It’d be nice to think that once you’re out of school, you’d be done with bullies for the rest of your life. Unfortunately, that can be far from the truth, as anyone who’s ever had a bullying boss, co-worker, or friend can attest. Learning how to stop bullying for children and adults isn’t always simple.
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We all know what bullying looks like as a kid: name-calling, pushing, meanness, just to name a few. But how do we identify that someone is an adult bully?
Often, in the name of security and keeping the peace, we may let bullying just roll off our back.
But if someone you know is a bully, they may take subtle actions such as:
- Ignoring you – This is a form of disrespect, and aims to control you by keeping you guessing and never knowing. You make a request or ask a question, and don’t get a response. For students in a school setting, this is often a form of bullying that shows up as exclusion. Exclusion is especially prevalent amongst girls in the form of exclusive cliques. The danger here is that feeling connected, human connection is a basic human need.
- Being late, or not showing up at all – Again, this is another form of disrespect, but it can sometimes have more serious consequences, such as missing an important appointment or being late for a meeting.
- Starting rumors – The bully that starts untrue rumors is seeking to sabotage you and your reputation. Seeing you react (or overreact) to hearing lies told about yourself is what a bully thrives on.
- Passive-aggressive behavior – Backwards compliments, deliberate procrastination, having to have the last word… these are all examples of passive-aggressive behavior that a bully might exhibit.
These are only a few examples of how a bully might act like an adult to control a situation.
How you handle each situation is the key to limiting the bully’s power. How to stop a bully starts with us, our reaction, whether we report it or now, how assertive we are in response.
First and foremost, if you find yourself being bullied as an adult, take a close look at whether you are inadvertently playing the victim. Due to your upbringing, you may not even realize that you’re doing it, but often, a bully will instinctively aim for the person who already has a victim mentality. If that’s you, you’ll need to learn to stand up for yourself and become more assertive in everyday life and in the face of the bully.
If all else fails, simply separate yourself from the bully. This may be more difficult to accomplish in a work situation, but be creative, and try to create space between you and the bully. The less you are around them, the less harm they can do. Depending on how dangerous your bully is, this can be the best practice in how to stop a bully.
Also, try to remember that most bullies end up that way because of low self-esteem and a fragile sense of self-worth. By asserting yourself, you take away the bully’s power, and maybe… just maybe… you’ll show them that they don’t have to be that way.
Be Daring and Stand Up to Others – #1 Defense in How to Stop a Bully
Were you ever bullied as a child? Most of us were in some form or another and, it could be something that you carry with you into your adult years. You may yield to those who bark louder, so to speak. Although, in adult circles, bullies are very often quietly manipulative. But, there are times when you need to stand your ground. These are the times to be daring and stand up to others.
You may feel like you are an easygoing person. There’s nothing wrong with that. If you are a person who would defer to others because you don’t want to make waves, this can be okay, in the right circumstances. But, if you do this all the time, you are harming yourself and those close to you.
You do need to pick your battles. If you become a stronger person, you run the risk of becoming bully-like yourself. In fact, this is something that can happen when people stand up to others for the first time. They take on the strong-willed persona and become that person they used to fear. The key is to be strong when it’s important and let the little stuff go by.
Do we all have the potential to be a bully?
Yes. We do. Often those that make strong statements about hating conflict or being a peacemaker are the very ones that passive-aggressively bully those that love them.
And if we are all honest, it is likely we can all come up with a time when we exhibited bully-like behaviour. One key in how to stop a bully is by making sure we are not inadvertently acting the role of a victim or bully.
How to Stop a Bully? Lead with Strength and Love
Additionally, let others have some wins. This shows strength and leadership. You will win people to your way of thinking as they won’t feel threatened by your presence. When you show your willingness to cede to them, you can develop a great working relationship going forward.
When you do take a stand, make sure that you do it respectfully. If you don’t, you risk losing respect from everyone around and not just the person you are going up against. Whenever possible, try to find an arrangement where both you and the other party wins. The person will see that they can’t take advantage of you, while at the same time, they don’t lose out in the interaction.
How to Stop a Bully When New to Assertiveness
Not everyone will take your newfound strength well. That’s okay. As long as you do everything you can to try and work with them and continue in the relationship, you will be the bigger person. He or she may have issues with you, but at least they know you aren’t willing to back down on the important issues.
Giving Others a Chance to Accept the New You
You also will find people need time and may come around after a while. Your relationship won’t be the same, but that could be for the best.
Try to keep anger out of the picture because it makes people react in ways they later regret. It’s okay to be firm when dealing with others, but there’s no reason to elevate the situation to the point where you start getting personal.
