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Thrive – Jeff Bezos’s Reaction to a Blackmail Attempt Teaches Us the Power of Defusing Shame

Jeff Bezos’s written reaction to a blackmail attempt by the National Enquirer has much to teach us about seizing control, and defusing shame.  There is much to be learned from how Bezos took control and fought back, and I was very pleased to help break down why his approach was so effective, and what we can do next time humiliation threatens to throw us off balance.

To read the full article on Thrive Global, click HERE.

His bold approach to confronting potential humiliation head-on is extremely effective, says Alicia Clark, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist and author of Hack Your Anxiety: How to Make Anxiety Work for You in Life, Love, and All That You Do. “He did an excellent job of taking control of the situation and not bowing to the threat of humiliation. He fought back,” she says.

The lessons learned from this bombshell news story will be increasingly important, says Clark, as an entire generation of young people, who grew up digital natives, experience the fallout of sharing personal photos, videos and comments, which can — and often do — haunt them long afterwards.

Clark offers four tips on how we can reclaim our power and footing when something humiliating threatens to throw us off balance.

Take control of the story

Like Bezos, we can quickly and succinctly take control of the narrative. Don’t let it fester into something that feels insurmountable. For example, if you accidentally sent a personal text to your boss instead of your partner, you can quickly respond that you’re sorry and note that your message was obviously meant for someone else. Clark suggests employing a “fake it till you make it” posture of composure even if you’re dying inside the next time you see your boss. Likewise, if you said something you regret to a coworker, you can swiftly apologize and take ownership of any wrongdoings.

Know that you get to decide how you feel

Clark emphatically points out that whatever might have happened, you get to decide how you feel about it. “You give it power,” she says. “We can’t feel bad about something unless we agree it’s bad. We get to decide if we’re adequate or not, if we’re ashamed or not.”

Use humor to defuse the drama

While Clark isn’t a huge fan of self-deprecation — “it’s a deft tool, but if used in excess people start to believe its self-disparaging narrative” — she’s all for using comedy to break up the tension. “If you can laugh at yourself or the situation, you allow other people to laugh without it being negative. It’s a brilliant thing that we all can do to defuse uncomfortable situations and conflicts,” she says.

Remember: You are not your mistake

Whatever misstep you made — trusting someone you shouldn’t have with personal selfies, or saying something off-color that ruffled feathers — acknowledge that you made a mistake and learn from it if the fault lies with you, Clark says, but stop yourself from a full-fledged assault on your value as a human being.

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Alicia H. Clark, PsyD

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