When you have swagger, especially in the workplace, it’s like being in possession of the most epic ‘personal power’ buffet possible. Laden with delicious treats of self-assuredness, exotic tidbits of authenticity, steaming heaps of filling confident comfort food, and lots and lots of unique chocolate desserts.
When the swagger haters encounter you, they’re gonna gaze upon the bounty, smell that irresistible aroma and die to get some of what you have.
And they are always hungry as fuck.
If you let them, they’ll come snacking. They’ll grab those giant plates and start filling them up — a little bite here, a nibble there. Some of them will see it as an All You Can Eat chow down. They’ll question your intention, tell you to keep your head down, challenge your truth publically, and even try to take credit for your ideas.
Never doubt that you have the absolute choice to let them step up and start to feast, or you can choose to take a big step back, smile, and announce, “The buffet is closed.” Down come the steel shutters. Sure they’ll howl and complain. Who wouldn’t? You’re freaking delicious. You are sustenance! Your very essence is the life force that keeps their assholery alive and kicking.
But they don’t deserve a single, freaking morsel.
Here’s the big secret to aid in your war against swagger haters.
No one can take your power.
It’s just not possible. You can CHOOSE to give it to them willingly, but THEY CANNOT TAKE it without your permission.
Swagger is power. Don’t you forget it. The haters may wanna eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner but you’re the only one with the keys to the shutters. Seeing swagger haters for who and what they are is beyond liberating. And we all need tools, techniques and tricks to keep them at bay. Some learn to embrace them, some use them as a balanced scorecard and others just walk away. However you choose to deal with them, just know that they can say and do whatever the hell they want. But they cannot take your power. You’ve worked way too hard for that shit to just give it away.
So what can you do when they come for your power? Here are a few little buffet-protecting tricks…
1. Don’t let them see you sweat. Like a bullies, swagger haters are looking for a reaction. If you don’t give it to them, they will turn their attention to easier prey. So even when someone is trying to take you down, especially in front of others, simply smile and nod and use phrases like, “I see we have a difference of opinion. That’s OK!” Or, “Happy to discuss that with you later.”
2. Try to be conscious of your body language. We know our body language can telegraph our fear or insecurity. Fear shows big time around the eyes and in our posture. So lean towards the hater, not away. Show them that you’re no victim. Open your eyes, smile wide and nod, even if they’re utterly wrong. They’re hoping for the exact opposite. Physically withdrawing can be a signal that the buffet is open to them.
3. Never apologize. Remember that your intention is your armor. If someone treats you as if you’ve screwed up, they are hoping that you’ll recant your opinion or actions. But if you are clear on what your intention was, use it to keep your power in place. Try saying something like, “My intention here was to help clarify an issue / communicate an idea (or whatever). Is there a way I could have done that differently for you?” Then smile and give them space to say what they need to — even if it’s critical. Nod and thank them for their input. But never apologize for your good intention. Screwing up is totally subjective. And hey, we’re human — we all make mistakes. But that doesn’t mean we should become powerless.
4. Defend artfully. You do not have to take anyone’s shit. But defending out of hurt or insecurity can backfire simply because it can make you appear, well, defensive. So fight back with charm and grace. Tell someone the facts to dispute their opinion. Remind them of where information came from, especially if it came from someone or somewhere they respect. And tell someone when they’re being disrespectful. Swagger is driven by your truth, intention and self-belief and NO ONE has the right to come for that. So if someone’s trying to take your power in order to make themselves feel more powerful, call them out. Try, “I understand you feel strongly about this but speaking to me that way is not going to accomplish anything positive for either of us — and I’m sure that’s what your goal is here.” Smile, lean in, drop mic.
5. Remember who you are. You’ve earned your place. You wouldn’t be in that meeting, that presentation, or that discussion if you hadn’t gotten there through hard work, experience and building prior credibility. Swagger haters may try to disempower you in one fell swoop but the fact is that they simply cannot unless you let them. Walking away feeling less than, deflated, or riddled with self-doubt — even if you don’t show it — means you allowed them to eat away at you. The magic phrase that I chant to myself in these situations is, “I am not for everyone and that’s OK.”
Power is delicious. But the only person who should ever get to feast on it is you.
Sorry haters, the buffet is now closed due to a serious outbreak of swagger.
Leslie Ehm is a speaker, author and Chief Fire Starter at Combustion Training. Her book ‘Swagger — How to Lose the Front, Find Your Power, and Be the Badass You Didn’t Know You Already Were’ arrives Spring 2021.