I had lunch today with a business associate – and he is a perfect example of a person who avoids feeling bullied by way of having effective communication skills, or social skills. Effective communication (essentially social skills), or what I call strategic resistance, will keep you out of feeling victimized by a workplace bully.
Let’s recap lunch – somewhere inbetween our sweet and sour pork and won ton soup we got on the topic of my research on workplace bullies. I told him my interest was in teaching victims of workplace bullying conflict management skills, by way of teaching them communication competence, or successful strategic resistance (social skills). I explained to him that I believed one’s communication competence, or ability to effectively communicate with others, would make them less likely to be victimized. If I could teach people effective communication, or how to speak in a manner that asserts power, or stand in an authoritative way, or come across with strength and courage, they could avoid being bullied by nature of these interpersonal skills. This resistance to bullying doesn’t require a grievance complaint with management or a conflict management meeting with a supervisor. It does, however, create a way for the victim to essentially push back on the bully, without being confrontational.
He responded by telling me that as a child he was bullied, and sometimes has felt bullied as an adult. He thinks feeling bullied is a result of his lack in conflict management skills, or ability to confront others. He avoids confrontation like the Black Plague he says, and that lends itself to feeling like a victim of bullying.
On the other hand, he proceeded, “The other day a co-worker told me she was intimidated by me up until she got to know me quite a bit better” and he thought, “How could someone be intimidated by lil’ ol’ me?” My answer to him: “You communicate with confidence. You command power like no other when you walk through a room. You understand communication better than most people” (we went to grad school together, and he teaches at some of the major San Diego universities).
The point? Today’s lunch buddy may not have conflict management skills when it comes right down to it, but what he does have is the ability to avoid getting into a situation involving conflict in the first place. He avoids these situations because he can communicate well. His gestures and word choice communicate power and authority, and friendliness, and even humor. Communicating effectively will keep your feeling like a victim contained. If you can exude power and confidence, the bully can’t touch you.