Riding the Bull: Recognizing When Resolution isn’t the Game

Riding the Bull: Recognizing When Resolution isn’t the Game


The tensions mount as you stare eye to eye trying to come to some sort of understanding. Breathing is getting heavier, blood pressure is rising, and you realize this discussion is not going to be easy.

Whether it’s a coworker, family or friend, you probably know a bull but don’t recognize it as such. You may even be the bull!

Here are three tell-tale signs you’re dealing with a bull:

  1. Any request for a change in behavior turns into an argument unless you back down.
  2. There’s no rational reasoning to points made when the discussion is emotionally charged.
  3. You have difficulty finding a resolution every time there is a difference of opinion.

You may assume the bull is a dumb animal, one that can’t stay focused. Or you may assume the bull lets anger take over the natural thought process and can’t think clearly, but you’d be wrong. The bull is a lot smarter than you think.

Consider this:

  • How many times have you walked away from the argument because you’re too frustrated to continue?
  • How many times have you been run off topic and forgotten the initial point of the discussion?
  • How many times have you been left emotionally bleeding in the dirt when you thought the disagreement was minor?
  • How many times have you not bothered to state your case because it’s just not worth the effort?

If any of those points ring true for you, you’re dealing with an intelligent bull. The bull doesn’t want to be challenged, it just wants to live life as it chooses regardless of how it affects you. The bull wants you to give up because it doesn’t want to accept any responsibility for it’s own behavior.

Bull tactics:

  • Refusing to Leave the Gate: Feigning ignorance and non-understanding. No matter how many times you describe something, the bull still doesn’t get what you’re saying. Stubbornness is intended to make you give up.
  • Freight Trained: The bull runs you straight into a wall with accusatory statements. You will be so shocked by this offensive tactic that you end up defending yourself instead of trying to find a resolution to the initial issue. The issues you are being accused of need not be true or accurate, the tactic is to throw you off balance by using your own fear or indignation against you.
  • Rag Doll: Much less obvious but still emotionally intense. You’ve been dragged around the ring. Typically involves accusations, tears or requests for pity. You may be called “mean” and “uncaring” although there is obvious evidence to the contrary. You’ll find yourself feeling guilty despite your right to have an opinion and feelings. Exceptionally smart bulls successfully employ this method even when you are the one who has been wronged. You back down because you don’t want to be the cause of any more pain.
  • The Buck Off: Topic Changes mid-discussion, particularly about previously emotionally charged issues that you thought were resolved. Watch closely, when this happens you are likely getting close to a resolution and the topic change is a last ditch effort to stop it from happening.
  • Swapping Ends: So many reversals in the conversation you begin to feel like you’re trying to pin jello to a wall. This can be multiple back-to-back buck offs or it can be the sarcastic agreement meant to discontinue the conversation. If this technique works, expect the subject matter to be used against you in the future. It’s perfect fodder for a future buck off.

Find the sweet spot on the bull’s back and bear down to keep the discussion on topic with these successful bull riding tips:

  1. Remain calm despite the fear, anxiety & anger. Do not allow negative emotions to throw you off balance.
  2. When the bull tries to veer to the right or left, bring it back to center by reminding it of the purpose of the interaction.
  3. When the bull throws unrelated issues at you, tell it you will discuss those issues after the current topic is resolved.

The bull’s entire purpose is to get you off it’s back.
By remaining calm, respectful and firmly on topic, the bull will be forced to hear and respond to your point of view. If you’re dealing with a true fighting bull, the ride is not going to be easy, particularly if you’ve enabled the success of it’s techniques in the past.

When bull riding, injuries and subsequent scars are inevitable. There may come a time when you begin to evaluate the possibility of bailing out of the situation. Determine if the constant challenge is worth the reward; because even champions eventually retire.

When you’re on that bull, eight seconds is a lifetime.

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