You Can't Play Win-Win With A Bully Until...
© 2005 Laurie Weiss, Ph.D.
"He didn't refund my money. I've called three times and
actually spoke to him once, and he explained that his bookkeeper
was on vacation. He doesn't respond to my emails at all. I don't
know what to do."
After questioning this highly ethical, hard working professional,
I learned that the original bill had been paid with a credit card.
"Have you thought about reporting the problem to the credit
"Oh, I couldn't do that. I don't want to get him into
trouble. I would rather resolve the problem with him
My client made the mistake of believing that everyone is as
ethical and responsible as she is. She is using tactics that would
work well to resolve a problem if someone asked her for a refund.
Those tactics won't work here.
It's hard for her to imagine how differently someone else can
approach the world. Some people play by an entirely different set
Sharks, opportunists or bullies or whatever you choose to call
them just don't care about cooperating-that is they don't care
about playing a game where everybody wins. What they care about is
that they win. It doesn't matter what happens to anyone else.
If they can manage to avoid you, they have no reason to solve a
problem with you-they don't even see it as their problem.
Mathematical research1 shows that if you want to win, or at least
not lose, with an opportunist, you must seize the initiative and
command attention. Sometimes you need to use tactics that are
distasteful to you.
Once the bully experiences being confronted, s/he may start to
behave cooperatively again. Then your original tactics may
work-but only AFTER the bully has shown evidence of cooperating.
The ethical professional recognized that this bully had completely
ignored her approaches. She decided that complaining to the credit
card company might get his attention and was her best current
1 Axelrod, Robert. (1984). The Evolution of Cooperation