How to Dress Up Getting Dressed Down by Your Peer

BY Courtney Huckabay
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You're in a meeting. Ideas are being shared. You posit a great one. Then some twit uses this opportunity to dress down you, your idea, your previous ideas and your entire role at the company.

So you're under attack. Don't get defensive. You know that person on another team has been gunning for you. You have been half expecting this for awhile, so don't debase yourself. Don't do what your animal instincts and body chemistry are telling you to do.

Be more cunning like a fox, instead of territorial like a cat when being dressed down.

How to Respond When being Dressed Down

"When faced with a meeting room confrontation it’s essential for you to interrupt the brain’s natural process and effectively retain your wits," Art Petty, coach and speaker, writes on his blog, ArtPetty​.com.

He shares some advice on how to handle confrontations and being dressed down, even if they're not happening in the conference room, or not nearly as dramatic as the situation I've described above. Petty's mental reboot process goes like this:

  1. Acknowledge what is happening internally. In your mind, say, "It's happening."
  2. "After responding to the shock, vocalize (internally) your acceptance: 'OK, I’m in it now.'
  3. "From acceptance, assume ownership: 'This is mine. I’ve got it.'
  4. "From ownership, offer an idea or to gain processing time, ask clarifying questions. 'Here’s what I’m hearing… , is this right?' An alternative, 'Here’s what I think I am hearing. Is this correct?'
  5. Then you need to focus on your body language. You must appear relaxed and like nothing is wrong. The best way to accomplish this is to actually relax, even in a situation such as being dressed down.

"Learning to simultaneously relax your body by letting your arms fall to your sides versus folding them or waving them menacingly, is helpful," Petty says. "Some of my clients find it helpful to look away from the source of the verbal assault and focus on the reboot while breathing."


Now is the time for you to nail that nincompoop to the wall with a cool, calm, collected, factual and positive response. Here's an example Petty gives: “Rob, thanks for raising this issue. As everyone recalls, we spent a good deal of time with this group looking at the challenges and risks we encountered with that project. It was humbling. However, the changes we made…with some great input from your team, Rob, have helped us navigate even more difficult challenges since that time. The team is experienced, successful and eminently capable and prepared to succeed with this initiative.”

The key to overcome getting dressed down is to take emotion out of the equation altogether.

"When faced with a spontaneous challenging conversation," Petty writes. "Your first order of business is to control your emotions, fight-​off your instincts, and then navigate forward, striving to use the attacker’s energy to your advantage."

If you can avoid getting negatively emotional in your response to getting dressed down, you'll maintain your authority. Meanwhile, everyone will see your opponent for the jerk that they are.