How to Survive a Character Assassination

How to Survive a Character Assassination

If you are a dynamic, successful individual, a born leader, highly charismatic, popular, attractive, or all of these things, then at some point you are guaranteed to be the target of character assassination.

At best, the assassination attempt is designed to say things about you — while unflattering — may simply be uncomplimentary or cast you in a bad light (like fluorescent); at worst, they can damage your reputation, ruin your relationships, cost you opportunities both personal and professional, deal a permanent blow to your self-confidence, and fundamentally alter how you and those around you perceive you and your place in the world. Character assassination is dirty fighting, make no mistake about it. It can be cowardly (like anyone who bad-mouths you behind your back to friends or colleagues), or it can be in-your-face (like politicians who make no secret about their intent to wreck an opponent’s reputation). Given how damaging character assassination can be, it’s worthwhile having in your toolkit the means to survive one — and not just survive: PREVAIL.

The very first question that pops into every single person’s head who undergoes character assassination is, “WHY?” (the second is often “Where’s my gun!?”, but that’s usually reserved only for men, and pretty much everyone who lives in Texas). The reason for the question above is simple enough: character assassination comes to our attention by the same abrupt mechanism that a slap in the face from a stranger apropos of nothing would — surprise. That someone’s taken an intentional, damaging, and in all cases hurtful shot at you is extremely disquieting; more than anything we want to know why. See to me, when something is highlighted and the covert speaks about the person behind their back and they are brought into the light, they need folks to co-sign their anger and outrage. Why do you need someone to co-sign just stand on the concern that was raised vs trying to say, “don’t speak to her she will think you are on her side”? Let me say this, leaders don’t take sides, life isn’t West Side Story or some gang warfare. Grow up and go one on one with the person that is upsetting you, after all whether in messenger or via phone they shared issues with you alone so what intimidates you so much that you are unable to do so in kind?

Let’s take a quick look at the kinds of people who engage in this sort of ridiculous tactic, and what you can learn about them.

The Jealous

You used to be their friend/co-worker, and now it looks like you’re moving on socially or professionally. They don’t want to be left behind, and so rather than let you go, this idiot is going to try to wreck the place you’re going to before you get settled in. They’re dangerous because they have perceived credibility (“Yeah, I worked with/have known Jane for years…”) due to their previous association with you. This type of person often engages in character assassination as a by-product of regret — namely, regret about losing control or ‘ownership’ of you (typically after facilitating your introduction to the very area you’re moving on to).

The Angry

Help Desk Supervisors. Just kidding; no, these folks are mad at you because you remind them of where they are in the world. Or rather, where they aren’t. They’re frustrated actors/musicians/writers who are stuck paying the bills doing some job they hate which is unrelated to their passion (probably because they aren’t any good at what that is). Don’t pay much attention to these people, as 1) they’re pretty much angry at everyone equally, and 2) they won’t have much ammunition to throw at you because they’re too busy being angry all the time, at everyone.

The Devious

These are the most dangerous of the types of people who will try to wreck your character, most of all because they’re usually sociopaths. These people don’t hate you; these people see the destruction or damage of your character as a means to an end in realizing their own goals. They usually have no conscience or sense of remorse, nor do they care what happens to you after they’ve destroyed you. They may even commence a clandestine character assassination against you, only to seemingly come to your aide in public to thwart the attempt, for no other reason than to create a perception that they are someone you can trust — which they’ll later use to their advantage.

The Envious

This one here’s usually at the root of nearly all character assassinations, and the one I’ll spend the most time on.

What happens to the envious is that you (or whatever/whoever you got they didn’t tend to tick them off) act like a giant mirror, reflecting back their own perceived inadequacies and lame excuses for not getting on with their lives. See, if you’re doing or achieving something they believe inside themselves that they should have had, be doing or achieving — and they’re not — it forces them to ask themselves WHY (see, I told you we’d get back to that). And the answer to that question is not one that the person trying to screw you over wants to hear, because it is painful to realize. So, what do they do? They tell themselves that they could be doing or achieving whatever you’re doing or achieving IF…, they live behind a believe system that is an alternative version if reality. I was approached to be in that organization, I can wear that outfit, you aren’t this or that, stop comparing yourself to me. God made me uniquely me and made you uniquely you. They want others to stop believing you’re special or talented or you’re willing to do things and make compromises that they’re not. They chose to perpetuate you’re a fake and a phony, and THAT’S why you’re getting what you’re getting and they’re not.

Thin? well yeah. But that’s where the character assassination comes in: if they can convince others to see you the way they now do — if the common elements surrounding you both see their invented truth rather than your projected truth — then their logic holds. Then they’re right. And you, my friend, are assassinated

The Salvation

But here’s the problem that faces every would-be character assassin, and the one thing that will save you in the end: the double-check. Very few people will simply take whatever crazy slanderous thing someone says at face value, without doing their own version of the double-check (and if they don’t, then you didn’t need them in your tent in the first place). Some will become more observant, some will ask some subtle questions, and some will ask some not-so-subtle questions. How you handle the attempted character assassination at this point — this first realization that it’s occurring — is critical. How do you prevail?

The Solution

Don’t fight back. At least, don’t lower yourself to use the tools the would-be character assassin has inarguably lowered themselves by using. The best defense against any character assassination is to maintain your integrity and take pride in what you do, whatever that may be. Fighting back just feeds the fire and clouds the issue.

Someone says, “You know, Bob was saying some pretty unflattering things about you…”

You say: “I am planning for a meeting, I’m simply too busy to provide this dialogue credence in my world” And carry on with whatever actual business you have in your life; don’t give Bob another minute.

See what happened there? See what you did? Let me break it down:

  1. No emotion, although at times it comes out. Why? You’re astonished but remember, Bob doesn’t matter. At all. Ever. To anyone, least of all you.
  2. You used the word “busy,” and not the more typical “sorry.” Why would you be sorry? What’ve you got to be sorry about? Move beyond Bob; you’re busy.  Immediately Bob appears childish and petty to the double-checker, and you (inexplicably, which is the cool part of this bit) appear far too busy for foolishness. Which frankly most of the time is true.
  3. You continue on with your business. Why? See point one about Bob, above. Because you’re above it. Because you’re important. Because you’ve got stuff to do. And because what Bob says has no bearing on your life.

Think it matters who Bob is? Nope. Think it matters that you’re an Executive and Bob’s a Pastor. Nope. And here’s why: because integrity cannot be bound by any means. By handling yourself in this way you’ve highlighted that you’ve got it, and Bob doesn’t. Fight over. Sure, old Bob may go about trying to pull more people out of your tent and into his, but in the end if you keep your integrity. Game over Bob looks like the fool he is………. the most upset he has ever been.

Ultimately, character assassination has absolutely nothing to do with YOU; it has everything to do with the person who’s engaging in it. And THAT, should make you feel better and allow you to leave it behind you, where it belongs.

To the would-be assassin don’t attempt to attack someone who actually is trying to help you not hurt you. Believe it or not life is about learning and awakenings, you just might pick up a tidbit or two ultimately impacting people you love in a positive way.

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