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When does straight talking become bullying?

In what seems an increasingly politically correct world, people can be accused of bullying just because someone takes offence at their viewpoint. Is there any place for straight talking at all in this day and age? ...

Is it straight talk or simply bullying?

The tide is turning and more people are learning to communicate clearly and with heart and respect for other people, whilst holding true to their values and beliefs. People often ask us how to discern when straight talking verges on bullying behaviour. At work in particular, leaders want to intervene and support people but don’t know if they are overreacting.

Here is our cheat sheet guide to spotting when communication could be verging on bullying, the more elements that are present the more likely the person is trying to control or bully someone.

  1. They use negative emotive language levelled at you or someone else.
    Emotive language is communicated in order to cause an emotional impact in another person. This is great when someone is telling a good story or delivering a positive motivating talk but if they are using emotive language when criticising someone else or negatively judging them this could be a sign that they are trying to bully the person and make them feel small in some way.
  2. They keep repeating the same point or criticism, aimed at you or someone else, over and over.
    You’ve acknowledged their perspective but (probably because you’re not doing what they want nor told them that they are right) they keep on and on like a broken record. This is not respectful and could be a sign of bullying behaviour because they can’t respect that you just don’t agree with them or won’t do what they want you to do. The caveat to this is unless it’s something you are doing that is negatively impacting them in some way, then you should have an honest discussion about how to behave together in future.
  3. Personal issues are aired in public.
    All person to person issues should be dealt with privately, when someone chooses to do their straight talking in public and there are personal aspects to it, then it’s bullying. Ask yourself - why would other people need to hear this? If the answer is ‘they don’t’ then it’s not straight talking, it’s a power game.

People should be able to be straight with one another, communicating with clarity and also respect. If someone is ‘always offended’ then they are probably struggling with their own emotional regulation and need support with this. But when someone consistently displays the patterns of behaviour above then leaders need to take action to prevent damage to morale and toxic working practices.

Mind Mastery Coaches help people to become bully proof - interested in becoming one of them?
Join us for one of our free webinars.

Beware the boundary violators - bullies have no respect for boundaries so make sure yours are strong and healthy:
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Last modified onTuesday, 27 February 2018 15:47
Karen Meager

Founder of Monkey Puzzle and an INLPTA NLP Master Trainer, Karen is also a UKCP registered Psychotherapist and author of the award winning book Real Leaders for the Real World. Her new book Time Mastery; Banish Time Management Forever is out now.

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