Taming The Victor: How To Respond When The Other Person Needs To Be Right

Have you ever found yourself absolutely certain of something, only to find out later that you were totally off-base? This question, and others like it, are what we’ve been asking you to consider in our current exploration of a common addiction: always having to be right, even when you’re not. In my recent article Pressure Points: Stress and Your Addiction To Being Right, I illustrated this compulsion by offering real case studies with built-in solutions. I hope you’ve been taking this journey with me and taking steps not to be held back in your career.

Another angle to consider in this vein is how to handle situations where the other person is addicted to being right, which often prompts them to be a workplace bully. Rest assured, there are some effective solutions. Let’s have a look at those solutions, and the situations that prompt them.

The Need To Be The Victor

I learned a valuable lesson about the realities of the need to be right when coaching a group of high-potential women in a male-dominated business. While conducting my discovery interviews, a tuned-in and thoughtful man who holds a leadership position in the department revealed a big difference in the way women and men think, namely that women see the big picture and men want to win the point.

I thought the guy was off-base, but in fact, I witnessed his discovery in action, and was mortified. It was a meeting with two-thirds men, one of whom started by pushing back against what a woman had contributed., then making a suggestion that was unrelated to solving the problem at hand. I could feel the energy of the room shift as he, a silver-tongued debater, kept the floor. When others pushed back, he only got more sure-footed in his stance, prompting another man to back him up. I couldn’t believe my ears!

Learning From The Challenge

Post-session, I returned to the women I worked with and engaged in some role playing and strategizing for future meetings when they’ll be outnumbered. Pushback with facts and figures doesn’t work in these situations. The secret to changing the energy from positional to consideration is to ask questions to “help me understand”. This shift from push to pull can change the drive of a discussion since someone who has a dopamine rush from being “right” is actually being given credit. We tried out a few angles including, “Okay, I agree with what you say, so let’s see how this will play out and change the outcome of this problem. Who will it affect?” and “What needs to happen next?” and “What is the problem this idea addresses?”. We finally hit on a holy trinity: “How does this this save money, make money, or mitigate risk?”.

Bully in Our Midst

The workplace bully starts out strong, confident, LOUD and insistent, so as to wear down the “opposition” before they start reasoning with the bully. Ellen Leikind, in her book Poker Woman, illustrates the role of starting as the bully! Bite first, and others won’t bite! This translates through her lessons in using the game of poker to gain the upper hand in business discussions. Ellen defines the bully as one of the four types of poker players, being aggressive and loose (high risk=high reward). She writes:

“…The aggressive, loose player is really a bully….betting, raising, calling, doing everything to try to intimidate and confuse. They really don’t care what kind of cards they have….they’re going to play the same kind of game regardless. They are comfortable throwing their weight around, they are not afraid to lose, they are bold to the point of reckless….They crave action. Always trying to get a better deal. No matter what you say, they claim to have a more attractive option at the ready. You have to know that they’re going to bargain aggressively, so when you go to negotiate, you leave a lot of room to maneuver.

There are many ways to manage the bully at work. First, recognize that their aggressive behavior has nothing to do with you, but you will make it about you if you play into their hand. When you get wound-up by their aggression, your amygdala will trigger you to fight, flight or freeze. It’s easy to say and hard to actually remove yourself from the situation, but it’s a powerful move physically and emotionally. It’s analogous to going to the balcony so you can explore the situation with perspective. Then, approach the bully in a one-on-one environment. Don’t catch him off-guard, and don’t speak with the assumption that he’s aware of what he’s doing.

Jane, a client of mine, found herself in this sort of bullying situation with her boss. I recommended speaking with her boss alone, since one-on-one interaction would take away his audience. She used the A.I.R. Method in that meeting:

A: Critique the ACTION: “I’ve noticed you don’t give me credit for my ideas” or “I sense that you ridicule me/put me down during meetings”.

I: Describe the IMPACT of this action: “Your action takes away my credibility” or “By doing this, I am not contributing to the team”.

R: Make a REQUEST about what she’d like him to do differently: “Please recognize that I’m contributing. If you have feedback, I’d prefer to hear it privately”.

If Jane does have an ally on the team, she may enroll that ally at the next staff meeting to step in say, “I’d like to hear what Jane has to say”.

The next article will offer you numerous valuable resources to read, watch and listen to regarding the addiction to being right. Then, stay tuned-in during October as I’ll explore the juicy territory of assumptions, judgement and jumping to conclusions.

If you enjoy what you’re reading and are considering living life more fully, schedule a complimentary consultative session with DRIVEN HERE.