12 June 2009
Bullies are everywhere - Identifying a Bully in your life, at work and amongst friends
Although we tend to associate bullying with the playground, it's not only kids who have to endure being pushed around and made to feel small.
If we're honest, I believe there's not a single adult among us who hasn't fallen victim to a bullying boss, sibling or partner at some point in their life.
Of course, unlike playground thugs, adult bullying can take on more subtle forms.
It may be a comment carefully designed to upset you without anyone else noticing, or controlling behaviour that is masked as 'helpful' or 'caring'.
Sometimes adult bullying is so sophisticated that we don't even realise that we are being targeted and just blame ourselves, thinking we are being paranoid.
I can't bear any kind of bullying - full stop. It incenses me and I find it impossible to let a single incidence go by. I also believe that the more of us that take a stand, the harder it will be for life's habitual bullies to get their own way.
How they thrive..
For a bully to succeed they have to feel there is an unequal relationship and that they have the upper hand.
So they always pick someone they view as a smaller, quieter, less assertive target as the person to torment.
As a result, the only way to beat a bully is to make yourself their equal and confront their bad behaviour.
Behind every bully is a coward who is terrified of being picked on themselves. Most bullies have been bullied at some point, usually as a child.
They're generally very insecure people who try to bolster their self-esteem by having power over another person.
Spot the secret bully...
Bullies crop up in every part of our lives from home to the workplace.
Here's how you can spot bullying - and stamp it out...
Common tactic: Once you're an adult, parents often rely on guilt as a bullying tool, making their children do what they want by stealth. For example, if you make it clear you can't manage your routine visit because you have something else you must do, your mother might only need to say: "Oh, don't worry about us, we'll manage just fine on our own this weekend" for you to feel so bad that you end up cancelling whatever plans you had.
How to beat them: If your plans are important to you then refuse to feel guilty and stick to your original arrangement. If their tactic doesn't have the desired effect, they'll probably stop using it. Explain firmly but kindly that you give them as much spare time as you have and really enjoy it when you do see each other.
Common tactic: An insecure partner may belittle you as a way to control you and boost their own self-confidence. It can start as subtle comments about your appearance, but may escalate into critical statements such as "Why can't you get anything right?"
How to beat them: Stand up for yourself. If these constant digs are a recent trend talking it through could help resolve the problem. But if it is a long-term problem it may be time to leave - do you want to spend your life with someone who makes you feel bad about yourself?
Common tactic: This more straightforward form of bullying often follows the pattern of the playground and relies upon your fear of losing your job. Bullying bosses constantly move the goal posts of what they want and shout and threaten to get their own way.
How to beat them: If your boss criticises you unfairly, question them calmly and politely by asking: "Please can you explain exactly where I went wrong there, so I can do better next time?" A bully hates to be questioned, as they often can't justify their irrational, nasty behaviour. Remaining calm and keen will embarrass them and make them see that you're not an easy target.
Common tactic: Older brothers and sisters are often so used to being the pack leader in a family that they carry their pushy behaviour into adulthood.
For example, they might try and force you into taking on more than your fair share of helping with elderly parents and if you say no they resort to tried and tested childhood methods to make you feel small or even cry.
How to beat them: Simply refuse to fall back into those old childhood patterns. Turn the tables on them and ask why they're not offering to do whatever it is they want you to do. And, although this can be hard, make sure to never let them see they've got to you. Remind yourself you're an adult now - not the young sibling desperate for their approval.
Common tactic: Children, especially teenagers, can sometimes use tactics shouting and tantrum-throwing to bully their parents. For the most part this is just part of growing up and boundary pushing, but occasionally it can take a nastier turn and result in a parent actually becoming afraid of their child.
How to beat them: Don't let this behaviour get out of hand by stopping it immediately. Take a zero tolerance approach to shouting, throwing things and door slamming from the moment that it starts.
Common tactic: A bullying friend will often use gentle put-downs to keep you in your 'place' and feel superior. They might tell you a dress doesn't suit you or make a pointed joke about your cooking or parenting skills. Any time spent together is designed to leave them feeling good about themselves while you feel as if you're somehow not quite up to scratch.
How to beat them: Ditch them! You might not be able to choose your
family, or even your boss, but you certainly don't have to put up with a friend who
behaves like this. Stop seeing them and focus your precious free time on being around more supportive pals.