I dealt with his bursts of temper and punitive psychological abuse like a rock, truly unimpressed and unintimidated, patiently holding my tongue and waiting to get back on track with the actual business at hand. I truly had no time for theatrical monologues and implied threats. Since he was in his 70’s I didn't take his unpleasant behavior personally since I figured he was from another era as well as possibly senile. When he mocked me I would stand up for myself while keeping my disagreements with him “light and bright” so as not to undermine my employment with him.
However, the day came when I had to get more confrontational. He had scheduled a meeting between me and a new client, and in his typical terrible-communication-management fashion he gave a 20 year old guy, with no professional experience in my field, the job of prepping me for the meeting. Of course, the 20 year old was not prepared to provide me with relevant information such as the client’s business name, the purpose of the meeting, who would be attending the meeting, and other useful information like that.
I had had it and didn’t care at this point about getting fired. This guy was steering his business into a ditch, so I was going to have to manage it for him.
I came into his office without warning, in between meetings. I sat down and got right down to it. “So, Dan, I’m really excited about the meeting we’re having this morning. What’s the name of their business?”. He stared sternly at me, “ Well, they don’t really have a name yet”. I continued, “What’s the purpose of the meeting?”. At this point he protested, “You were supposed to talk with (the 20 year old) about this. Did you talk with -“. I interrupted him and over spoke him, “I ALREADY spoke with (the 20 year old). WHAT IS THE PURPOSE of the meeting?” I get icy in a controlled way when I’m angry and it tends to unnerve people. He was shaken but hid it well, and started answering my questions… respectfully. And I got the information I wanted.
After that encounter, something had changed. He treated me like we were in collaboration with each other. He admired my psychological prowess with clients. In private, one day, he fondly reminisced about his mother, how she used to run the family business and how her temper used to terrify people.
One morning soon after, he greeted me and asked what I was working on for the day. I told him I was printing out sample booklets (for one of the clients) and (hand) binding them in the workroom. He joked, “You're practicing bondage with the binding machine in the workroom?” I quipped, “No, I'm already adept at that.” Either he hadn’t quite heard me or he couldn’t believe what he had heard, and asked, “What?” When I verified my response for him, he literally chuckled like an excited boy and happily joked, “In that case I'll leave my door open”. He has treated me with respect and quiet interest ever since. No more mocking and pointless criticisms. Now he appreciates my first drafts and recruits my input. How did I get from "outsider" to "insider" with this guy? Patience, consistent displays of psychological independence, and selective displays of aggression.
I learned a while back that dealing with bullies works in the opposite way one expects. When male customers would try to yell and intimidate me across a desk or over the phone, I found that I could change the dynamic by playing "bad cop" and out-intimidating them. They would grow quiet and become pacified, even mystified. They would seem to go into sub space, accepting that I was the alpha dog and that it would be a cold day in hell before they were going to get what they wanted from me by coming out-the-gate swinging. Acting like a drill sergeant in those situations served the purpose of chastising their attitude while addressing their concerns and getting the issue resolved.
What does this story demonstrate? A number of things, I guess. It demonstrates that sometimes macho bullying behavior is a mask and a symptom of an underlying desire to be topped by a woman. It demonstrates that people with a bullying worldview often only understand love and reliability when it comes in the form of domination. It also demonstrates the wonders of taking the upper hand and turning the tables when it comes to bullies. Exerting intimidation techniques back in response to the male bully speaks to him in his own language and has the power to pacify him when executed selectively and in a justified fashion.
For the women out there, what I have found in dealing with men is this: under most men's machismo is the desire for a woman to take the upper hand with them. Some men, however, are so in denial about this and so broken from lack of a strong maternal figure that they are simply too contrarian to be worked with. The way to tell the difference is to flex your will, ever so slightly, when they try to push their will on you, so that you get them to bend; then increase that dominance more profoundly at times when their willfulness is simply too much to bear to emphasize that you are ultimately in control due to their dependence on you and that you can take that control over them at any time you wish (and believe it is necessary). See if he encourages your Dom nature by setting up situations for you to assert yourself in, or if he just acts afraid and avoids you. Either situation is an improvement.
For the men out there who enjoy provoking me and other women, keep this in mind: flaunting your spite only comes across as a desperate plea for someone to Dom you; also, just because you’re begging for it doesn't mean we're going to give it to you. If you're consistently unlikeable and unbending, we're just going to block you from our life. We women simply have too many actual admirers to waste time responding to your testing behavior. You have to earn our attention by displaying vulnerability in response to our direction and will, coupled with ongoing acquiescence. Without that, you just come across as a whiney, needy child. The true sub man will suffer a woman's reprimand with grace, then offer to cook her dinner in exchange for working her up.
There is something to be said for cutting male bravado down to size, which is - It needs to be done, it’s fun to do, and once you get the hang of it relationships with men of all kinds seem to improve.