What to Do With A Bully In Your Life


Doctor Neha: Welcome to Talk Rx with Doctor Neha. We are filming in New Zealand from World Women 17. My special guest today is Zlata. I met her here at the conference. She’s a brave soul who’s willing to ask her communication questions so all of you can learn. Welcome, Zlata.

Zlata: Thank you. It’s great to meet you. Thanks.

Doctor Neha: Tell me, what have you been thinking about?

Zlata: After your wonderful seminar, I’ve been thinking about my sister. You gave us tools about how to deal with people that are frustrating. My question: What if they’re not frustrating? What if it’s just their manner of talking, and I just can’t deal with that manner?

Doctor Neha: So this is family?

Zlata: Yes, it’s my sister. She’s a wonderful woman who’s always got my best interest at heart. The questions she’s asking always bring better things out of me. But the format is quite aggressive. It’s quite bullying. I don’t have anyone in my life like that, and that was a deliberate decision that anyone who talked to me like that, they’re out. In my business, if anyone, like a client, and it doesn’t matter how much money they bring us, talk like that to one of my girls or one of my people, they’re out. At the same time, I allow it with my sister, because she does it very regularly.

Doctor Neha: Tell me, when you say, “Even if a client’s a big client, they bring a lot of money, if they speak this way, they’re out,” why are they out? What does it mean to you when somebody speaks in a certain way?

Zlata: Well, I don’t tolerate bullying in any shape or form. Especially aggression toward women. That’s super important to me. We’ve seen so much of it, and someone has to take a stand. In my own business, I can make that choice.

Doctor Neha: Yeah. You have control.

Zlata: So, I do do that then.

Doctor Neha: What you’re basically saying is that in the arenas where you have control—in your personal life, your business life—you can choose. You’re the boss. You get to choose. We don’t choose our family of origin, right? Often, the people in our family of origin are our greatest teachers. It sounds to me like feeling bullied is something that you’ve grown up with. Is this an older sister or younger?

Zlata: Older, but the thing is, when we were kids, she was the most amazing sister. But we’ve separated for quite a while. Then I was in a situation where I was bullied, but she wasn’t. She had her own quite difficult path. When we did reconnect, that’s whom I saw, and that’s not my sister.

Doctor Neha: And it doesn’t feel okay? I want you to take a nice deep breath in, because I want to honor your courage and your bravery for saying what’s true. You’re also talking about something that is so dear to your heart. We’re going to take three nice, deep breaths together. Just let your shoulders drop. Let gravity hold you up. You’re being held up by a chair. The earth has you. Take a nice, deep breath. What I want you to know is that you have so much courage, because this is important to you, and you’re willing to allow us to go to what’s close to your heart and what matters.
There was a period when you and your sister were separated, and then you came back. In that period, you felt bullied and you became strong, in the sense that you now shut out bullying. Tell me what the characteristics of a bully are. How do you know? Is it someone’s tone? Is it their words? Is it their body language? What is it that makes you know that someone’s a bully?

Zlata: It’s the energy. It’s talking over someone. It’s aggression, or what I perceive as aggression, and it’s quite loud.

Doctor Neha: What you’ve learned is to protect yourself and the people who work for you from that energy, so you’ve become a protector. Now, the second thing you told me is your sister and you were separated for a while, and she had a hard time. I wonder if the way she learned—I’m just guessing and making this up because I don’t know your sister—to survive was becoming strong in a different way. When we’re in traumatic situations, we come up with strategies to survive. We don’t mean them in a negative way to other people. We have just adapted to survive. Would you agree that maybe that might’ve happened to her?

Zlata: Absolutely.

Doctor Neha: So now you and your sister have come together. Tell me what is it about when you connect? Is it her tone? Is it her body language? Is it her words that she uses, specifically? What is it?

Zlata: The tone, the loudness, and—

Doctor Neha: The volume, the tone—

Zlata: The volume, the tone, and the type of questions.

Doctor Neha: They feel what?

Zlata: They feel like an attack.

Doctor Neha: Aha. All right. The big mistake people make when they’re trying to connect to somebody and let them know there’s a problem is they say, “When you do that, you do this, you, you, you …” which, to the other person, feels a little bit intimidating and will make her protect herself more. Have you tried to have a conversation with her at all?

Zlata: Yeah.

Doctor Neha: Yeah. How did that go?

Zlata: We’ve talked about it many times. When I bring it up, she has a very strong opinion about it. She will not change who she is for nobody, even though she loves me to the earth and back. That’s one thing that she’s not willing to do is sacrifice who she is, and she says that’s who she is. She’s got amazing people in her life who accept her for that type of manner. So she thinks it’s fine and it’s me who needs to deal with how she is.

Doctor Neha: Okay, so let’s work on you. Let’s try it. Why not? When your sister speaks to you, it triggers something in you that reminds you of being bullied, right? In that moment, how do you respond?

Zlata: Sometimes I finish the conversation all together. And when I can’t … The last time it happened, I went into a bit of a defensive, almost condescending way by saying, “Oh yeah, I heard you, what you said. Thank you for your question. I understand where you’re coming from…” She reacted with, “Okay, I’ll shut up now. Whatever.” I thought I’d handled it really well, but it was worse.

Doctor Neha: The outcome wasn’t so good.

