Adult bullies can be as predictable as the ones we remember from childhood who roamed the playground looking for victims. Unfortunately, in our reality TV Jerry Springer World we do not often see positive role models for how to handle them.
Our challenge as grownups is how to respond to them so we minimize their damage and don’t let them detract from our joy. First, remember that broken people try to break other people and spread their misery. Develop tactics so this doesn’t happen to you.
The following are habits I have found in grownups who effectively handle the 3 most common tactics of adult bullies.
- Tactic: Intimidation and threats. Response: Evaluate whether the threat is valid and then take the steps necessary to protect yourself. But then move forward. Do what you have to to get the bully’s bad behavior and threats out of your head and your heart. Remember that to a bully, engaging in fights is their oxygen. The more you engage with the bully, the more you feed the bully. Work to remove yourself from the situation.
- Tactic: Demonizing the victim. When a bully selects a victim, the bully often tries to turn the victim into an object instead of a person. This can involves spreading lies or rumors about the victim. Bullies like to go after victims in packs. The bully will try to rally others to the cause of harming the victim much like a vigilante posse in the Western. This can happen in professional environments and can be magnified by social media. Response: As always, maintain your own safety. I look at other people’s response to this tactic as a Rorschach character test. Some will latch onto gossip and instantly believe it without checking it out with the victim first. They then join the posse and try to intimidate the victim. Yes, it can hurt when those you trust fall for this bully tactic. Reframe it in your head – you have learned who is a friend and who is not. Invest your time and energy into those who support you. Maintain your positive goals and character. Build your own posse – of trusted friends to develop positive changes in your community. Every time you learn of a rumor or tactic used against you, reflect it by finding someone else and building up that person. This will help you get your head out of your own problems and focused on others. The more we build up the other people around us, the less impact the bully’s demonizing can have upon us.
- Tactic: Blustering nonsense. The less substantive base a bully has in facts, the more the bully will bluster and throw things into the pot which are utterly irrelevant. This is designed to distract and make sure you lose your focus. Response: Keep your focus on what is right and good in your life and your goals. Remember what is true and right. Spend your time building on that instead of tearing down falsehoods.
Bottom line: it takes 2 to have an argument. If nothing constructive will come of it, choose not to engage. Take the high road as much as possible, preferably away from the bully.
Our time on this planet is limited. Each day and every single moment is precious. Don’t waste them on the negative. Seek out positive people who believe in you and invest your time and energy with them.
The small steps we take today to be happier and healthier are huge steps in the rest of our lives.