Do you know any a-holes?
When you interact with them, do they get the better of you?
Do you deal with them by trying to avoid them?
What if there were a way to interact with them where they never get the better of you and you therefore never have to avoid them?
My Russian book, How to Talk With A**holes, became a best seller and went viral in that country. It even caused a major conference to have me as a headline speaker along with Nobel laureate, Daniel Kahneman, author of, Thinking Fast and Slow.
It is also available in an American edition called, Talking to Crazy: How to Deal with the Irrational and Impossible People in Your Life.
Here is one tip from the book.
First of all, a little explanation of how and why a-holes get the better of you. When they talk over, at or down to you, they often trigger either fear or anger in you. When that happens, it triggers something called an Amygdala Hijack.
The Amygdala is in your brain, specifically the emotional part of your brain, and functions like an emotional sentinel and point guard. When it becomes overly activated, and fear and anger can each do that, it signals your brain to shunt (or hijack) blood flow to the more primitive, survival and lower part of your brain and away from your more advanced upper brain that enables you to think rationally.
When an Amygdala Hijack occurs, you tend to react without thinking and go into either a fight, flight or freeze response. All three can throw you off balance and enable the a-hole to get the better of you. As such you will either appease them or run away or avoid them.
The above explanation informs the best way for you to react and here is how to do that (if you like it, you will probably want to pick up my book in either the Russian or English editions).
Here are the steps/tactics you can use today to talk to an a-hole:
- Know who it is ahead of time. The way to know that is when just the sound or their name or seeing a text message or receiving a voice mail or email, puts a knot in your stomach.
- Never expect them not to resort to their a-hole way of communicating to you and therefore hold a little of yourself back so that you won’t be either blindsided or surprised.
- When they act like an a-hole towards you, say to yourself, “Okay, here it comes” (i.e. they’re about to act like an a-hole) to ready yourself.
- Let them say whatever they have to say and don’t interrupt them or feel intimidated, because you will now have the following plan with tactics to deal with them.
- After they finish pause for three seconds looking them directly in the eye and in a very calm and measured voice say, “I need your help with something” and then pause again. In all likelihood, that will be such a counterintuitive response from you and it will either confuse them or push them off balance (because their way of intimidating you to get their way, didn’t work).
- Then say, “Yes, I need your help because I think what you said was very important for me to hear and I don’t want to miss it. However, your talking over, at or down (pick the one that best fits) triggered me so strongly that I wasn’t able to listen and I think I missed the important point you wanted me to hear. So if it was important, would you please say it to me in a calmer voice, so that I’ll be able to listen to you?”
In all likelihood they will be dumbfounded or become befuddled. If however your response causes them to not be able to use their top mode of bullying people, and in this case you, they may become angrier and again talk over, at or down to you.
If they do, let them finish and again pause for three seconds and say, “Geez, it just happened again and again I’m feeling triggered and reactive. I suggest that we stop now and try this again at a later time or you can text or email me what was important for me to get.”
There is a good chance they may still have some insulting parting words for you. Let them say them.
If that happens say, “Well, as I said, it does seem that you had something important to tell me, so you know how to reach me if you want to tell me what it was,” and then leave.