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Tis the season to be jolly. Don't be drawn into the folly!

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Tis the season to be jolly. Don't be drawn into the folly!
Written By: Sandy Bjorgen, IMPROV-able Results ~ 12/14/2023


Do you dread getting together for the holidays with family, or your work group, because there’s always someone who’s very opinionated, vocal, combative? Maybe a verbal bully.

Don’t invite an argument. It’s not the debate stage.

If you say too much, things can get crazy. Maybe you’ve been drawn in before, or seen others drawn in. Avoid this. You can control only yourself and your own responses. You can’t really control the bully or those who engage.

Be kind and stay calm, even if you think the other person is an idiot. Remember that even if your words are neutral, your tone of voice can betray your real feelings. If you communicate contempt or disagreement, you could trigger an argument.

Leave the room, find someone else to talk with – hopefully the bully won’t track you down. Act like an adult. A caring, respectful adult, who is there to help others relate constructively.

If you’re stuck at the table when the bully goes off and spouts triggers, hoping for reactions, try to avoid speaking or making eye contact. You might see others pick up the gauntlet and try to engage in a verbal battle. This is a losing game. Usually each side MUST WIN. And that’s a no-win.

Maybe, though, you do get confronted directly with a “What do YOU think?” or “Isn’t this awful?” – you can say, “I’m just listening (or learning) right now. I haven’t formed an opinion.”

You might then hear, “How can you not have an opinion by now?” or, “You need to get onboard and take action!” You can say, “I see that this is important to you” or “I see that you have strong feelings about this.” You can simply repeat yourself if pressured again for a response. You don’t have to try to please or change this person. You don’t have to play this game.

Hopefully, you won’t have to deal with over-heated scenes. Do use empathy – with everyone you talk with. Whether they’re open to calmly hearing your opinion or not. Empathy is not the same as sympathy. It doesn’t mean you agree with the other person. It means that you seek to understand (not judge) and let the person feel heard and valued as a fellow human being. Inside, you might be angry or hurt or feel pressured to do what you don’t want to do. Just let it go. It is what it is. And, you can be a good role model for others who are less self-controlled. When they see you calmly listen without having to argue or be right, they just might figure out how to avoid a fight.

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Sandy Bjorgen
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