I recently had the pleasure of hearing two young, up-and-coming women co-present at a business conference in the Twin Cities. During their talk, one of them made reference to an insult they received after being rewarded a large grant. The demeaning comment went something like this: “Nowadays, all it takes to get promoted is a short skirt and bright red lipstick.”
While this was disheartening to hear, it’s, unfortunately, not the first time spiteful words have been used in a professional context—and, sadly, it won’t be the last.
But whether you’re a CEO, individual contributor or recent college grad, take heart. You can positively influence perceptions, maintain control of any conversation and keep your emotions in check, if you follow these simple steps:
- Take the bite out of their bark. If someone discredits or condemns you, mentally flip their slight into an accolade. In other words, take what was said and translate it into a decisively positive thought. So, if they say you’re a loser, tell yourself you just won an Olympic gold medal.
- Offer a disarming comeback. Have a handful of “magical phrases” in your hip pocket, ready to go. Savvy professionals use this image-saving tactic to exude confidence under pressure. When the accusations fly, simply reply, “I wouldn’t say that,” “Here’s what I can tell you” or “Not exactly—let me explain.”
- Don’t stoop to their level. Responding to slurs with more slurs can only result in an ugly confrontation. Instead say, “Thanks for sharing your insights with me” … and walk away.
Before you act…
Unless a global communication transformation occurs, most of us can expect to encounter “hate talk” in the future. Accepting this painful fact of life is the first step in being prepared to successfully meet it head-on.