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November 14, 2016

Some years ago, while working for an agency, I found myself at odds with two therapists who were my coworkers. More specifically, they were at odds with me. They had learned about my verbal judo exercises and were offended about the scenarios I had practiced with clients where the clients would do their best to insult and upset me, while I got them to stop without retaliation.

They complained about me to our supervisor, alleging that my behavior was not professional. I defended my actions with solid arguments in addition to research to support my methods, and our supervisor gave me the green light. Shortly thereafter after one of the therapists who had complained about me, the most vocal of the two, experienced an incident in which he was verbally accosted and bullied by an aggressive client. I so happened to have witnessed the entire event in person. As the client laid into him, he became so flustered, he went speechless. I then decided to intervene and quickly deescalated the situation. I said nothing about the incident to him, and he never mentioned it on his end. However, by the time I had left the agency, he and I were on good terms.

The interesting thing about this guy is that among us, he was very vocal about demanding respect from the clients and would habitually communicate to us an air of importance about himself.

The point of this story is to elaborate a pattern with people who become easily upset and offended by the words of others. That pattern is this; they have no plans for a fight. No, I am not talking about a physical altercation (I do believe in self-defense), I am talking about practicing assertiveness to take care of oneself. People who place a lot of emphasis on how they should be treated, are mainly concerned with how they should be perceived by others because they have no intention, courage or comprehension of how to stand up for themselves when things get tough.  When we focus on how others should treat us, we delude ourselves into creating messages that convince us that we have control over the words and actions of others. This takes away from the process of learning and preparing for how to effectively respond to the unwanted words and actions of others.

The process of getting offended and harping on how one should be respected by others is an act to ward of bullies. The problem is, it is an act that seldom works with bullies. A proper bully sees through the facade and goes into attack mode.

If you struggle with confidence, assertive, courage and other anxiety related issues, you can learn cognitive behavioral strategies to rewire your brain to become more comfortable and embracing of conflicts.

Settling for the role of a pretentious tough guy or girl only alienates good people from your life, leaving for mostly bullies in your life. Even if you take on the role of a bully, the people in your circle will consist mostly of bullies, and fair weathered friends.

Ugo is a psychotherapist and owner of Road 2 Resolutions PLLC

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