The Mirror Effect.
How to redirect bully antics in sports and life
- The Mirror Effect
- Don’t play in their sandbox
- How to tell if your opponent is intentionally making bad calls
They’re everywhere. Bullies. Learning how to deal with these arrogant, egotistical intimidators effectively can save you an enormous amount of energy and provide peace of mind. This advice is for kind, respectful, hard-working athletes. It will help you move through the anarchy of bullies.
The Mirror Effect
Think about a time that a bully spewed verbal abuses your way. Maybe it went something like: “You’re an ugly, selfish bleep. You are bleeping insane. Bleep. Bleep. Bleep.” This rant is being projected onto you, their intended victim. I have a secret technique to help you deflect their eruption.
Envision that instead of talking to you, the bully is standing in front of a mirror. The mirror is between you and them. Now they’re yelling epithets at themselves: “You’re an ugly, selfish bleep. You are bleeping insane. Bleep. Bleep. Bleep.” Using this technique, our mind redirects the torrent of abuse back to the person who has issued it. Comical, right? It’s one of life’s ironies.
People are what they speak. Bullies likely have psychological issues. They’re trapped inside their web of anger and despair. Tormentors and aggressors are usually out-of-control personalities. Have you ever seen anyone in a tirade and thought, “What a kind and thoughtful person”? Of course not. Even though we always try to see the best in others, it’s nearly impossible with habitual bullies.
In general, all people desire happiness; however, bullies and other destructive personalities can’t seem to achieve it. An out-of-control person projects an out-of-control energy field. I recommend to distance yourself from these people as quickly as possible. We can be sympathetic since science tells us that bullies are usually made, not born. But it’s not your job to reform them. That is usually a thankless, wasteful endeavor for us. Leave that to professionals.
In contrast, if someone speaks typically in kind, empathetic, thoughtful, and encouraging ways, that is probably who they are. These individuals project compassionate and inspiring energies outward. Kindness is an evolved part of human nature. Our DNA directs us to be connected and belong, which requires getting along with others. Sadly, a bully uses manipulation and exploitation as their social norms.
Don’t play in their sandbox.
Whatever the situation, the hard and fast rule for dealing with destructive personalities – on and off the court — is straightforward: Don’t play in their sandbox! Under no condition is it advisable to get into a spewing superiority contest with your opponent. By matching their vitriol, you expend energy, become distracted, and are pulled out of your “A” game. That’s precisely where they want you. That is their mental tactic. If they can’t beat you with skill, they’ll try to beat you with emotions.
There is nothing a bad actor relishes more than to get you in their sandbox and kick sand in your face. Don’t let them command your attention and affect your performance. Don’t degenerate to their level. Once you begin mimicking their behavior, you will be the one to implode.
The best advice I can give is to stay calm, collected, and maintain clarity of thought. Refusing to engage is the best antidote. Be poised and maintain your focus. Remember, out-of-control opponents, are insecure and fragile. When bullies realize they have no power over you, they’ll unravel. And, as they do, it’s easy to defeat them.
Smiling is a great way to get a bully to fail. I usually take the risky approach of laughing aloud in response to their abuses. Doing so, I’ve watched my bully opponents self-incinerate.
Coach’s sidebar: Word of caution – laughing aloud may enrage the bully to violence. Use at your own risk.
If you compete for any time, you will come across all types of personalities in your sport. Sometimes we don’t get to pick our opponents. And we can’t choose the behaviors they exhibit. We cannot reform or control them. We do, however, have control over our own emotions and behaviors. We can follow where bullies lead, or we can set our path. If we can shift to ‘observer mode’ instead of a ‘participant mode,’ we can avoid getting pulled into a caustic world. Don’t play in a bully’s sandbox – ever.
How to tell if your opponent is intentionally making bad calls
Tennis is an interesting sport. Its players make their own line calls. Tour players and some tournaments are provided with line judges, chair umpires, or electronic technology. But for most of us, it’s our responsibility to make accurate line calls on our side of the net – the honor system. Imagine that practice in baseball or football. Tennis exacts a certain demeanor on the court. Under the tennis code of conduct, if there is any uncertainty, the call should favor your opponent.
But what if there are evident line-call shenanigans coming from your opponent? Here’s a little trick I’ve learned over the years, and it works amazingly well. If I question a line call, I will walk to the net and politely ask my opponent to double-check the mark. If my opponent apologizes and offers to take another look, they are probably being fair. On the other hand, if the other player immediately flies off the handle and erupts, then that’s a sure sign they are making incorrect calls to their advantage. Sometimes players will ‘go fishing,’ meaning they’ll find a mark, any mark, to ‘prove’ their call. Red flag! At this point in a tournament match, I request a referee. If you’re not able to do this, ask the player to circle the marks of out balls. Do they have to comply? No. This is one of the tricky nuances of tennis. Bad calls are subjective. If you can, choose not to play with a bully again. Scratch them off your tennis buddy list permanently.
Fortunately, most tennis players compete fairly and always have fun – even in the heat of battle. As in life, some people understand honest competition, and others do not. Choose to be around people that compete well.
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