How to Negotiate When You Are Bullied and Harassed

Early in my speaking career, I delivered a program on negotiating disputes especially before they went to trial. During the question and answer portion, one attendee let the audience know she had in-depth experience in Alternative Dispute Resolution. In her expert opinion, she said everything I told them over the last hour was completely wrong. 

WHAT!?! At the time, I didn’t know techniques for handling someone sabotaging your speech. While I did my best to regain my composure and bring the program back on track, the audience members and I felt uncomfortable. 

Negotiating with gossips can make anyone feel uncomfortable. Morning Dose on CW-33

Whether it’s negotiating with difficult people, holding a tough conversation, being surprised at a meeting, or dealing with behavior like the #MeToo movement, the questions are the same. 

“What should I do in the moment?” 

“How do I handle the uncomfortable situation?” 

 “What do I say?”

Fight that instinct to run away. Instead, live in the question. Asking questions slows you down, makes you think and gives you options. Questions help you gain understanding and regain your power.

Ask these questions when you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation:

How can I reframe this uncomfortable situation and think of it as a negotiation?

Words like “surviving” or “dealing with” can make you feel like a victim. Instead, mentally take control by relabeling the uncomfortable conversation as a “negotiation”. Negotiating is proactive and allows you to stay focused and on purpose. When you negotiate, you become a problem solver which helps you stay more objective and avoid emotional potholes.

What can I ASK to regain control?

No matter the stressful situation, the acronym ASK can help you regain your composure in the moment:

  • Ask Yourself: What are you aware of right now? What information can you pick up from what others are acting and saying?

  • Seek Information: If you are surprised or feel confronted, admit it. “You’ve caught me by surprise. What information do you want me to provide?” or “It sounds like you have something specific in mind. What are you seeking?”

  • Know your next best request. For instance, do you need to ask for time to investigate or to collect yourself? If so respond with, “I know this matter is important to you and I want to give it the attention it deserves. When can we talk this afternoon?”

What’s my risk tolerance?

Before allowing emotions to override your thought process, ask yourself:

  • What is the possibility that things will change for the better?

  • What is the worst result that could happen?

  • Can I live with myself if I don’t attempt to resolve this matter?

  • If I leave the drama alone, will it resolve itself?

Do you need to get leadership or human resources involved?

Approaching management for help with workplace drama is a good move when the company has a history of taking action. If you decide to involve leadership: 

  • Treat your request like a high-stakes negotiation where your reputation, performance and job can come under scrutiny as well.

  • Provide examples of language or actions that made you feel uneasy.

  • Discuss your attempts, and those of others, to address the situation.

  • Offer good reasons for the company’s involvement. Give specific examples of how this person’s behavior negatively impacts the organization.

  • Define what you want leadership to do. (Do you want advice or intervention?) 

Asking Outrageously does not mean you have to 
tolerate people who Act Obnoxiously.

Don’t be distracted by others’ inappropriate language, demeanor, or behavior. Whatever challenges you face in your personal or professional life, ask questions to regain control. Ask for help when needed.

Journey On and Ask Outrageously!

About Linda: A recognized authority on negotiations, workplace issues and strategic communication, Linda Swindling, JD, CSP is an author, media expert, a “recovering” employment attorney, and a professional speaker. Contact us to book Linda to speak at your event.