9 Habits of Resilient People (No. 1)

This is the first article in a series of nine. 

The first habit is: Resilient people tell it the way it is

Another way of putting it is that resilient people are authentic. They can’t lie to themselves and they don’t lie to others. When they are happy they will tell you so; when they need help you will hear that too.

This truth-telling rests on deeper principles. Resilience relies on seeing things the way they really are (see Habit No. 5). Some delusions are based on wishful thinking; others are based on Junkmind worries. Resilient people don’t listen to worries and neither do they kid themselves when they are really up against it. Seeing the way things really are has survival value: if you know the truth about things then you are better equipped to handle adversity.

Another principle relates to emotional intelligence (see habit No. 4). Because emotions are the brain’s way of mobilising us to take action it is vital that we both recognise and articulate our emotions. Resilient people will therefore tell you when they are sad or scared in the same way they will tell you when they are angry. They will freely express their joy and excitement too. They know how to move closer towards their friends and they also know how to defend themselves against attack. 

What to do about bullying

This is a follow-up to last weekend’s blog on Reverse Assertiveness, at the end of which I promised to post something on how to handle bullies, control freaks and manipulators.

Walk away or stand up to them!

The first thing to realise about these people is that they play by their own rules. They are not interested in communicating with you – only in getting their own way.

So the simplest advice to give you is not to play their game. If you are up against them then walk away. It’s no use trying to ‘communicate’ with them, because you won’t win. If you don’t want to walk away then you are going to have to stand up to them.

Stay cool

People who use communication as a form of warfare are past masters at intimidating others. And – if that tactic doesn’t work then they will throw a tantrum, abuse you or sulk.

So, if you stand up to them, then don’t rise to the bait.

  • Stay grounded in your body
  • Stay calm
  • Keep your voice level
  • Maintain eye contact
  • Don’t react to insults
  • Stick to the point you want to make

Rehearse ahead

If I am working with a client in Reverse Therapy who is learning how to handle an ogre I nearly always advise them to walk away first and rehearse what they want to say before going back into the ring.

I get them to use the Reverse Assertiveness process as a framework. For example:

  • Event – Last time we met you lost your temper…..
  • Consequence – and we ended up getting nowhere.
  • Appreciation – I know this means a lot to you.
  • Need – But I need you to listen to my point of view as well.

It can be good to practice saying this in the mirror, several times, while staying grounded, etc.

Never attack a bully head on. This just cues them to attack you in return and solves nothing.

Use phrases like ‘your point of view’ and ‘the way I see it’ not ‘you’re wrong’, or ‘you tried to bully me’, etc.

Choose ONE point you want to make and stick to it. That could be telling them to letting you finish speaking, keeping their voice down, refrain from name-calling, etc. Don’t deviate from the point.

Be ready to repeat parts of the Even Cod Need Air process again if things get heated. For example:

  • Event – ‘You’re shouting again.
  • Consequence – ‘I am getting frustrated’
  • Need – ‘Please keep your voice down’
  • Consequence – ‘If you don’t calm down I am going to have to leave the room’

Keep on making the single point you have rehearsed until either:

a) you have finished, or

b) you have walked away once more

Be ready for a climb-down. I have noticed over and over again that, when you stand up to bullies they can reverse, surprisingly quickly, into very reasonable people. But don’t be fooled. Sometimes that can just be a way of stringing you along into a false sense of security.  So don’t back down.

Reverse Assertiveness

This is a follow up to last Monday’s blog on Emotional Intelligence.

This one is about expressing your anger or frustration to people whose behavior you don’t like.

This is sometimes known as Assertiveness Training.

Now, as it happens, I used to run courses in Assertiveness Training about 15 years ago for the Adult Education Service in Berkshire.

One thing I noticed about some of my fellow trainers is that they were rarely in a relationship themselves and, usually, had very few friends. That was how I concluded that, for them, Assertiveness was another name for what Richard Bandler used to call ‘Loneliness Preparation’.

Because the way some of them taught the basic course it came over as way too confrontational.

Being truthful about your emotions, desires and needs is most certainly not helped by confrontation. Instead, it’s about being blunt and to the point – but nice with it; stating your own point of view while appreciating that the other person has a point of view too; being clear about what you want, while being ready to give the other party something in return.

I made some similar points in a book I once wrote with Roy Johnson, called Influencing People. That book still sells well and a few readers tell me they found the techniques in the book very powerful.

There is also an excellent blog on respectful communication on JohnPlaceOnline. One thing I really like about John Place’s advice is that he teaches the importance of listening to the other person while you are asserting yourself. If you don’t do that then the other person isn’t going to listen to you full stop. Which defeats your aim. Another point I liked was that, when asserting yourself, you stick to stating the facts rather than going in for name-calling.

The aims of Assertive communication are:

1. To practice being truthful

2. To express, resolve and clear your emotions (see my blog on Emotions).

3. To get some personal need satisfied (e.g. respect, cooperation, improved relationships).

The four most common mistakes that people make when handling conflict:

a. Sounding resentful

b. Blaming people

c. Being vague about what happened

d. Being vague about what they want

Making any of those mistakes means you won’t get what you want. Instead you will most likely have an argument and end by feeling even more frustrated than when you started. You may also end up a bit more lonely than you were before.

A formula for being assertive

This is a method we teach in Reverse Therapy. It’s a simple process and is summed up by the mnemonic:


EVEN stands for the Event. Here you need to be clear and factual about what actually happened. For example, say ‘While we were at dinner you told me to be quiet in front of our friendsnotYou’re always humiliating me when we’re out in public.’

COD stands for the  Consequence. Here you need to state a mutual result that you both want, or that neither of you want. For example, say: ‘I’d like to find a better way for us to do the social minefield‘ or ‘Our friends might think we aren’t getting alongnotNow you go and ruin my dinner party!

NEED stands for your Needs – what you want to have happen next. This requires you to be clear about the new behaviors you are asking for. For example, say ‘Next time we are out together and you want to tell me something like that then please tell me in private.’ notWhy can’t you ever learn to treat me right?’

AIR stands for Appreciation – appreciating the other person’s point of view. This could range from appreciating your partner’s intentions, sympathizing with the situation they were in, thanking them for something, or expressing affection, friendship or love.

For example:

Appreciating intentions – ‘I can understand you not wanting me to embarrass myself.

Sympathizing: ‘I get that you have had a tough day and you’re really tired.’

Thanking: ‘First, I want to say thanks for coming tonight. It meant a lot to me.

Expressing: ‘You know, I appreciate you looking out for me”

(Appreciation, by the way, can go anywhere in your statement – at the start, in the middle, or at the end. Personally, I prefer to put it at the start if possible, as that tends to get people’s attention).

When you are done you can invite a discussion, artfully turning the other person’s attention to your stated needs rather than going over what happened.

For example:

Can you think of a better way?’
‘What would work for you?’
‘Would you do that for me

If you practice at first on small grievances and work on up, and practice this process every day – then I guarantee you will get results – and so will the people you most care about.

Next post: I will write about people who won’t play ball – the bullies, manipulators and control freaks. And what to do about them when you use this process.