Do you need to speak up and tell the truth about something? If you can't, you might be a victim of abuse.
Those who don't respect your feelings will make you fear speaking up. How? They'll use anger and other emotions to intimidate you.
Maybe you need to share information about your kids with your ex-spouse. Or maybe your stressful workplace needs some fine-tuning.
"You know the burning words you need to speak," says a psychologist we'll call Franklin. "But you can already hear other people denying your reality. You can imagine how they'll shovel your truth back into your face. Or worse, they may just ignore you."
One case in point is a national insurance company that is abusing salaried employees. The employees are required to work 102 hours per week!
One of their executives, whom we'll call John, told us: "We took a poll with trustworthy people who do a fine job in our ranks. With the accountability required for computer work, calls made for sales, and meetings they must attend, we know for a fact these employees are putting in 102 hours per week."
We all know where these employees will land, if they rock the boat. So, what do they do? They keep pushing and hoping for a miracle.
If you need to share difficult facts with someone, these tips can help:
— Find a mentor or person of authority to help. For example, instead of discussing co-parenting issues with your ex, ask him: "Would you mind if we sat down with a counselor?" A neutral third party can help diffuse tension.
— Find a government agency to help. For instance, if your company is abusing employees, research agencies that might intervene while you remain anonymous. An attorney might steer you in the right direction.
— Treat actual abuse as a crime. Face the injustice squarely. Hire a lawyer or seek help from legal aid to voice your pain and ask for monetary restitution. Deliberate bullying of someone or mistreatment of a group of people requires pressure from someone for it to stop. All of us know a courtroom confrontation is often the only answer.
"Almost everyone in the business world has witnessed some form of a crime," says a business owner we'll call Ted. "For example, one of my employees was recently driving drunk with visiting executives in his car. It's a miracle they didn't sue me. On the flip side, another woman who works for me was receiving death threats from her ex-husband almost daily. She nearly wrecked her department because she was so stressed out."
Ted says any giant issue must be managed carefully, of course, but it must be managed. "Otherwise, the problem will spiral out of control," he emphasizes.
A condo owner we'll call Alisha says homeowners in her complex wrestled several odd problems at once. "Ultimately, a homeowner's niece and her boyfriend turned her unit into a drug selling center," says Alisha. "Another homeowner developed Alzheimer's and started verbally attacking people in the parking lot. I won't go into other crazy things going on simultaneously."
Alisha says the condo HOA board formed a neighborhood watch program, hired two security guards and an attorney. "Abuse stops when rational people link arms," says Alisha.
"I've had good luck reporting abusive business practices to their respective licensing boards at the state level," says Alisha. "Believe me, there is always a strong shoulder to lean on, if you look deeply enough. There are morally upstanding people who will help to protect you."
(Judi Light Hopson is the Executive Director of the stress management website USA Wellness Café at usawellnesscafe.com. Emma Hopson is an author and a nurse educator. Ted Hagen is a family psychologist.)
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