Friday, November 18, 2016
What to Do When You Are Unfairly Attacked
Own the Anger & Frustration
Should they ever occur, most of cannot escape unfair attacks from within our organization unless we resign. This inability to create distance can ramp up the temperature of your anger or frustration. As a pre-emptive strike against this escalating negativity, simply own how you feel. Don’t fight it or dwell on it. Tell yourself how you feel first, then a trusted, listening friend with no connection to the conflict. Clearing the air will help you be able to see a healthy next step. Without clearing the air, you are far more likely to stumble forward being knocked off course by all kinds of thoughts that owning the emotions will otherwise keep out.
Tackle the Embarrassment
The worst part about being unfairly attacked is that it almost never happens in a confidential environment. This is part of what makes it unfair. Others know and there is a risk that the reputation you have worked so hard to earn will suffer. But hurdles have a way of making us stronger and more resilient, even if they do cause some bruises along the way. So try to imagine yourself on the other side of this coming out as the winner. Then step back into the moment and tell those feelings of embarrassment or shame that they will not have the last word.
Here is where you do the work to make sure embarrassment or shame do not win. You may want to automatically defend against the attack. Your attacker is likely ready for this, armed and prepared. So don’t play his or her game. Stay calm. Ask them to clarify their charges or to explain how they came to the conclusions they did. In their response, you are likely to draw out the weakness or falsehood in their argument. Then you can respond with something like, “I think I understand where the confusion is. Let me see if I can help clear this up.” Then you present your side with humility. When you listen respectfully and respond calmly, you will put your attacker on the defensive. And that’s a place most people don’t like to find themselves. If their case is weak, and if it is unfair it should be, they will retreat from attacking you very quickly.
Rehearse What Matters
Of course there is always the possibility that even if you are successful in the tactic above, you will still feel some sense of guilt or shame. Many people feel like any attack, fair or unfair, indicates that others were able to see a crack in your armor, and that’s why they thought they could or should attack. This can cause you to feel exposed and vulnerable. But here is the thing, if you are working with other human beings in a cooperative effort to do anything of significance or value, vulnerability and transparency are qualities to be highly valued. So rehearse your values and remember that the action of others do not determine what those values are. The well-worn saying is true: what happens to you is not nearly as important as what happens inside you. Staying clear on your values will help to greatly reduce lingering feelings of guilt, shame or embarrassment.
Live Your Values
The best pro-active defense against all attacks is to not only regularly rehearse what matters, but tot hen go out and live those values. This will allow you when unfairly attacked to say, “This attack does not define the truth about me. I know my values and can give multiple examples of how they have been lived out in my day-to-day life.” This comes in handy when an unfair attack is not untrue, but does not represent who you really are. Unless you are a perfect and flawless human being, sometimes you can be justifiably criticized. And this criticism can feel like an attack, unless you are living your values. If you are living them, you can at least say, “Your criticism may have some validity and may say something about me. But it’s not the only thing to say about me, or even the most significant, and it certainly does not define me.” Living out your values will stop most unfair attacks, even before they begin.
Hang tough. Stay strong. Be encouraged!