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Aren't Ready to Speak Up to the Bullying Yet?

Oct 24, 2007
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 ttention 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, You Use "Parrotting"
"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 or backing down either.

"Yeah, just try to speed it up a little."

She Could Get Madder
Meanwhile, she sees that you "notice" she's being critical, and are mildly taking issue with it. She could get madder and escalate her criticizing, that happens sometimes. You can always excuse yourself from her presence if it does.

The other thing that she could do is make a snide comment about an echo. You maintain your passive stance with a simple, "No echo."

But Mostly "Parrotting" Works
But more often than not,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.

Keep Using It
You can use "Parroting," over and over to repeat the high you get from just saying something back. It does work well. And it's appropriate for almost any bullying scenario. You'll think to yourself that you're not accomplishing that much as you say it,
because it's not big or dramatic. No one cries, or feels bad. But just watch the bullies ease off. Every little bit helps.
About the Author
Stop Workplace Bullying. Discover How to Speak Up to Save Your Job and Your Dignity. Visit www.BullyBlaster.com and sign up for a free Stop the Bullies newsletter.
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