers, can easily use patronising words and phrases together that taken on an individual basis may not mean anything. But when you put all the instances together they form a subtly aggressive attack on you.
These sorts of attacks are notoriously difficult to deal with because if you get angry they will most likely respond with things like:
- “Your blowing it out of proportion.”
- “It’s only a joke.”
- “You are too sensitive”
It can be a difficult thing to deal with because that one act on its own doesn’t seem like a big thing and it only becomes so once you see it in the context of other conversations.
Here is the email that I was sent:[box color=”white” type=”round” icon=”document”] Hi Rintu,
Thank-you, i just brought the book (Persuasion Skills Black Book – Rintu)and am looking forward to reading it!! The main thing for me is to be able to handle people that are being quite patronising with their words and doing their best to belittle me….i am not necessarily interested in engaging with ‘this person’ for long but just enough to stop them coming out with more insulting or put down comments!! It is a family member. Is there any particular pattern that is more specific for that? For example, if i voice my opinion, he will say prove it or where did you get that information from and invalidate my opinion or pretty much most things I say.
Can you suggest anything for me?
Thanks a lot, from M[/box]
A Process to Tackle the Problem
Here is the process:
The first thing you need to do is keep hold of your emotions. They are doing this to get an emotional response, so let’s start by denying them that. Also by keeping hold of your emotions you are able to think and use your skills more effectively.
Here is one way I personally do this. I imagine myself as a stealthy crouching tiger just stalking my prey. I know if I keep calm and clear headed just waiting for the right moment the person that is doing the attacking is going to get seriously mauled and it will be me doing it.
I like this imagery because it gives me back the psychological edge that the person was seeking to deny me. I am now stalking my victim rather than reacting to whatever they said.
It may take you a moment to get a grip of your emotions and that is great. Just pause, ideally just look at the space between their eyebrows as you pause. By staring at this point it looks like you are making eye contact, but obviously you aren’t quite. This is good for you because not making eye contact means it doesn’t get any more intense for you. But for the person you are just about to deal with the situation is starting to ramp up.
Remember they are looking for an emotional reaction from you. What they have got is you holding their eye contact without giving them anything. If you can keep looking unemotionally at that space between the eyebrows until it feels really uncomfortable and then count slowly to ten before speaking. If you manage this, and it is easy with just a little practice, I will guarantee that the other person will start to speak again. It is almost impossible to keep that void in conversation.
Reflect the Offending Behaviour Back and Ask for an Explanation
Depending on how forceful you want to be either stop them from saying anything else or let them say whatever without responding and let them run out of steam. Then use the super redefine pattern to get to the heart of the matter. Here are a couple of examples of the whole phrase getting more extreme as we go:
I agree you want me to prove it and the issue isn’t my having to prove anything. It is about you explaining why you think I should have to justify anything to you at all. Explain to me what makes you think that is acceptable behaviour.
I agree that you need more information on how I form my opinions and the issue isn’t the information you need but how is it that you have so low self-esteem that you need to try to put me down constantly. Where did your low self-esteem come from?
I agree proof is useful and the issue isn’t about proving my point, it is about explaining why you constantly need to prove that you have no social skills. How have you managed to grow up without developing proper social skills?
Toning it Down a Bit
I agree that these examples might seem a bit extreme and the issue is not about the language and is everything about the pattern allowing you to deflect from they are talking about and point directly to the heart of the matter. And then by asking a question about that heart creates a totally different conversation that is focused on their behaviour.
And trust me this will make them squirm. Especially if you keep using the pattern as they try to get away from discussing their behaviour. My favourite way of doing this is to keep repeating the pattern but getting more extreme as I go just like the above example.
Remember I am not trying to be conciliatory here. And just because I am choosing to deal with this in an adversarial, almost confrontational manner doesn’t mean that you can’t turn this into something much more collaborative and reconciliatory for example:
I can see that proof is important to you and before we discuss that I would like you to be aware of the impact that your behaviour is having on me. Let’s discuss how you can talk to me without me feeling like I am being attacked.
You can find this and many more patterns in the international bestselling Persuasion Skills Black Book. But the key that really makes this work is the state management and emotional handling skills. The Persuasion Skills on Steroids Deconstructed course gives you emotion and state control techniques as well as a method of developing a persuasive personality that can handle stressful environments like when you are being bullied. Click Through and find out more here.