Speak Up to the Bully: Polly Want a Cracker?

by Jul 21, 2012

Don’t want to speak up to the bully yet? Too scared? Too unsure? Don’t worry. There’s actually something you can say that’s not quite a comeback, but it’s not just “taking it” either. It’s called, “Parroting.” You don’t have to feel brave or sure of yourself to do this.

When someone bullies you, either at work, home or school, you just state what happened, or what she said, in a question, without making a judgment about it. This technique allows you to speak up enough so you show the bully you noticed a criticism or a slur, but requires very little courage to pull off. You merely parrot what she just said back to her. Here’s an example.

YOUR BOSS HAS NIT-PICKED ALOT LATELY

You’re collating and binding multiple folders. It’s a process that your boss, Jan, normally pays no attention to. She has never timed anyone else’s work, because everyone, including you, always does this quickly. You’ve noticed she has been nit-picking you for little things for several months, and you’ve never said anything to her about it. You’ve hoped she would stop on her own. And besides, it’s not “that bad.” Maybe she’s been having trouble with her husband or her kids, and it has nothing to do with you. (By the way, these explanations to ourselves only allow bullying to continue.) Today, you finish in your usual amount of time. But Jan decides to criticize you.

NOW SHE’S OPENLY CRITICAL, BUT YOU USE “PARROTING”

“That took you an awful long time. You’re going to have to pick up your pace around here.”

That’s unfair, you think. I’ll try what I read in Abbey’s article the other day.

“I’m taking too long? And I’m going to have to pick up my pace?” You look at her emotionless without confronting orbacking down either.”Yeah, just try to speed it up a little.”

When you parrot back what she’s saying, it’s not necessarily challenging to her. Why? In her own mind, she’s not being that critical of you. To her, there’s nothing wrong with her words. In fact, she may feel she’s hiding her distaste for you rather well. Hearing them back may not sound all that bad to her. It’s the fact that you repeat what she said, not her words, that give her notification you may not quite agree with what she said. It throws her off a little, if it doesn’t completely stop her. She back pedals a bit, “Just so you know, for future reference.”It may not stop her completely. But you’ll have registered your objection for her benefit … and for yours.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS TO YOU?

So, what are the benefits to you for doing it this way? First, it shows her you’re not a doormat who will take anything she dishes out. Repeating what she says is both gentle and noticeable. It may discourage more bullying … a little. A little is better than no discouragement. Second, it requires very little thinking on your part. You just use her words verbatim as a question back to her. Very simple to do. You don’t have to be the least bit creative. You don’t have to memorize a comeback. The bully hands you what to say when she puts you down. It’s right there for you to turn back on her with a question. Third, and most important, you don’t feel like a doormat. In fact, you feel pretty good. It feels good to register your opinion, no matter how subtle. It may leave you longing for more of that powerful feeling when you do assert yourself. You may like the way you feel so much that you’ll want to speak up more.

About Catherine Mattice

Catherine Mattice, MA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is President of consulting and training firm, Civility Partners, and has been successfully providing programs in workplace bullying and building positive workplaces since 2007. Her clients include Fortune 500’s, the military, several universities and hospitals, government agencies, small businesses and nonprofits. She has published in a variety of trade magazines and has appeared several times on NPR, FOX, NBC, and ABC as an expert, as well as in USA Today, Inc Magazine, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine, and more. Catherine is Past-President of the Association for Talent Development (ATD), San Diego Chapter and teaches at National University. In his book foreword, Ken Blanchard called her book, BACK OFF! Your Kick-Ass Guide to Ending Bullying at Work, “the most comprehensive and valuable handbook on the topic.” She recently released a second book entitled, SEEKING CIVILITY: How Leaders, Managers and HR Can Create a Workplace Free of Bullying.

What Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Really Mean

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are essential to creating a positive work environment where employees are happy and thriving. We work with organizations to assess and address any issues related to DEI, and we provide training and resources to help create a...

5 Action Items for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Workplace

Building a healthy workplace where employees feel appreciated and respected requires, among other things, making it diverse and inclusive. It is essential for organizations that want to attract and retain top talent, foster innovation, and stay competitive in today's...

Toxic Work Culture: Three Behaviors That Contribute

Way before working at Civility Partners, I suffered from a toxic work culture. Even though I loved my job, it was very tiring—emotionally, mentally, and physically. The work environment was very unhealthy, and because of that, I made the best decision of my life by...

15 Tiny Habits To Kick Off Your New Year

If you’re anything like me, you kick off your New Year with all the lofty resolutions you can think of. In theory, it’s a great way to be intentional about your future. My problem in checking off those resolutions (and maybe yours, too) is twofold. First, I set...

Civility Partners 2022 Highlights!

2022 was full of learning opportunities and growth. And we had the privilege of sharing some of that knowledge with you, via our blog posts! See below for our highlight reel, in case you missed anything… *All of the resources referenced are re-linked below the video*...

In the Words of Luke Bryan…

I believe most people are good.   Working in an industry focused on toxic workplaces can often seem like the world is full of bullies and ill-intentioned people. I can imagine that working in a toxic environment could lead to similar sentiments. This is why it’s...

Can music at work constitute harassment?

After a recent webinar, a listener sent over this interesting article about a former Tesla employee who’s asking the US District Court of Nevada to agree with her claim that the “obscene and misogynistic rap music” played on site and the resulting actions of her...

Tis’ the Season of Thanks!

It’s the season of thanks and we want to recognize everyone we’re thankful for! We are so thankful to our clients, friends, families, pets, and awesome blog readers like you! We are thankful you take the time to read our content, and even more importantly, deliver on...

4 Ways to Level Up Your Delegation Skills

According to research by The Strategic Thinking Institute, 96% of leaders struggle with finding enough time for strategic work in their roles. They find themselves doing the daily tasks of the job, instead of thinking strategically about the business and taking the...

4 Ways To Overcome Loneliness in a Remote World

Written by: Suzzane Dickman-Perla   When the world first went into lockdown a couple of years ago, I was thrilled with the idea of working from home. Finally! No more waking up at 5am to make the two-hour commute to work. I could wear what I wanted and spend as...