Every Sunday, Marie Antoinette doles out the advice only she can give about love, life and relationships. To have the queen weigh in on your dilemma, email whatwouldmarieantoinettedo at wordpress dot com.
Your majesty the Queen,
I’m the new girl at my job and one of my coworkers has disliked me from the start. I’m young and she says things to undermine me to my bosses. She hints to them that I’m confused and overwhelmed and suggests projects be reassigned. She’s somehow able to hone in on even the smallest thing and magnify it for everyone. Once I even had touch of mustard on my upper lip from lunch and though her desk is right across from me, she waited until a meeting to tell me about it, in front of everyone. What do I do?
My darling, All presented ladies at Versailles, myself included, were picked apart, criticized and mocked by the other ladies at court. And sometimes — I say this with love — whether it was one of my soiled dresses as a teen or Du Barry’s coarse table manners, the comments were not entirely off the mark. It’s in this way that mean girls who make snarky comments are accidentally doing you a favor. They have singled you out for a self-help moment that your initial blind fury may not allow you to recognize — but the Queen in you will.
A step-by-step guide to dealing with unpleasant, mean, backstabby unpleasant women
1. Smile. They hate that. Plus, the happier you look, the more likely you’ll be able to power through a toxic situation.
2. Summon your propriety. 18th century women did not hold forth. They did not fight or curse or even snark back. That is for commoners. Correct your commenter and walk away before you do something low-born.
3. Don’t be so surprised. Not everyone on this Earth is here to be your friend. You’re young and your coworker is likely jealous. If you’re going to be queen, you’ll need to expect a little envy and competitiveness.
4. Count yourself special. Of all the people in your workplace, this horrible woman chose you. If you weren’t all that, there’d be nothing to envy. Don’t let her studied hours of pettiness and envy go to waste.
5. Get past the insult. Just because she’s horrible doesn’t mean that you can’t learn. Is there something constructive you can take from the comment? It must come from somewhere. You aren’t the worst or the best, so you have to agree there’s room to improve. Bitches are drawn to others’ weaknesses. Your bosses would dismiss her if they didn’t think there was a possibility her comments had merit. You’re new and can leverage that to learn and improve.
6. Focus on the message, not the delivery. Note that not every critic is a bitch. Some might even have ulterior motives but not all. Many, many people just don’t know how to communicate. For lack of time, energy or sensitivity people might show bad manners, terrible soft skills and worse tact. Don’t let people say you aren’t receptive to criticism or that you don’t listen. If there’s something you can improve on, wouldn’t you like to know about it?
7. Ask questions. In certain situations you might ask for details. If you hear her say an underminy thing, bring attention to it. Ask, “Tell me more about that?” “Why do you say that?” “What should I have done?” “What would you have done?” Ask not in defense, but to learn. Your snarky friend might even be won over by your gesture — and pause before she snarks again. The coward might be surprised you engaged her at all and shrink from future bitchiness altogether.
8. Control the conversation. Sadly, snarky people cannot focus worth a damn so when bitchy moment takes you by surprise, do what you can to refocus attention. Don’t be interrupted or derailed from whatever you were doing before the bitchiness occurred. Acknowledge she has taken the conversation off track (“Let’s refocus on the real issues.”) and return to the subject at hand.
9. Power through. Work as hard as possible to create a new image of yourself as confident and capable. Go to your bosses and ask for their input on how to improve. Become so amazing, she’d embarrass herself if she tried to undermine you again