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October 7, 2010

Oh No You Didn’t Say That To Me…Dealing with the Adult Bully

Hello my fabulous friends!

Many of you have probably been hearing much about bullies in news recently.  In fact, it seems there is a marked increase of news stories reporting incidents related to “the bully”.  It is clearly a problem in our society…and typically addressed as it related to the child/adolescent population.

As adults, most of can recall some type of interaction with “the bully” in our childhood.  Some of us have been targets and many of us were witnesses.  Years later, if we allow ourselves to recall, we are reminded of the shame we felt either as the target or the witness.  Have you ever wondered what happened to “the bully”?   Look around you…”the bully” is still here.

Although “the bully” in your current world, may not be the same person you had interactions with as a child…you can be sure that “the bully” of today is a grown up version of “the bully” from someone’s childhood.

You see, “the bully” never really changes.  Many studies report that children and adolescents who engage in such behavior will present with anti-social and narcissistic tendencies as adults.  What this means,  is the school yard bully is now the person who may be emotionally bulling you today.

Let me clarify what narcissistic tendencies in adults looks like.  This is the person who only seems to see situations from their view.  You may call them “self centered” or “self involved”.  People with narcissistic tendencies are unable to see situations outside of themselves.  The personality disorder affects the way they think and process which leads to lack of empathy and insight.  This individual may appear unwilling see things from “both sides”, when in fact, they are unable to do so.  Most individuals with narcissistic tendencies do not take responsibility for their actions.  More disturbing, is the clear observation that this person feels no remorse.  In fact, the narcissistic person will frequently feel an increase in self-esteem when they get what they want by manipulating others to achieve their goal.

Now, combine the narcissist tendencies that “the bully” has with the anti-social tendencies that are often present as well.   Anti-social tendencies include aggression, callousness, impulsiveness, irresponsibility, hostility, a low frustration level, marked emotional immaturity and poor judgment.   A person with such issues overlooks the rights of others, feels little guilt and does not respond to punishment or consequences.  Most disturbing, is that an adult with anti-social tendencies has great difficulty learning from past behaviors.  In fact, this person tends to rationalize his or her behavior and place blame on others.

As you can see, “the bully” is loaded with significant issues, none of which should be taken lightly.  Is there a “bully” in your world?  In real life terms, most people describe “the bully” as a person who basically has a temper tantrum to gain control of others.  These tantrums will lead you feeling angry or afraid. The bully will often put-down, embarrass, intimidate and engage you in behaviors that are belittling at best.  Most clients tell me, and I have experienced directly, that “the bully” who walks among us as adults, will typically only target the victim in private.  They have learned to go under the radar from witnesses.  That part at least has changed.  The “adult bully” has learned to not target on the playground.   Do you know someone like this?  Are you shaking your head yes?

The difficult part of defending yourself to the “adult bully” is most of us feel the need to prove to others that the behavior is occurring.  Trust me on this on…you need to prove nothing.  In fact, although “the bully” has learned some lessons…remember, this person does not seem to change as a result of such lessons.  “The Bully”, in time will show his or true colors to many, many others.  You have probably witnessed this yourself…you attempt to tell others of  “the bully” and not one person believes you.  Yet, months later…people are talking about their own experiences.  You see, “the bully” is sadly not in control.

What you need to worry about is the present moment.  If you are being targeted by “the bully”, here are some steps to take now.

  • Assess the relationship

If “the bully” is someone you call a friend, you must reassess the relationship and why you are in it.  Be sure to read my blog post, The Friendship Divorce. If you are being bullied by anyone within your definition of family or friends, seek help to remove yourself from the relationship.

  • Ignore “the bully”

Remember, you will not change another’s actions, only your reactions to them.  Keep in mind you are able to be empathic.  Understand that “the bully” is acting out of their own insecurities, fear and pain.  It is not about you.  It is about them.

  • Do not enable “the bully”

Set those boundaries and limits.  Be clear, calm and firm.  State the behavior you do not like and state what is expected instead.  Remember, “the bully” will typically target people who do not stand up to him/her.

  • Be careful

Be sure to monitor “the bully’ once you have defined boundaries.  Often, this setting such limits and stating your disapproval can escalate the bully.  Think about the young child who has a cookie each day after school.  Suddenly you give him a carrot.  What happens?  Tantrums.  Whenever we set boundaries with any dysfunctional relationship in our lives, the person may react badly.  If “the bully” physically threatens you in any manner, seek help and report this to the authorities immediately.  Remember, you are dealing with an emotionally challenged person who lacks social skills and impulse control.

Bulling can take many forms in our society.  From the playground to the cooperate word…within social circles and social media… “the bully” is present.  It is my hope that I have helped you to understand “the bully”.  Often, understanding the “why” behind behavior, will lead to ones ability to “manage” their reactions to it.

If you are experiencing difficulties with an unhealthy relationship or dealing with “the bully” I would love to help you.  If you are a subscriber to my bi-monthly “Diva Tips and News” you will receive a very special code to access a free thirty minute session with me on the Diva Line, so that we can work together on how to set boundaries and limits.  If you are not a subscriber, please subscribe soon, so you can access this very special code!

I would love to hear your stories…from your past or your present in regard to bullying.  Were you a victim?  Were you a witness?  Have you been bullied as an adult? if so, how?  Do you have advice on how to manage “the bully”?

I will close with a reminder on the importance of helping our children walk through the world where “the bully” lives.  Teach them well….help them set limits and boundaries.  These skills will stay with them into adulthood and serve them well.  But remember, in order to teach our children well, we must master the skill ourselves.  I encourage you to lead by example.  Stand tall, shoulders back, diva shields up…..set examples of respecting yourself and encouraging only healthy relationships!

Go! Divas! Go!



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  1. [...] Read this post if you want to learn how to effectively deal with adult bullying [...]

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