“One’s dignity may be assaulted, vandalized and cruelly mocked, but it can never be taken away unless it is surrendered.” — Michael J. Fox
They use rude comments, biting sarcasm, or a well-timed roll of the eyes.
Making you look foolish is the Sniper’s specialty.
Snipers take shots at you to make you look bad or to try to undermine you.
In Dealing with People You Can’t Stand: How to Bring Out the Best in People at Their Worst, Dr. Rick Brinkman and Dr. Rick Kirschner write about how to deal with people that behave like a Sniper.
You Goal in Dealing with a Sniper Person
You goal with a Sniper is to bring them out of hiding.
Via Dealing with People You Can’t Stand:
"Your goal when dealing with a Sniper is to bring the Sniper out of hiding. Whatever type of Sniper you face, whether the playful snipe, the controlling snipe, or the grudge snipe, you only need remember this:
A Sniper can’t snipe if there’s nowhere to hide.
Since the Sniper’s limited power is derived from covert, not overt, activity, once you have exposed her position, that position becomes useless.
Be dealing directly and assertively with Sniper Behavior, you take the fun out of it for her, and even the odds by forcing her out of her hiding place and onto common ground."
Action Plan for Dealing with a Sniper Person
Brinkman and Kirschner provide prescriptive guidance for dealing with Snipers:
- Stop, look, backtrack. Zero in on the Sniper. If it seems like someone is taking shots at you, stop – even in the middle of a sentence or word. Bring all your activity to a standstill. Scan for the Sniper and backtrack.
- Use searchlight questions. Use two questions to expose the Sniper’s behavior: 1) Intent – "When you say that, what are you really trying to say?" and 2) Relevancy – "What does that have to do with this?"
- Use tank strategy if needed. Hold your ground, interrupt the interruption, backtrack the main accusation, and aim at your own bottom line.
- Go on a grievance patrol. If you suspect someone is holding a grudge against you, but you’re not certain, go on patrol and see what you can scout out.
- Suggest a civil future. Finish the interaction by suggesting an alternative behavior for the future.
Examples of Responding to a Sniper Person
Brinkman and Kirschner provide examples of responding to Snipers:
- Stop, Look, Backtrack. "So, I heard you say that I have ‘nothing to say but you have to wait a long time to hear it." (Backtracking)
- Use searchlight questions. "Darren, when you say ‘Can’t take a joke?,’ I’m still wondering what are you really trying to say?" (Searchlight question, probing for the grievance)
Key Take Aways
Here are my key take aways:
- Expose the sniper. Getting the Sniper out in the open and putting them on the spot can potentially be enough to stop the Sniper’s behavior.
- Clarify the basis for the shots. It’s possible the criticism is fair, but the behavior is inappropriate. Distinguish between the content and the approach.
- Questions are better than a defense. Questions can help you find the underlying reasons for the behavior, without becoming defensive.
Don’t be paranoid of Snipers.