how to deal with bullies

How to deal with bullies in adulthood

Bullying is one of those issues that we believe as children will go away when we grow up. But as we well know, bullies grow up too and usually stay in the same bad habits. So what does that mean for us who are milder-mannered, who don’t seek to dominate, and often find themselves at the receiving end of a bully’s attack? The question of how to deal with bullies in adulthood will always be relevant, so let’s look at some possibilities to help us take back control.

Bullying is any behaviour that causes hurt, harm, or distress to another through verbal, physical, or mental abuse directed towards them.

Why do people bully others anyway?

The first thing to realise about bullies is that it is never about the victim. Ever! It is always about some underlying insecurity in the bully that is manifesting itself through this unwanted and targeted behaviour. There are a plethora of reasons as to why this should be the case.

Here are a few:

Poor education opportunities

Lack of access to education can make people feel threatened by those who seemingly have had more opportunities to thrive. Or it could be that they have been educated to believe certain things about others. Without access to education, we don’t learn about different people or cultures and how to be respectful of differences.

A feeling of powerlessness

Often, a bully is someone who lashes out at others because they feel powerless, either in that situation or more generally in their life. In order to feel like they are taking control, they need to belittle others to boost their feelings of superiority.

Stress and trauma

Sometimes bullying is an indicator of stress or trauma that is presenting itself through this negative behaviour. It is possible that the bully has experienced an event or is going through extreme stress that is not being dealt with correctly. Instead of seeking help, they may be bottling it up and it’s being directed at others instead.

Low self-esteem

This is a biggy, I feel. It also can be the result of any of these other reasons I’m detailing. Low self-esteem is something that we all deal with at some point or another and it displays itself in a variety of ways. For some, it manifests in unwelcome behaviour towards others. If we don’t feel good about ourselves, bullies don’t want others to either.

They’ve been the victim of bullying themselves

When we have been the victim of bullying, we have a choice about how we proceed from it. We can choose to treat others as we’d like to be treated, or we can opt for the bitterness pill. Hanging onto negative emotions causes bitterness within us which causes us to feel resentful towards others. This can create a need to bring others down because it’s how you feel and it’s how you were treated.

Poor family or friendship relationships

If we feel like our relationships are in some way insecure, we can feel pressure to act in certain ways in order to keep the relationships we have. Peer pressure from others can deepen this insecurity causing us to behave in ways we maybe don’t like or a need to create control in others areas of life.

Modelling behaviour from home

We model what we know. In the family setup, we copy what we see around us. So if as a child you see bullying behaviours in your home, you’re more likely to behave the same way yourself. You probably won’t even realise it’s not good behaviour to model. You are unconsciously conditioned into it.

A need to control others

Some people just like to be in control of everything. Unfortunately, this can include people too. When they see someone acting independently, not conforming, who’s different, they feel threatened and need to get it under their management. This means that people are victimised by their controlling nature.

So what can we do about the bullies?

It’s great to know why people behave in certain ways towards us, but we need to know what to do if we find ourselves in that unpleasant situation. No one should be made to feel inferior, to feel threatened, distressed or harmed in any way. But we know it happens. How we deal with bullies, therefore, is of paramount importance.

Talk to someone

Isolation is your worst enemy in the fight against bullies. Bullies thrive off your silence and believe you are incapable of standing up to them. It gives them the power to sustain their assault. It is also mentally exhausting for you. Strength in numbers is your first weapon then. Tell your superior, a friend, someone you trust, and make sure that you are not fighting alone.

Try speaking to your bully

If you feel safe to do so, try speaking to the person who is bullying you. Bullying is a learned behaviour and so it may be that this person doesn’t realise they are causing you distress. Or it may be that by confronting them about it, you may be able to help them through something they are struggling with.

Should you report it?

Some types of bullying go beyond name-calling and petty behaviour. Sometimes we are the victim of domestic abuse, hate crimes, inappropriate texts or emails, violations of privacy, or theft to name a few. These sorts of bullying are signs that you should probably report to the police to investigate.

It’s not about you

Remember, it isn’t about you. Whatever it is you are being bullied for: sexuality, religion, appearance, personal trait, disability; it’s about that specific thing and their attitude towards it. The person bullying you is the one with the issue, not you. They are the ones who need to change their attitude.

Seek inspirational people

When you are stuck in the mire and are being bullied, look for people who can uplift and inspire you. You are not alone in your situation. Many people who have become great and kind people have been bullied themselves. Know who you are, who you want to become and move towards it. We are forged in fire and made stronger for it if we can seek the lessons and remain true to ourselves.

Maintain eye contact

Bullies look for weakness. Don’t give it to them. Remain calm, don’t antagonise, and maintain eye contact. This disarms the situation and reduces their ammunition. If they can look into your eyes and see that you are calm and unaffected by their behaviour they are less likely to feel superior and disarms the situation significantly.

Avoid contact

If you can avoid contact with a bully then do so. Limiting your interactions with them means you can be more productive and your overall wellbeing is better. Your time is precious so don’t waste it on people who seek to bring you down.

If you can’t avoid them, be proactive and keep a detailed record of their behaviour and report it to a superior. Bring in witnesses, and seek to deal with the issue as soon as possible. Sometimes it means you walk away from the situation, whether to a new job, leaving a relationship, or making new friends. No one needs to put up with bullies.

How to deal with bullies

How we deal with bullies is not an easy task. There are so many details behind the scenes that contribute to it and many ways to deal with it. Everything noted above is to be read and taken with care and understanding and should be used at your own discretion. Use what will benefit you, or maybe it will help someone you know. If you are the bully, I would encourage you to really think about your behaviour and how you can treat others more respectfully.

Remember, we are in charge of our choices, our behaviour and how we treat others. How we deal with bullies says everything about ourselves. Don’t diminish who you are at the expense of another. Be kind!

If you would like more information on bullying, check out the National Bullying Helpline.


In this weeks episode of The Battles We All Face Podcast

John and Jo Jo, get to grips with a subject that had plagued man since the dawn of time… BULLYING! In today’s show, we aim to explore:

~ What is bullying?

~Why am I being bullied?

~Bullying in School

~ Bullying in the workplace and so much more on today’s episode of The Battles We All Face.

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