October is National Bullying Prevention Month. There will be plenty of programs with an emphasis on prevention of bullying in schools. But what about the adult bullies among us?
Kids look to adults to be their role models. If kids see grown-ups engaging in bullying behaviors, they may be inclined to model that behavior. Even worse, adults might model bullying behaviors of other adults in efforts to be accepted or fit in with their colleagues, friends, or families. Today, I would like to address bullying behaviors in adults.
Adult Bullying Behaviors
We’ve all seen it: the arrogant man at the post office berating the postal worker, the woman verbally abusing a Home Depot employee. Almost certainly we have been verbally abused ourselves in our own workplaces by a fellow human being in an unkind moment. Is it any wonder there are issues with bullying among kids?
But let’s take a closer look. I called that man at the post office arrogant. But is he really arrogant, or is he just exhibiting arrogant behavior in that moment of his life? Maybe he mostly exhibits arrogant behavior, but what if there are moments of love and kindness in his life? Either way, wouldn’t it be better to see him as a loving, kind being experiencing a moment of arrogance?
And that woman at Home Depot. Surely she has bigger issues than the minor discrepancy she is attacking the Home Depot employee over. Maybe rather than a great big bully, she is actually a scared little girl in there.
Dealing with An Adult Bully
I used to take my verbal bullies to heart and could end up in tears over the tone of condescension in their voices. Now I try to see through the nastiness, raised voices, and negativity. I try to get a glimpse of their motivation for treating me, or anyone, this way.
Many times it appears that power plays a role. Perhaps this person is attempting to squash my opinion and relevance to boost their own power.
When you look past what the bully is saying, or how they are saying it, you might find that you see much more than they would like you to see. And, that their verbal abuse isn’t causing a reaction within you because you know better. Congratulations on your newfound sense of self-empowerment!
We can’t change others. I can’t change someone who has decide to yell at me or speak to me in a condescending tone and who is trying to gain or maintain power over me. What I can change, and have complete control over, is my response to their behavior.
Choose Your Response
“If someone comes at you in a judgmental way and you judge them for it, you just doubled the amount of judgment in the space you’re both in.” – Wayne Dyer in Don’t Die with Your Music Still in You: My Experience Growing Up with Spiritual Parents by Serena Dyer
We can choose to view bullying behavior differently, allowing ourselves the opportunity to respond to the illogical and irrational in logical, calm, peaceful ways. The bully will eventually lose steam and go away, but if we provide them with fuel by reacting to their attack with anger, the situation escalates.
All that negative reactionary energy does us no good. It is incredibly tempting to indulge, and no one is perfect. We all have the potential to lose it when pushed to the limit, but we also always have a choice. We can begin to train ourselves to de-escalate situations that are negative and doing no good to anyone. We can start to view ourselves as centers of peace and calm, rather than emotional pawns to bullies and their negative energies.
Next time you are attacked verbally on the job or elsewhere, listen closely for signs of fear. I have started doing this in my own job, and honestly now feel sad for people who are angry or upset, because I know that the reason they are “being so mean” is because they are actually expressing their fear.
Is there anything you would do differently next time you are confronted by a bullying behavior after reading this? What are your tricks for dealing with attacking behaviors from other adults? Please share your thoughts below.