Number 1: Maintain eye contact and do not flinch.
When you suspect someone is taking a cheap shot or hitting you with a passive-aggressive dig, pay attention and let them know you’re paying attention by maintaining eye contact. Here’s the thing, bullies are actually cowards to their core. Not always, but often enough, this technique alone will be enough to send a clear warning and cause the narcissist to either backpedal or back off entirely.
Now that said, you want to be sure you’re not jumping to conclusions. So always take a moment to consider the other person’s intent. If for any reason, for example, you’re caught off guard and you’re not really sure what just happened, especially if you don’t know the person well, consider giving them the benefit of the doubt initially and with eyes wide open, maybe they’re nervous or socially awkward and that anxiety is coming out sideways and you just happen to be the one standing there in the wrong place at the wrong time, so to speak.
A Book: Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men.
So consider the other person’s actual intent and consider being compassionate enough to give someone a pass if it’s just a matter of social anxiety and a one-off, as opposed to someone coming from an actual place of malevolent intent. So that’s your first job. Discern whether or not they’re actually coming from a place of malevolence. If not, let it slide and move on. Water off a duck’s back.
Your strong eye contact and deadpan facial expression in addition to their own social awkwardness should be enough to put an end to the nonsense. However, if that’s not actually the case, if they clearly feel entitled to target you, if there’s no doubt, then that’s a whole other ballgame. A rule of thumb I live by is this, when in doubt, don’t. And what I mean by that is if you’re unsure, be patient. Observe with intent to discern, breathe and feel into your body and pay attention to the truth of what you’re feeling, always.
People being the way they are, you’ll quickly know what the deal is, and more often than not, it’s better to underreact as opposed to overreact. So hold on to yourself again. Breathe and maintain eye contact with no expression. Just go deadpan on them. This communicates that you’re aware, clued in, and not necessarily going to be a good target if that’s their actual intent.
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