Signs You Need Healthier Personal Boundaries
You have boundaries, but they don’t seem to be working. You still feel like people are taking unfair advantage of you. Your self-esteem is taking constant hits, and the criticism is unending. What gives?
Chances are you need to take a hard look at your boundaries. Perhaps the ones that used to work, don’t anymore because you aren’t the same person. Or it’s time for a tune-up so that you can not only strengthen the boundaries you have but make them healthier at the same time.
What are some warning signs that your boundaries need work?
- When someone bullies you, and you stay silent.
- You agree to things you don’t agree with (such as political opinions) to avoid ‘rocking the boat.’
- Perhaps you suffer from guilt anytime you do something for you.
- You feel invisible.
- You constantly say ‘yes’ even when you want to say ‘no’
- You’re the one who does all the giving in your relationships.
- You give people your time who haven’t been loyal
- When someone is in your personal space, you don’t say anything, despite how uncomfortable you feel.
- You don’t speak up when the joke isn’t funny – and it’s at your expense.
- People bully you, but you do nothing about it.
- You feel you always the victim.
- People take you for granted.
- You worry all the time about what people think of you.
- When someone tells you to ‘do something for yourself’ you have no idea what to do.
- You over-share when talking to others about yourself. This is a classic sign of low boundaries.
- You take on other people’s guilt as though that will absolve them somehow.
- You’re in a career that was chosen for you, rather than in one that you want to do (such as working in a family business you had no desire to be part of).
- Maybe you don’t speak up when someone touches you physically even though you don’t want to be touched.
- You wind up in relationships with controlling individuals.
- Or you see yourself as the ‘sacrifice.’
- You feel like people won’t like you if you don’t do things for them.
- Do you use actions as currency with people by doing things in hopes that they will someday do something for you in return (that day never comes, does it?)
- You tend to manipulate people to get your needs met
- Reading this list is making you uncomfortable because you’ve already recognized more than one thing on it that sounds like you.
It’s a daunting list.
How to Stop a Bully? The good news is, there is room for you to change.
Remember, boundaries are always a good idea. Making sure that the boundaries are healthy is crucial to your development into the individual you’re meant to become. By checking your boundaries periodically, you will likely see places that need work. But you’ll also see where you can do things to keep your boundaries strong and healthy enough to serve you going forward. It might seem like a lot of effort on your part, but in the end, don’t you think you’re worth it? With that in mind, it’s time to get down to work. You’ve got this!
The Similarities in Adult and Child Bullying
Did you know one in five students is bullied every single day in school? The statistics on adult bullying are less readily available – but the number is still high.
Regardless of if you are supporting your child or dealing with a bully yourself – there are some basic non-negotaibles.
- Speak up
- Stand up for yourself
- Defend your body if needed
Bullying appears in these forms:
- Verbal abuse (name-calling, etc)
- Non-verbal abuse (exclusion, ignoring)
How to Stop a Bully – make sure you know the Definition of Bullying
So just having a confrontation or a problem with someone we perceive as mean, is not bullying. Bullying is a repetitive action of beating someone down in one of the areas above.
How to Stop a Bully? Remember – It gets better
Whether for yourself or if you are supporting your child, it is essential to understand that it gets better, once we take action.
How to connect with a child suffering from a bully?
First, establish a time to connect with your child daily. A time where your phone is off and you are tuning in and being with them. If they are sad, angry, or closed off, be patient, and keep choosing to connect.
If they open up to you, it is so important not to interrupt, but rather to really listen. And then, to ask ‘what can I do to help?’ You are much more likely to actually be a help to them if you approach it like this as opposed to telling them what to do or taking matters into your own hands!
Cyber Bullying – so much worse!
The reason I assert that cyber bullying is worse is due to the huge audience any cyber bully has at their fingertips. The hurt from any cyber attack is amplified.
So what to do with cyber bullying?
- Take a deep breath
- Document, take photos or screenshots
- Do NOT respond
- Block the abuser
- Report to the police – it is illegal harassment
I do not recommend trying to talk to the bully’s parents. – Bullying is often a behavior taught at home. You could end up being charged with harassment.
Is my child a bully?
Monitoring your child’s phone and online interactions will help you be aware of both bullying against your child and your child being the bully. We all have the potential to be a bully and our children are no different.
Understanding a bully
Choosing to find empathy for a bully can help both an adult and a child overcome. We know that bullies have usually been bullied themselves but someone in authority over them. They have often been abused, physically, sexually or verbally. Often all three. By really consider what makes them the way they are – we can begin to see them as a fellow human who has been hurt also.
For our children and maybe ourselves:
- Choose how to react
- Protect your body
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