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EQ IMPACT: Combative? The Real Story Inside – Read Now!

I was called combative. 😲 


Woman standing with a microphone in her left hand.
Woman standing with a microphone in her left hand.

I know, right!?


The audacity.


This adjective was used for the first time in my life to describe me when I challenged a situation. I remember feeling a mix of shock and disbelief. And here is the funny thing - the challenge was exposing what was wrong. It was a moment of truth, a moment that defined my journey.






Was my timing off? Maybe.

That is me being reflective and owning my part. Cool, uh?


Now, I have been called a disruptor. This term followed me throughout my 26 years of corporate life. I wore this label with pride, even though it was often presented as a derogatory term. I asked many questions and constantly challenged the status quo, not out of malice but out of a genuine desire for progress.


In the space I am in now, disruptor means:

  • Shifting perspectives

  • Changing mindsets

  • Sparking curiosity


Not so bad, uh!? I love it! I like this definition because there is never any harm or malicious intent when I am "disrupting." 🙂 But as I say, intent does not supersede impact.


So, being called combative can be triggering but reflective simultaneously. Because the perception people have of you is key or reality, as they say


But let's see how this can be triggering for me and others and how I maximized my emotional intelligence during this time.


Being called combative was a microaggression towards me. Microaggressions are subtle, often unintentional, and sometimes even well-meaning actions or comments that negatively impact marginalized individuals. In this case, it was a comment that dismissed my concerns and labeled me as combative despite my intentions being genuine. I stand on that!

Let me tell you why.


The 'Angry Black Woman' Stereotype: There's a long-standing racist and sexist stereotype that portrays Black women as aggressive and easily angered. This stereotype is deeply rooted in historical and cultural biases. When a Black woman asserts herself or expresses strong opinions, she might be labeled 'combative' even if a white person in the same situation wouldn't be.


Double Standard in Communication: Black women often face a double standard in communication styles. This means that the same behavior or communication style that might be seen as confident or strong in a white person can be seen as combative in a Black woman. This double standard unfairly restricts how Black women can express themselves and can lead to them being labeled as aggressive or combative.


Diminishing Valid Concerns: Labeling someone "combative" dismisses their concerns and makes them feel like the problem. This can be especially damaging when a Black woman is trying to point out a legitimate issue.



elt on her dress standing in a reflective position.
Woman adjusting the belt on her dress standing in a reflective position.

Here is a way to maximize your emotional intelligence, which refers to the ability to recognize, understand, and manage our own emotions and influence those of others and be emotionally brilliant while handling and addressing this microaggression:


'I'm expressing my concerns directly, but I'm not being combative. Can we focus on the issue at hand?' This direct and assertive response acknowledges the label but also redirects the conversation back to the topic being discussed.


"It feels like my voice is being silenced when I'm called combative for simply raising a point."


Remember, it's essential to call out microaggressions in a way that feels safe for you. You can also document these incidents, especially if they repeatedly happen in the workplace.




Additionally, seeking support from trusted colleagues or mentors can be beneficial. And most importantly, don't internalize the labels or let them define you.


I didn't have a chance to address the microaggression. When I was told this by the 'deliverer of the message,' I immediately said, "Oh, they were challenged, so now I am combative? Interesting."


I did correct an improper emotional label, however. People seem to want you to be angry or upset when given feedback. STOP! You noticed I never mentioned those two labels. I did say I was disappointed. Do not allow people to put inaccurate emotional labels on you.

I'm still determining how I was defended, but neither here nor there. This was a moment of growth for me, a moment that taught me the importance of self-advocacy and emotional intelligence in navigating these situations.


Here's how you maximize your emotional intelligence and make an EQ IMPACT to handle being called combative:


1. PAUSE - Acknowledge the situation:

  • "I recently received some feedback that I came across as combative when I brought up an area for improvement."


2. PROCESS- Reframe your perspective:

  • "Instead of taking it personally, I took a step back to consider why this person might have perceived me that way."

  • "I reflected on whether my communication style could have been more constructive."


3. PERSEVERE - Highlight your emotional intelligence:

  • "This helped me practice my self-awareness by recognizing the impact my words might have had."

  • "By taking a breath and considering their perspective, I exercised emotional regulation to avoid escalating the situation."


4. (Optional) Briefly mention your desired outcome:

  • "My goal is to have open and productive conversations where everyone feels heard."


By following these steps, you maximize and demonstrate your emotional intelligence by:

  • Self-awareness: Recognizing how you might be perceived.

  • Self-regulation: Managing your emotions and avoiding defensiveness.

  • Empathy: Considering the other person's perspective.


Keep your peace and your emotional power.

This approach focuses on your emotional maturity and how you used the situation to improve communication, rather than dwelling on the negativity of being called {combative} or whatever uncomfortable adjective is used to describe you.


Lean into your greatness and be emotionally brilliant.

Nicole F. Smith Signature
Nicole F. Smith Signature


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