”What kind of stupid idea is that? How did you get this job when you are so incompetent?”
Most of us would dread working with someone who speaks to us this way, and yet many of us have had the misfortune of having to work with such a person. Dr. Robert Bramson, in his book Coping with Difficult People, calls such intimidating individuals “Sherman Tanks.”
According to Dr. Bramson, Sherman Tanks always think that they are right and can’t understand why others don’t see things their way. They bully others into going along with them, and don’t respect people who lack confidence or give in easily. You might try the following approach to coping with Sherman Tanks:
- Jump in! After a Sherman Tank has had a chance to spout off, cut in quickly. If you are interrupted, point it out. However, avoid arguing or fighting at all costs, since you are likely to lose.
- Attention, please! Get the attention of the Sherman Tank to make it clear that, contrary to his/her expectation, you will not be caving in. It may help to make eye contact and address the other person by name. Encourage him or her to sit down—a less threatening position.
- Speak up! It’s important to stand up for your point of view. You will feel better about yourself, you will earn the respect of others, and your viewpoint will be heard.
- Say “I.” Do not attack what the other person has said, but focus on your own views of the situation (“The way I see it…in my opinion…I feel that…”). If the Sherman Tank attacks you again, hold your ground, don’t allow interruption, don’t counterattack, and continue to state your views.
- Keep the door open . Once you stand your ground, the former Sherman Tank may become more reasonable, cooperative, and even friendly. This is a big improvement—encourage it!