I learned today that tomorrow, March 20, is a blogging event for #1000Speak, an organization whose byline is "1000 Voices Speak for Compassion." Contributing bloggers are writing about looking at bullying from a positive viewpoint. My first reaction was, "Huh? How can bullying ever have a positive slant?"
I thought back to several incidences when my husband, or the two of us, dealt with bullies in our business life. After giving those experiences some thought, I realized that both ended up being constructive -- one in direct way, the other in a roundabout way.
Almost Caving in to a Bully's Demands
My husband practices criminal defense, and occasionally he will have a client who has a significant rap sheet. Sometimes Shaun isn't aware of the extent of these criminal histories until much later.
Mr. X was one such client. He wasn't happy that Shaun hadn't performed miracles in his case and demanded Shaun pay him back not only the full retainer, but three times that. We're talking extortion. Didn't matter that Shaun had worked many free hours above and beyond the retainer, Mr. X wanted money. A lot of it. Left a threatening message one day on my husband's car.
My husband grew concerned about our safety. I suggested he contact our good friend, a lawyer, and talk it over. This lawyer has practiced law nearly 40 years, just as his father had before him. After Shaun told him the story, the lawyer said, "He's bullying you. One thing about bullies, you need to call him on his bluff, not run scared and give in to his demands. Calmly agree to set up a formal mediation over the money he's attempting to extort. He won't like a reasonable, professional venue to air his threats because he likes working in the dark. Do this and he'll go away."
Which is exactly what happened. Just goes to show, no matter how old you are, you can still learn valuable life lessons.
Slipping, Sliding Toward a Bully
This is a lighter story, one that started out with what appeared to be a bullying situation.
My husband loves his cowboy boots. Wears them with his suits to court. One day he and a judge sang a Merle Haggard song together -- Shaun in his suit, the judge in his black robes -- both of them in their cowboy boots. Wish I'd been there to hear the song and to see the looks on people's faces in the courtroom!
A month or so ago, Shaun was walking downtown through snow and ice in his cowboy boots when he saw a police officer shove a man to the ground. Shaun didn't think twice, just starting running toward them, yelling "What's going on?" and waving his hands. He was on a mission to stop perceived violence. Problem is, those cowboy boots have slick soles.
He hit a patch of ice and and started sliding toward traffic, just as several police units squealed around the corner, lights flashing. Shaun kept slipping and sliding toward the busy street, unable to stop, his heart pounding, realizing he was going to be run over...at the last minute, he grabbed onto a parking meter...and fell face down in a pile of snow between two parked cars, the whoosh of cars and crunching tires a foot or two from his head.
Strong arms helped him to his feet. It was the police officer who'd shoved the guy. "You okay?" he asked. As Shaun brushed snow off his face and clothes, they talked. Shaun learned that the guy who had been shoved was a felon with an outstanding warrant. He'd turned violent, resisted arrest, and the officer had been trying to subdue him, not abuse him. Meanwhile, in the background, the felon was handcuffed and being placed in the backseat of one of the units.
Then, to Shaun's surprise, he learned the officer is a sergeant in the police department of a nearby jurisdiction where Shaun is moving his law practice. Even more small world, the sergeant is a former private investigator who worked for the lawyer whose office Shaun is taking over! Their paths will be crossing even more in the months and years to come.
Shaun ran to halt what he perceived to be bullying, but instead ran toward a valuable connection in his future.
To read more stories with positive outcomes and lessons regarding bullying, check out the hastag #1000Speak on Twitter.