Dealing With Adult Bullies
I was just reading an advice column on the Psychology Today website about how to handle an adult bully. The 42-year-old woman who sent in her question wanted to know how to address her female neighbor who was calling her nasty names at a party. The advice given was to ignore the woman.
UGH!!! Really? Ignore her? Since when does ignoring a bully help? How is it helpful to stay silent to mistreatment? I can’t tell you how much advice like this grates on me.
Women, please, do NOT stay silent or ignore mistreatment. In fact, the best way to ensure continued mistreatment is to ignore it. When we stay silent in the face of disrespect or abuse, we send the message that this treatment is okay. Implicit in our silence is acceptance.
Here’s how to handle a bully:
1. Do NOT silence. If someone is bullying you, stand up to it. If your neighbor or colleague is saying hurtful things to you, STAND UP for yourself. Do not yell, scream or go crazy on the person—effectively stand up. Be clear that what they’re saying is not okay. Tell them the conversation will be over if they can’t speak to you respectfully and then follow through and end the conversation.
2. Do not cower. If someone threatens you, be clear that if they threaten you again you will report them to the police...or to your boss if it’s work related. Don’t back down and don’t allow their threat scare you into submitting.
3. Address the issue on the spot. Often bullies say things in front of a large group and count on your not saying anything. Don’t cooperate. If they call you out or make an obnoxious comment in a meeting—have your own back and address the comment. Hold a figurative mirror up to the person: “Wow, that was a cheap shot” or “That was a pretty rude comment.” Be sure that you are respectful when you do this.
4. Stay grounded. When you respond, make sure you do so from a very healthy, centered place. You are trying to set a limit and stand up for yourself; you are not trying to seek revenge. Do not stoop to their level or your response will be ineffective.
5. Use excellent boundaries. When you are in a bully’s space, know their behavior is about them and not about you. Hold yourself in warm regard even in the face of their obnoxious, mean-spirited behavior.
When it comes to bullies, they have many unresolved issues that they have not addressed or been willing to look at. Know that. Do not take personally their treatment of you. Make sure that you are not making yourself an easy target by just taking the bad treatment. If you do, you will be like a bully-attracting magnet. Speak up for yourself, set limits and be clear you will not take bullying lying down.
Challenge: If there’s a bully in your life, ask yourself if you’ve been standing up or stepping down in the face of their behavior. Commit to stepping up and addressing the behavior directly. Even if they get angrier, be proud of yourself for having your back. Don’t allow their anger to result in your cowering.