Stop the bully dead in his tracks.
Signal you’re not easy prey.
Don’t feel humiliated by a remark that catches you off-guard and travels with you all day in your mind.
You’ve got a dozen reasons for wanting a quick comeback that wards off the bully in your work or home life. Except…when you’re in the line of fire, your mind goes blank. The bully launches a pre-emptive attack and you stammer, blush, and find yourself speechless.
No more. In Beating the Workplace Bully and my consulting practice, I coach those targeted by bullies how to handle bully attacks. Here’s one true story and six tried and tested comebacks you can use:
A new client called me, “Another manager and I are vying for a promotion. Corporate will choose one of the two of us. Every two weeks we present reports from our departments. He sits near the podium, and when come to the front of the room to speak, he says something that totally knocks me sideways.”
“Like what,” I asked.
“Yesterday it was ‘fat thighs.’”
“How did you handle it?”
“I didn’t. I was flustered and botched my presentation. Later my boss asked ‘What was that all about?’ And I couldn’t tell him. How could I let him know I couldn’t handle Tom?”
We brainstormed two dozen comebacks. Here’s what happened two weeks later. My client walked to the front of the room, and her sniper whispered, “You have a big butt.”
She responded, “And, that matters to you, how?”
Those around him laughed and my client gave her presentation, hitting a home run.
If you face a similar bully gunslinger, arm yourself. Here are some of my favorite comebacks.
- “Pardon me?” said with a look of genuine surprise as if you can’t believe the bully said what he’d said.
- You can couple it with, “Is that the best you can come up with?” with a look that says “maybe you can do better next time.”
- “Once was kind of funny, but twice is old.”
- “Are you done?”
- “Game over. No points.”
Want to try? Imagine this scenario in your mind. A bully looks at you and asks “Where did you come up with this crap?”
Now, imagine you’ve heard that, and you take a breath and say, “Pardon me?”
What can the bully say now?
Imagine the bully says, “What, something the matter with your hearing?”
You calmly answer, “No.”