Bullies in movies and television are frequently shown getting their come-uppance, the story wrapped up neatly with a happy ending and maybe even with the bully learning a lesson by the end. Unfortunately, real life is rarely so simple.
If you’re dealing with a bully as an adult, you’re not alone. A 2017 survey by the Workplace Bullying Institute found that 60.3 million Americans are affected by workplace bullying. The number may be staggering, but the problem is not unsurmountable. Dealing with a bully as an adult is not the same as dealing with one as a child: you don’t need to rely on anyone to help, and the solution begins and ends with you. Following are five tips for dealing with an adult bully.
1. Don’t try to fix them
You might be tempted to try and understand or help the bully. However, adults who bully have deep-rooted issues, and their cruelty can only be mended by self-realization and self-reflection. The odds are great that any attempt on your part to help your bully will be unproductive. Your time is better spent focused on yourself.
2. Don’t sink to their level
It’s a completely natural human response to want to return the bully’s abuse. But if you sink to their level, it could backfire by either the bully turning it on you, or you may be seen by others as the source of the problem. Additionally, you’re satisfying the bully with your response. Take the high road so the bully doesn’t get a pay off, and you can’t be seen as having brought the problems upon yourself.
3. Stop being a victim
For some reason, the bully has singled you out as a target. Changing your behavior and responses to the bully will change the dynamic. Keep your cool, be confident in your abilities, and if you’re the butt of their joke, laugh along with them. Failing to respond negatively, which is what they want, will cause them to lose interest and find another target.
4. Limit your exposure
If your bully is at work, do what you can to avoid being in their presence. Take a different lunch hour, change your schedule, change departments if possible. Block the bully on social media, and if necessary, block their friends so you aren’t exposed to their negativity.
5. Talk to someone
If your bully is at the workplace, it may behoove you to talk to your manager or Human Resources. Before you do so, consider possible repercussions. Anticipate worst-case scenarios so you can be prepared in case it’s somehow turned on you and your job is in jeopardy. Call a friend or loved one to vent or get advice. You can also talk to a mental health professional who can help you with specific strategies for managing this situation.
If you’re having difficulty dealing with a bully in your life and need the advice of a licensed, trained professional, I can help. Call my office today and let’s set up an appointment to talk.
Chelsy A. Castro, JD, MA, AM, LCSW