Zlata: It wasn’t, no. She didn’t feel like she was heard. She didn’t feel like she contributed, even though what she was saying was really good. We had worked out a system but, for me, I felt ambushed and attacked. I thought, Okay, I’m gonna be a grown-up now, and I’ll deal with it that way [defensive/condescending],” but that didn’t quite work.

Doctor Neha: What if the next time this happens, you are really aware that you’re being triggered from an old threat that isn’t here right now? Because you told me your sister’s intentions for you are positive. In that moment, what happens for you when you notice someone’s voice volume goes up and you start feeling bullied?

Zlata: I almost shut out. My intention is just to get them the f- – – out of my life, straightaway.

Doctor Neha: You want to block it out, okay?

Zlata: Yeah.

Doctor Neha: That’s one way, except with this wonderful woman, that’s not what you want.

Zlata: No.

Doctor Neha: No, you want to heal this part of you. What if I told you she somehow entered your life to help you heal the experience of feeling bullied? You had that experience before and now you know one way to deal with it, which is block it out and protect other people. She’s come into your life to say, “Hey, I have a big heart for you, and I’m here to help you heal that part of your experience.”
You have something in your brain called an amygdala. It pays attention to any time you’ve had trauma. It’s sitting and eavesdropping on every conversation, and anything that matches that voice or that tone of being bullied, then the amygdala hijacks you. It doesn’t even let you think, and it has you locked. It’s in Chapter 13 of my book, called “Amygdala Hijack.” I want you to read that piece, okay? Then, what you’re going to do is take a nice, deep breath when you notice it’s happening, and name it. Name how you feel.
For example, “Wow, I notice my heart racing and my stomach turning, and what I really want here is to focus and hear you, and be able to hear what you’re saying to me. So right now I’m gonna shift into listening to the emotion you have and what you value. Is it true that you value X? Is it true that you value Y?” You don’t need to protect yourself from your sister. It just feels like an old experience, because you’re telling me it might be the way she delivers it, but everything she’s saying is really good. Could you have grace for her and actually see it as an opportunity to heal you in relation to how you were bullied?
Wouldn’t it be amazing for you not to need to leave or shut someone out, but say, “There’s a way that this could be even more effective for me. Can we please communicate around tone of voice, volume…?” If she says no, you get to choose if you still want this relationship and how might you shift and connect. It’s just an option to try listening differently. Once you realize an amygdala hijack is happening, the second piece is to try giving to her what it is you want so desperately—which is connection, being heard, and listening for what you value. Really you’re going to listen for what she values. This is just one way to change the dynamic. How does that feel inside you?

Zlata: Good, and I know that behind questions, there is so much more, but I feel like it’s not my place to … She’s my older sister.

Doctor Neha: So there’s like a respect thing? Well, you know what? You are adults now. You’re not little kids that are an older sister and a younger sister. You want to build a relationship. You both teach each other a lot. Would you agree? You’re equals. She is not smarter or bigger or more important than you anymore. You’re both equals, and you both get to learn together. Somehow, you’re soul family. You came in together. You came in and became part of this soul family. What if it’s time to learn and say, “Okay, you said I’m the one who needs to change, so I’m gonna try. I’m gonna see how this feels, because you’re important to me”? See how it goes.

Zlata: You don’t think I’m encouraging that kind of behavior, though? It’s not okay for anyone to talk that way to someone else.

Doctor Neha: Well, if you really do feel intimidated, if you feel scared … but I didn’t get the feeling that’s how you feel.

Zlata: I don’t feel scared. I just don’t feel it’s okay for anyone to talk to anyone that way.

Doctor Neha: Right, but the person you have control over is you. There’s one person you have control over. You told me she has lots of friends, so some people actually resonate with the way she talks. They, in fact, like it, right?
So tell me some takeaways from today. Did you get anything that you feel like you can use?

Zlata: It’s good to name the feeling that you have. It’s always good to watch that, and then allow yourself to switch back from a flight-or-fight mode straightaway, and take that moment [to breathe]. The other one would be to try and allow a possibility that it could be okay. If it works for other people in her life, then it must be okay, so I just need to shift my perspective and —

Doctor Neha: Well, you want a relationship with her, right? You’re telling me her intentions are positive. You’re not telling me she’s bullying you and putting you down and embarrassing you and humiliating you. You’re not telling me any of that. Bullying is a problem when people are trying to put someone else down or humiliate or embarrass them socially. Your sister has positive intention, and what she needs if for you to have grace for her in the way she delivers her message. If you know she loves you, and you want that relationship, it might be worth a try to give to her what it is you want so deeply from her.

Zlata: Yeah. Thank you.

Doctor Neha: All right, thank you. If any of you have someone in your life who feels a little bit like a bully, if you know that they have good intention and it might just be the delivery of their message that is the problem, first, you want to make sure you do what Zlata did, which is to have a conversation with them, because that’s the first step. She told me she already did that. The next step is to ask yourself, “Do I still want to have a relationship? Do they have good intention for me? Do they mean well and, if so, how can I work on healing myself around what this is, and then shifting how I show up in conversation with them. Can I give away that which I want so much, and see how that goes?” It may work. It may not, but you’ve got to keep trying different approaches.

Zlata: Thank you very much.


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