Keeping bullies at bay

Asked of me on Quora today: What is your best one-line zinger or just best zinger of all time regardless of length?

I see zingers as a way to enact justice into an unfair situation of a person trying to grab unfair control.

My answer:

If you’re talking about something that’s going to have a disciplining effect, but doesn’t open the door to escalating conflict, then I recommend no words at all.

Whatever misbehavior is going on, if you simply stand overtly silent and give them a meaningful look, and continue to do so, this usually puts an end to the irresponsibility or unkindness and allows people to “come back to themselves”.

In most cases, except for really severe situations, this is absolutely the most effective way to express your disapproval. Much more potent than whatever “zinging” words you might have tried to use.

Most people only require this kind of light touch. And for those who need more, you’ve given them no ammunition. You’ve done nothing at all for anyone to use as a pretext for taking offense and thus escalating the conflict.

If that doesn’t bring things back to normal and you do have to do more, then this question asked of the main culprit is sometimes useful: So what effect are you trying to have right now?

He or she may ridicule the question or pretend not to understand it, but if you persist in simply asking it, without further elucidation – like holding out a cross to a vampire – at the very least, everyone else involved will see your point and so the destructive influence is brought into focus for all concerned. Hopefully, at least it will isolate the real instigator of the situation (the true bully) and strip them of the support they’re relying on and feeding from.

I’ve actually chased people out of the room with this question as they bizarrely kept on trying to avoid answering it, probably terrified inside of actually confronting what the answer might be.

I wouldn’t get too keen on using it with hardened sociopaths, though. Not unless you have other Bruce Lee skills as well … or a bodyguard. You could test the waters with the question, and then persist with it or not as seemed prudent. No sense in trading places with the victim … unless, of course, martyrdom is your thing.

I hope this is the sort of stuff you were looking for.

By the way, this question also has the added advantage of not putting you in the wrong if you have misread the situation. If someone is genuinely trying to bring things under control or improve the situation so more is accomplished, then they will simply answer your question and you can respond as seems appropriate. (Thus you won’t have to pack up your sanctimoniousness and leave the party.)

I’ve also written more about giving pointed looks and other ways to keep people in line here: Gus Griffin’s answer to What are common mistakes that new or inexperienced managers make?

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
Posted October 7, 2016 at 6:37 pm by Gus Griffin · Permalink
In: Misc