When Someone Is Throwing Rocks At You...

Sunday August 21, 2016 comments

When Someone Is Throwing Rocks At You…

I got a call from a client who was wondering how I would handle a fabricated story someone said about his company. The potentially damaging words came from someone who may have been disgruntled because they hadn’t done business together and probably weren’t going to. The fabricator had no access to this kind of information, so there was no credibility to it. Of course, those who heard it wouldn’t know that; one of them called my client. And the potentially damaging comments were said in a group setting. What to do…

Whether it’s a disgruntled former employee, a jealous competitor, a hostile former vendor, or a dysfunctional family member, people say the darnedest things. Undoubtedly you’ve been in this situation before. There are lots of ways to deal with this. Here are a few from the most passive to the most intense:

  • Do Nothing. The risk is that the behaviors will continue, but you aren’t bogged down trying to deal with it. If it eats at you though, you can get consumed with the offense.
  • Keep Moving. “If someone is throwing rocks at you, keep moving. If you stoop down to pick up rocks to throw back, you’ll get stoned.” Best advice an old boss gave me in my 20s. Blow it off AND focus ahead, you’ve bigger fish to fry.
  • Inform Others. You can tell those in your network what happened and explain why they should avoid this person too. This can feel just, and may protect someone you care about.
  • Send Information Back. Tell the true story to the person who informed you and get closure there. They may report the truth back to where the fabricated story came from. Ask for that.
  • Facilitated Discussion. You could ask the person who informed you to join you in a meeting with the person who made the comments. Make it solution-oriented for shared understanding.
  • Confront. Skillful confrontation can be effective because sometimes, doing or saying nothing kind of validates the fabricated story. Confrontation takes skill and guts! There are strategies that can be learned and practiced. You can get past confrontation-avoidance and get real resolution in some cases.
  • Legal Approach. A Cease and Desist Letter can do a lot sometimes. Your attorney can best advise you about the action he or she could take. The risk is that both parties get attorneys and square off.

Each of these methods are right… sometimes. None are all the time. Here are 7 ways you can use to help you decide the approach that’s right for you:

  1. Know Yourself. Are you likely to get into a confrontation and lose your cool if your button gets pushed? Are you likely to lose sleep if you don’t get a quick resolution? If either of those questions are “yes,” several of the ways above won’t work for you.
  2. Know How This Situation Impacts You. If this is an issue that you get pretty worked up about, the direct approach may not be best. If you can stay calm and objective and just want a solution, being direct is best.
  3. Know Your Informer. Is the person who told you someone that is credible that you know is watching your back? She may be a resource to help get resolution. Is it possible she’s just a drama person who likes to stir the pot? If so, don’t get hooked. Let it go.
  4. Consider the Source. Some things can be blown off because the source isn’t credible or won’t be for long. The disgruntled former employee, for instance, thinks that people will side with him. Some will, for a time. Most business owners and managers won’t because they know what it’s like to have a disgruntled former employee. That one’s usually not worth fretting over.
  5. Know the Outcome You Want. Do you want the behavior to stop? Do you want people not to believe the fabricator? Do you want an apology? Do you want to get in the fabricator’s face? The outcome you want will determine the method that works best for you. If you just want to get on with your life, then do.
  6. Think Through Unintended Consequences. Those happen. Come on too strong, and the next thing you’ll hear will be about how you overreacted. Do nothing and it could look like a validation of what was fabricated. Silence can be interpreted as acquiescence.
  7. Forgive. This is the most important point. We’re never at our best when we are offended. We don’t think right, we don’t say things right, and we don’t sleep right. Forgive regardless of whether you are ever asked to in this life. Forgive whether you ever get an apology or not. When someone offends you, and you hang on to that offense, you tie yourself to the offender and to the point in time and you give the offender power over you. Forgive and you get your power back. Forgive and you can move on. Forgive and you can focus on the future. Forgive and you’ll know how to best deal with the offense and the offender, because you won’t be offended.

Offenses will happen. Things will be said. Some of it will hurt. May you have a lot of grace to deal with all of it!


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