When we think of bullying our minds resort to thoughts and images of young children or teens in a school yard, but adult bullying is more common than you may think, according to a survey conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of the American Osteopathic Association found that 31% of Americans have been bullied as an adult, and 40 percent of Americans seeing the brunt of cyber-bullying, according to a survey on the by the Pew Research Centre.
Adult bullies use different methods to gain “power”.
Adult bullies may ignore you, then act like they’re your best friend when the situations serve them well. They’re quick to assign blame and point fingers when something goes wrong. And equally quick to claim your good ideas as their own.
They engage in the repeated mistreatment of one or more people through humiliation, intimidation and passive-aggressive sabotage, along with coercion, punishment, belittling, embarrassment, revenge and threatening behaviors.
So how do you deal with an adult bully?
1. Safety First
Never compromise your safety. It is extremely important to protect yourself both mentally and physically. If the bullying occurs online, do not engage, you’d rather unfriend and block than engage or react in any way. If the bullying occurs at work, speak to your manager or HR. If you feel you are being bullied in your personal life, seek help, whether it’s paying a visit to your doctor or seeing a psychologist to help you devise specific strategies for your situation. If you believe that you’re in a serious aggressive situation, contact the police. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a professional, protect your well being.
2. Create Distance
Not looking for confrontation? Creating distance may be your best bet in dealing with adult bullies. Realise that your time is valuable, and your happiness and well-being are important. Unless there’s something critical at stake, don’t expend yourself by trying to grapple with a person who’s negatively entrenched. Whether you’re dealing with a road rage driver, a pushy salesperson, a hostile neighbour, an obnoxious relation, or a domineering supervisor, keep a healthy distance, and avoid engagement unless you absolutely have to.
3. Ignore It
If you’re not in a position to keep a healthy distance or avoid engagement, then ignore the inappropriate behaviour. Bullies are sometimes driven by a sense of power. Like a kid with a new toy they get a kick out of pushing a button and seeing what happens. However, if the button does nothing the child will stop playing with the toy. If we give no response to the bullying behaviour we are sometimes able to remove the reason or benefit for the bully to continue. Some suggestions may be:
If someone keeps making jokes at your expense, laugh along with them.
If someone makes sarcastic, fake compliments, thank them.
When someone says something rude, pretend that you didn’t hear them.
If someone harps on the same mistake or accident you made, tell them that is now in the past.
4. Don’t React
Bullies thrive on reaction, which is why they display such absurd behaviours. Dr Ken Yeager of the Ohio State University explains this and gives useful tips on what to and what not to do: Don’t react to the attack. Bullies live for the reaction. If you must speak your truth rather, listen carefully, and respond as the voice of reason, identifying the not-well-thought-through aspects of the bully’s point.
Remember to take care of yourself and know that the adult bully’s behaviour is not your fault, so do not blame yourself for it, instead use smart strategies to overcome it.