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Adult Bullies
by Dr. Dale V. Atkins, June 2010

When we think of bullies, we often think of child bullies. We assume that as kids grow up, they grow out of behaving in such disrespectful ways. Unfortunately, many people do not grow out of it and adult bullies exist.

Adult bullies generally have an attitude and belief that they are "entitled" (worth more than someone else) and therefore deserve to be treated differently than the rest of the world. People who feel entitled will bully, intimidate, shame, and humiliate others to get their needs met. Often these people change facts and information to benefit themselves and their usual mode of communication is by commanding others.

Many bullies, at their very core, feel inadequate, insecure, and inferior. Often they have been treated badly and are fearful of others so they puff themselves up and bully through a situation. By making others feel bad they feel better.

If you are bullied, it is important to realize that it is not your fault. Everyone, INCLUDING BULLIES, is responsible for how they treat others.

When bullied, resist the temptation to reply in a nasty way. This is challenging but remember that bullies seek a reaction from their victims. Reacting nastily will likely encourage and possibly worsen their unwanted behavior.

Try "killing them with kindness." Often what inspires a bully to be mean is an assumption that their target is threatening in some way. By demonstrating that you don't intend harm and are willing to be friendly, you may be able to encourage a more positive response. However, if after several attempts to be kind there is no change, shift your approach. You certainly don't want to reward obnoxious behavior.

Try responding assertively. Self-assured body language (i.e., looking the person directly in the eye; standing erect and "grounded") using a clear and firm tone of voice, and using strong words are often effective in combating the bullying behavior if done in the early on.

If all else fails, consider enlisting someone's help or, simply, walking away. When dealing with a person who has some power over you, be cautious. Sometimes you may not have a choice but to appear to go along with their demands as you build strength, connections, or power in anticipation of turning the tables.

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