How to Cope With Adult Bullying
If you have lived on the planet for more than, oh, let’s say 10 years, you have probably dealt with bullying at some point in your life. And when you’re a little kid, there’s a standard set of lines that most parents repeat for coping with these terrors: “Ignore them and they’ll go away.” “They’re probably jealous.” Perhaps even, “Stand up for yourself.”
Then you graduate into your high school years, and the Regina Georges of the world come into view. While “Mean Girls” is wildly entertaining (if you haven’t seen it, you should), being the target of a bully during these fragile years is not the most fun. I was bullied, and it was no picnic. In fact, most of my girlfriends experienced bullying at some point. Who the f*ck was doing all this bullying? Is there some sort of covert government organization that’s sending them out into the world? Then you graduate into your high school years, and the Regina Georges of the world come into view. While Mean Girls is wildly entertaining (if you haven't seen it, you should), being the target of a bully during these fragile years… Click To Tweet
But as you grow up into adulthood, these bullying practices are supposed to stop, right? Oh, wrong. Adult bullies are rampant, angry, and just waiting in the wings to send you running to the bathroom for a good cry before returning to work. So what gives? What causes these people to continue the playground practices in their adult life? Adult bullies are rampant, angry, and just waiting in the wings to send you running to the bathroom for a good cry before returning to work. Click To Tweet
There are a lot of different reasons adults might bully other adults, but most of them come down to one simple thing: power. They are usually either a) children who were bullies who grew into adults and never learned any differently; b) children who were bullied who decided to flip the tables and start bullying other people because they, themselves, felt powerless; or c) just major a**holes. There are a lot of different reasons adults might bully other adults, but most of them come down to one simple thing: power. Click To Tweet
I’ve been the target of an adult bully and, trust me, it is no more fun that it was in high school. And the worst part is that feeling that I’m supposed to be able to cope better now that I’m an adult. Right? It shouldn’t make me cry when someone says or does something nasty, because I can intellectually the reasoning for their behavior. I can rationalize that oh, that person might be having a bad day; or they do this to everyone at some point, today just happens to be my turn; or the better you’re doing, the more people are going to try to knock you down, brush that sh*t off. I've been the target of an adult bully and, trust me, it is no more fun that it was in high school. And the worst part is that feeling that I'm supposed to be able to cope better now that I'm an adult. Click To Tweet
Unfortunately, feelings don’t communicate very well with the intellectual side of the brain. So off to the bathroom to disintegrate I go. (or these days, I just stay at my desk. There’s no one here to see me but the cats. But you get the picture). And did you know that 75% of adults report being bullied in the workplace, according to Forbes? That’s waaaaay too many.
But bullying in adulthood takes many forms, and it isn’t always workplace related. And most often, it happens amongst women. They exclude each other. They talk behind each others’ backs. They freeze each other out. In an age of “Who Run the World – Girls,” there are still women who are exerting power over their “friends” by behaving in just this way. Bullying in adulthood takes many forms, and most often, it happens amongst women. They exclude each other. They talk behind each others' backs. They freeze each other out. In an age of Who Run the World – Girls, there are still… Click To Tweet
And these people take a toll on your psyche. What doesn’t kill you might make you stronger, but damn, it can throw you for a loop for a while. And you lose precious moments of your life coping with this crap instead of living your happiness, finding your purpose, and just being left the hell alone.
So what do you do? I’ve put together a list of the best ways to cope with bullies as an adult. Hopefully some of these tips will help!
Yes, I know, I know, easier said than done. Bullies can be like a dog with a bone, and just won’t let it go. However, in some cases, if you ignore the person, they might go away and move onto something else (hopefully not someone else.).
Leave the situation.
If you can. I recently left a situation where a woman was turning into more and more of a problem for not just me, but a whole group of other women. So I removed myself from the equation. It’s a good option for adults because, unlike children who are forced to be in school with each other, we can make our own decisions about who to fraternize with.
If you’re in a workplace situation and someone is making you feel uncomfortable, that’s what HR is for. I do understand that this solution won’t always work, especially if you’re being victimized by a superior who you know will retaliate. But harassment laws exist for a reason, so if it’s an option to go to your HR rep, do. More than likely, you’re not the only person suffering from this person’s bullying behaviors.
Refuse to participate.
If you are in a situation where one friend starts slamming another, shut that sh*t down. Refuse to take part in tearing down another person while they’re not present. Suggest that if your friend has an issue with that person, he/she take it up with them, not talk behind their back.
Respond with kindness.
This tactic seems to work especially well with online bullies. People are more and more bold while hiding behind their computer screens, and will say things that they would never have the nerve to say in person. And if it’s someone that you don’t even know, where could that possibly be coming from? If you approach them with kindness instead of being angry and reactionary, you might be surprised by their response. And if not, you know, f*ck it, at least you tried. It costs nothing to be nice.
Stop being the victim.
By this, I mean don’t give into their attempts to tear you down. If they make jokes at your expense or you do something embarrassing in their presence, laugh along with them. If they say rude things, ignore them. If they lob fake compliments your way, thank them. When bullies stop getting a rise out of you, it takes the fun out of the situation for them.
Engage an unbiased third party.
Maybe it’s time to have a sit down with the bully and figure out why they’re behaving this way towards you. It’s always a good idea to have an unbiased person present just in case things go sideways. Try to keep your cool and get to the bottom of the situation without being confrontational or aggressive. If they get aggressive with you, again, the third party is there to shut it down (and at least you have a witness to the behavior.)
Stand up to them.
If you think it’s a situation you can handle yourself, confront the person directly. Keep calm, but tell them you aren’t comfortable with the way they’ve been treating you and you would like to bring it to an end. Don’t attack them, but do cite specific examples of their behavior and how it was inappropriate and hurtful. Many bullies will back down at the first sign of direct confrontation, so this can be a really effective way to stop the behavior in its tracks.
Don’t take it personally.
A lot of times, the bullying behavior has waaaay more to do with them than it does with you. Understanding that it’s not your fault is a huge step towards feeling better about the situation. If you’re able to brush it off, do that. I, personally, am completely incapable of this, but I have friends that are remarkably good at just saying, ‘Meh, whatever.’ It’s an admirable quality!
From your friends, family, and life. Common response as an adult being bullied is to shut down, isolate, and self medicate. It’s important to let the people who love you know what’s going on, especially if you suffer from depression and anxiety and are more apt to engage in self-destructive behaviors. The people that love you are there for your support, so let them be there for you.
Remember: this person is not a representative for everyone.
It’s easy to start to think, “Hey, if X thinks that I’m worthless and says nasty things and treats me badly, everyone else probably does, too.” Nothing could be further from the truth. What one damaged individual has to say about you has absolutely nothing to do with how the rest of the world values you. It’s easy to think that way when you’re being targeted, but it’s not the truth.
I hope some of these tips will help with how to deal with an adult bully! Unfortunately, as long as people have insecurities, bullying will exist. There’s something about making another person feel bad about themselves that makes this personality type feel good. If it helps at all, I’m a strong-willed, outspoken, successful woman, and it still happens to me. It still makes me feel like sh*t and I still self destruct and cry!
It has nothing to do with your personality, your self worth, or your value. So hold your head high and remember: you’re not alone.