By Mary Foley
Whether someone is playing power games with you at work or you've decided to take a stand on an important point, when you exert your personal power, expect that you will get push back. Here are six interesting characters to be on the lookout for and how you can "respond".
The Minimizer: This person immediately attempts to diminish your actions by downplaying them. "That's no big deal" or "I don't see why you believe this is important" are the type of responses you can anticipate. Essentially, they want to marginalize you, which can immediately feel disrespectful, hurtful, and frustrating. Don't fall for it! Don't get into a conversation about why you believe your opinions are important. You know they are, so simply restate them with a bit more resolve and redirect the conversation towards a constructive response or solution.
The Caretaker: Someone may decide to be your Caretaker and express such concerns as, "You haven't been yourself lately. Are you all right? You've been pretty edgy and people have been wondering if there is maybe something wrong at home." Of course you're edgy! You're practicing a new skill, and you're concerned that you might be doing it too forcefully, offending people unnecessarily when all you want to do is establish clear boundaries and standards for how you want to be treated. The Caretaker may be a true friend who is sincerely concerned with your welfare or the Caretaker might be a false friend who is just gathering data to somehow leverage against you. Proceed with caution.
The Distracter: This person tries to get you off track from your main point by saying things that are seemingly valid. Statements may come in the form of criticizing your overall worthiness and emotional stability with comments such as, "Don't you think you're over-reacting?" or "What you should really care about is..." Comments may also come in the form of planting seeds of doubt about your position. You might hear, "Are you sure?" or "According to my years of experience, what's really happening is...." These kinds of questions and comments are designed to escalate tension and rattle you. Stay calm and stay focused on your message. Carefully choose which to answer. If you feel yourself getting rattled, don't address the distractions, and go back to your main point.
The Fidgeter: Another person who engages in rattling maneuvers. You're tense. You're uncertain. You're trying to express your concerns clearly and unemotionally. But the person you're talking to keeps looking at his or her watch, shuffling and reorganizing papers and glancing out the door. They're uncomfortable. All this distracting activity is making you feel rushed and unheard. Stand your ground. Stay focused and take your time. They'll just have to wait until you're finished.
The Threatener: This person threatens consequences that are out of proportion to merely speaking your mind: "If you ever say that again, you will be sorry." It's hard enough to gather the courage to speak your mind and take a stand when your expectations are reasonable. When someone overreacts to your message in a threatening way, try not to take the warnings personally, but do take note. Write down what was said, word for word. You never know when you'll need that information.