Do you walk away from seemingly innocent encounters with a female colleague feeling unexpectedly deflated?
Has your level of self-doubt increased since experiencing this?
Then you could be experiencing ‘Acid Drops‘.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, an Acid Drop is a boiled sweet that originated in the UK, and has a very sour aftertaste. Bitch In The City Acid Drops are the verbal equivalent of the same thing. Whilst similar to other BITC behaviours, such as the Hug Slap and the Cold Shoulder, the hallmark of the Acid Drop is subtlety. You may not realise what happened at the time, or even afterwards.
Like most BITC tactics, the purpose of Acid Drops is to damage your confidence and self-esteem. That’s how the BITC reduces her sense of inadequacy and makes herself feel better.
If you haven’t noticed it, how do you know it’s going on?
Start with how you feel after interacting with the female colleague. If you answered yes to the two questions above, look a little deeper. Feeling deflated by her doesn’t necessarily mean she’s an Acid Dropper. It’s possible she’s triggering something in you merely by being herself. To find out if that’s what’s going on, ask yourself the following questions:
- Am I comparing myself to her? AND
- When I do, am I judging myself negatively? (She’s smarter, prettier, more popular etc.) AND
- Has this amplified my negative self-talk?
If you answered these questions in the positive, then it’s you not her. We all have negative self-talk, but if yours has reached the stage where it’s undermining your confidence, it’s time to get some help.
If you answered these questions in the negative, it’s possible it’s her not you. But before we go any further, I’ve got one more question for you to ask yourself:
- Am I sure?
Go back and ask yourself those three questions again. If you’re sure you’ve been 100% honest with yourself then read on.
If you gone through the exercise above and worked out you’re dealing with an Acid Dropper, the next thing to do is to treat your acid burns.
Acid Drops burn your psyche much as the chemical burns your body. How much damage is done depends on several factors:
- How strong it is
- How much is applied
- How long you’re in contact with it
- Which part of you is affected
- Whether it touches a sensitive area
Apply First Aid
Wash it off.
As with physical acid burns, immediate and simple first aid is most effective. I hear you – ‘It’s not physical. How do I rinse off the effect of nasty words?’ Here’s what I suggest.
Find a trusted friend or colleague and let them know you need to vent. Act as quickly as you can; remember, the longer the acid stays in contact, the more it burns. Head to an appropriately quiet and confidential place. Ask your friend to listen carefully without commenting or questioning. When you’re ready, let it rip until you’ve run out of steam. Oh, and make sure you’ve got a good supply of tissues.
If you can’t easily access someone you trust, then get out the pen and paper. Something electronic is okay, but old fashioned pen and paper are best. Research shows that old fashioned writing helps your brain to better process your thoughts. I like to use blank paper because having no lines helps my thoughts to flow more freely. It’s easy to find in an office, so just grab some paper out of the printer.
Once you’ve finished your vent, check in with your listener or read over what you wrote. Identify the parts about the Acid Dropper and those about you.
The next step is important: you might need to park it until you can give it your full attention.
Take the parts of your vent about the BITC. Delete them. If you did the paper version, get a big black marker and put a line through them. If you got a replay from your listener, write the key points down, put a line through them and then shred the paper. This is her rubbish, so leave her to deal with it.
Remove Any Contamination
On a clean sheet of paper write out the bits you or your listener identified as yours. This is your hurt.
Check for any leftover traces of the BITC’s rubbish. These should be deleted, shredded, expunged, obliterated, annihilated … you get the picture. Depending upon how deep the acid burns are, you may need to do something more than the pen and paper exercise. Now’s the time to do it: scream, swear, jump up and down, tire yourself out.
Are you feeling a bit better? Good. Before you can start the healing process, there’s one more thing to do.
Let it go.
If you hold on to it, it will keep burning. You’ll hurt and she’ll have won.
Dress The Wounds
If this were a physical burn, medical advice would be to apply a loose bandage and take a mild pain killer if needed. The equivalent in this situation is to give yourself a break. This has been tiring, so get some rest, do something you enjoy, and share a laugh with a friend.
Once you’ve done that, review your list of hurt. Is there anything you can cross off the list?
If so, do it – then rewrite the remaining list onto a fresh piece of paper. Repeat the delete ritual if you need to. If you’re finding that the list is still quite long, perhaps you already had some sensitive areas. Get some extra help to deal with these.
It’s time to dust yourself off and get back into work. This is your career and your life, and no sour person is going to spoil it for you.
‘How do I neutralise the Acid Dropper?’
You might have guessed it: we start with you … again. If you’re feeling vengeful, defensive or confrontational, then stop. I know it’s tempting to spray a little acid of your own. Don’t. Nothing you’re going to do will fix her. Besides, if you do go there, you’ll be stooping to her level. Think of Michelle Obama’s response to critics: ‘When they go low, we go high.’
Neutralise the sour taste by adding something sweet:
- When she slips out the Acid Drops, smile
- Seek out the company of positive genuine people
- Find a positive female mentor or role model
If worse comes to worse, administer first aid as soon as possible; the more you do the less it’ll hurt.
If you’re thinking, ‘Yeah, I get this, but my confidence is still really low’ then congratulations; you’ve worked out something very important about yourself. If things are bad, get some help from a professional. If it can wait, we’ll be talking about confidence in my next post.
 Mean Girls at Work, Katherine Crowley and Kathie Elster © 2013
Have you worked with a female colleague who was being Acid Dropped? How did it affect her? What was the Acid Dropper doing?
Please share your thoughts and any constructive comments section below.