People have come up with brilliant ways to belittle others. It seems the more we try to protect ourselves, the more insidious our attackers become. There are two in particular that have traveled with me in life—The Miss and the Mock Bow. They used to keep me up at night, questioning and condemning my behavior. What are these subtle yet effective attacks? And are they really attacks or am I being too sensitive? I didn’t see much on the subject in my tireless Google search, so I’m going to break them down here and now.
Sometimes a co-worker will ask me to do something they have no business asking me to do. I don’t mean empty a trash can or cover the front desk for five minutes. Those are team player tasks and I have no problem with those. I’m talking about the document I shouldn’t sign because it’s waaay out of my pay grade. Or the person who’s ready to reprimand me when I have to tell them they were given incorrect facts. A day or two goes by, and next time I see them they give me The Miss—I’m referred to as ‘Miss Joye’ in a sarcastically efficient tone of voice.
It’s something I notice women do, while men favor the Mock Bow. I’m walking down the hallway when a male co-worker whose request I tactfully and logically turned down gives me a bow, accompanied by an ‘oh no after you’ gesture. These may seem like harmless teasing, but they’re not and here’s why: First let’s examine the timing. Before the request for a favor, I get along with the person. We are civil and may even joke around. I try to live and let live at work, with a tendency to fall on the quiet side. I’ll never be the life of the party, but neither am I a wet blanket. Before long comes the request, usually from an extroverted co-worker who has social influence. They are used to others giving way to them due to their charisma and humor, so when they get a polite refusal it catches them off-guard. ‘Who are YOU, quiet person, to say no to ME the starting quarterback? How dare you not put yourself in a position to be my scapegoat.’
They won’t verbalize these feelings, but the Miss and the Mock Bow speak louder than words. It’s a two-edge sword that alienates the target while rousing curiosity in others. What’s with the bow, someone asks, what’s with the Miss? Of course the bower won’t say ‘I asked her to do something wrong and she refused’. No explanations will be proffered because the bower wants others to think I’m uptight. It also sends a message to me—‘Your self-respect is a joke and I’m going to mock it.’ The bower’s intention is to make me question my actions—am I uptight? Do I come across as thinking I’m superior? If the bower/Miss-nomer has their way, the next time they ask a favor I will say yes to show how cool I am. But these are old grenades in new casings, re-packaged bullying for those of us trying to adult. How do I know this? Because any number of people have gracefully taken no for an answer no matter what they ask me. And if it’s a question of something shady, my tactful ‘no’ is more than they deserve.
So don’t feel obligated to clear your schedule just to prove what a hoot you are. And definitely don’t take a dive in the name of so-called camaraderie. When someone starts doling out the Miss and the Mock Bow, they are giving away their own position. Bullies hate the smell of self-respect, so be happy with the knowledge that you’re stinking up the place.