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Thursday, May 22, 2014
Don't let a verbal attack go unanswered
Not responding to a verbal attack at work can have serious consequences for your career, but there are ways to develop your ability to fire back with professionalism.
One of the most frustrating things to happen at work is to get into a verbal tussle with someone and suddenly be unable to respond with anything beyond “Oh, yeah?”
Once you’ve sunk to defending yourself on the level of an 8-year-old, you know that you’ve lost status with anyone who witnesses your humiliation, from your manager to the summer intern.
Of course, it’s not always an all-out argument that can leave you tongue-tied and humiliated. In a meeting you may get a verbal smackdown from a colleague who doesn’t like your idea. Or, a team mate may make snide comments about your work that isn’t exactly insulting – but you know a rude comment when you hear one.
In all these case, it’s critical that you find a way to respond appropriately – and immediately – or you’ll just become the easy target of such smackdowns in the future. The result is an experience that is not only socially painful, but one that is physically painful as well.
Specifically, researchers at UCLA found that after placing test subjects in an MRI scanner, their brains showed the same reaction to social rejection as those undergoing physical pain.
If you’d like to avoid the unpleasant experience of coming out on the losing end of a verbal smackdown, then you’ve got to hone your ability to respond to difficult conversations.
In her book, “Comebacks at Work,” author Kathleen Kelley Reardon preaches that practice makes a difference. In other words, if you don’t want to be left sputtering the next time you are confronted or insulted at work, then you need to prepare.
She advises that overcoming “brain freeze” means that you’ve got to retrain your brain to see such situations as opportunities or challenges instead of feeling trapped. Once you understand that it’s a habit you can break, then you know you can change and won’t always be a victim of someone else’s sharp tongue.
One method she teaches for finding the right comeback is learning to use metaphors. This is especially valuable if the other person is insulting you (see more here)