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  • Writer's pictureSarah M.

The Bullies Around Me

As a child I assumed only kids were bullies, boy was I wrong. Turns out kid bullies often learn their behavior at home from an adult bully, mirroring their poor actions as little mini-mes.

I guess most of us have experienced being bullied and being the bully in some shape or form in our lives but an actual full on bully is and can be extremely harmful in schools, homes and work environments.

Bullying is defined as a form of aggressive behavior in which someone intentionally and repeatedly causes another person injury or discomfort.

And there is no doubt that adult bullying is very real and even prevalent.

Adult bullying is inherently toxic and insidious in all environments and any forms. Adults who engage in bullying are more likely to do so in means other than physical; but of course, there are cases where physical abuse and bullying happens. Typically, in the world of adult bullying, the perpetrators fall into certain categories.

The narcissistic adult bully. Narcissists who choose to bully other adults do so because they lack empathy or fear of adverse repercussions. They generally struggle with self-esteem issues, hence their compulsion to constantly denigrate other people. People who truly love themselves don't have to tear others down to feel superior.

Impulsive adult bully. Engages in sporadic and uncontrolled bullying. Sometimes this manner of bullying occurs when the perpetrator is under stress or going through a rough time. While impulsive bullying isn't typically planned or premeditated, this does not excuse it. Going through challenges in life does not entitle anyone to lash out at others or engage in bullying.

Physical adult bully. As the name suggests, physical adult bullies perpetrate bullying that involves physical actions and contact. Physical bullies often hit, slap, punch, kick, or otherwise assault people. They may also engage in stalking, stealing, or destroying one’s personal property.

Verbal adult bully. Use their words to belittle people. It's important not to minimize the impacts of verbal bullying simply because these impacts are not tangible. Words are very powerful, and they can ruin reputations, careers, self-worth, and other things someone may have going for themselves. A notable amount of verbal adult bullies spread rumors, gossip about others behind their backs, and otherwise use words to be mean and hurtful.

Secondary adult bully. Secondary adult bullies are witnesses to the actions of the bully and generally join in so they won't become the bully's next target. Many secondary adult bullies don't harbor true malice toward someone yet are afraid to speak out. It's important to understand that secondary adult bullying is not any less harmful simply because this particular perpetrator is acting out of fear. Adults who witness bullying should either speak up or report the incident instead of further hurting the person on the receiving end.

What to Do If You're a Bystander

  • Question the behavior of the bully to shift the focus of the interaction.

  • Utilize humor to redirect the conversation.

  • Remember, there is strength in numbers. Bystanders can intervene as a group to demonstrate their disagreement with bullying.

  • Walk with the person who is the victim of bullying to help diffuse potential interactions.

  • Check-in privately with the bullied person to let them know you disagree with it and that you care.

What to Do If You're a Victim

  • Pick and choose your battles. If the behavior is not excessive or harmful and you only see the bully once in a while, you may want to keep your distance.

  • Make eye contact. Eye contact can be significant, as bullies have less empathy when they can't see your face or your eyes.

  • Escape if you can. Ask if you can move your desk far away from the bully or limit your interactions with them whenever possible. If that fails, try again. Can you switch to another position in the organization? Can they switch?

  • Document the offenses. Document every single offense and try to keep the records for as long as possible. You may need them if you want to file a complaint at work or, in some cases, a police report if the bully's actions become emotionally or physically damaging.

What to Do If You're a Perpetrator

  • Consider seeking emotional support or therapy. In many cases with bullies, you may have had a traumatic childhood and might have regularly endured domestic violence, physical abuse, or other forms of abuse.

Bullying can have harmful effects for bystanders as well. Even if you're not on the receiving end, witnessing someone being bullied for long periods can have an emotional impact.

And for victims, you may have trouble sleeping, feel paranoid, experience increased anxiety, and constantly feel on edge.

If you're dealing with a bully, you know that it can take a toll in various ways. If you have any physical symptoms, like sleep issues or pain conditions triggered by the stress of bullying, you may want to contact a health professional.

They can help you cope with symptoms of depression and anxiety, help you strengthen your self-confidence, and help you learn how to handle bullies emotionally.

Regardless, the most important thing is to utilize your support network. If you're being bullied, find support, whether it's from co-workers, friends, or family. Sometimes the best way to buffer the impact a bully has on you is to try and get by with some help from other people in your life.

And lastly, if nothing changes maybe the best thing for you, your mental health and wellbeing - remove yourself from the situation all together. You deserve better.



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