The Tank is confrontational, pointed and angry, the ultimate in pushy and aggressive behavior. 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 Tanks.
Command respect. Brinkman and Krischner write:
Whenever you’re being verbally assaulted, attacked, and accused, your goal must be to command respect because Tanks simply don’t attack people they respect. Aggressive people require assertive responses. Your behavior must send a clear signal that you are strong and capable, since anything less is an invitation for further attacks. However, you must send this signal without becoming a Tank yourself. When you stand accused, your characters is tested. The strength of character you reveal will ultimately determine the Tank’s perception of you and future behavior toward you.
Brinkman and Krischner provide prescriptive guidance for dealing with tanks:
- Hold your ground. Stay put and hold your position. Silently look the Tank in the eyes and shift your attention to your breathing. Breathe slowly and deeply. Intentional breathing helps you regain self-control.
- Interrupt the attack. The best way to interrupt anyone, whether yelling or not, is to evenly say their name over and over again, until you have their full attention.
Quickly backtrack the main point. When you have the Tank’s attention, backtrack (echo back) the main accusation. Be quick about it. The Tank is speaking and thinking at a rapid pace, so blend by speeding things up.
- Aim for the bottom line and fire! The bottom line varies according to your situation but it usually is about two sentences long. Preface your bottom line with onwership of it, by saying, “From my point of view …,” or “The way I see it …” This prevents your shot at the bottom line from restarting the war.
- Peace with honor. Redirect to a peaceful solution by offering the Tank the last word, only you decide where and when.
Brinkman and Krischner provide examples to illustrate:
- Aim for the Bottom line and fire. Your boss confronts you at the office, demanding to know “Why isn’t that project finished yet? You’ve worked on it for two weeks and you’re already a month behind!” You reply: “Boss, I understand that you think the project ought to be finished already. [Blending by backtracking] From my point of view, the time I’m investing in it now will save time and money in the future.” [Bottom line]
- Aim for the Bottom line and fire. “Mary, Mary, Mary. [Interrupt] I hear that you are having a problem with the way this is being done. [Backtrack] But I am not willing to discuss it, if this is how you are going to talk to me. [Bottom line] when you are ready to speak to me with respect, I will take all the time you want to discuss this.” [Redirecting to the future]
- Peace with respect. “When I am through making my presentation, I will be more than happy to hear your feedback.” “When you are ready to speak to me with respect. I’ll be ready to discuss the matter.”
Key Take Aways
Here’s my key take aways:
- Stay assertive. I think the key with holding your ground is letting the attacks fly by without getting emotional and don’t take it personally. Otherwise, assertive can turn to defensive or offensive.
- Don’t get emotional. In the midst of attacks, it can be tough to stay calm, cool, and collected. Two techniques that help are Master My Stories and Make It Safe.
- Know the key attacks. If you know the key attacks from the Tank, being able to state you bottom line, crisply and consicely helps. If it’s a recurring pattern of attacks, invovle the Tank in the solution.
- Maintain your respect. This starts with expecting respect. If you don’t respect yourself, don’t expect others to.
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