Are You Dealing With A Bully?

Do you have someone in your life who seems to delight in making you miserable?

Have you tried everything to turn this situation around and nothing seems to help?

You may be dealing with a bully. 

Bullies don’t want A win-win. They want TO win. 

Bullies don’t want to cooperate, they want to  control.

Think of the challenging person who is mistreating you and ask yourself if he or she displays the following characteristics most of the time. If so, you’re dealing with a bonafide bully.

1. Pinpoints your weakness and uses them against you. 

Bullies have a talent for ferreting out your emotional Achilles Heel and hobbling you with it. If you don’t want to be considered selfish, they’ll call you selfish. If you’re unsure of your parenting or supervisory skills, they’ll attack your parenting skills or call you a bad leader. This is a classical Machiavellian method of preying on your weakness so you’re impotent (lacking power or strength) and they’re omnipotent (having unlimited influence or authority.) Their goal is to make you doubt yourself so you’re vulnerable to their attempts to intimidate you.

2. Plays martyr. 

Does he or she try to lay on the guilt trip by saying things like, “Go ahead and go out with your friends. I don’t mind. I mean, who wants to spend time with an old fogie like me anyway? I’m sure I’ll find something to do.” Does th is person play the long-suffering individual who’s unappreciated? Is it a common theme that s/he is the only one holding the office together and everyone else is frivolous, hedonistic, incompetent, or selfish?

3. Possessiveness. 

Someone who comes on strong and wants (or has!) to be with you constantly is showing a dangerous need to have you all to him or herself. Possessiveness is defined as “a desire to own or dominate.” Bullies often don’t have many (or any) friends of their own which means they grow to resent your other relationships. Does this person pout or try to make you feel guilty for abandoning him or her when you spend time with others? Bullies are so insecure they see everyone you spend time with as competition and as a threat to their dominance.

4. Holds you responsible for their moods. 

Does this person blame you for his or her unhappiness? If they’re sad, it’s because you didn’t ask about their day? If they’re depressed, it’s because you don’t take them anywhere anymore? If they’re angry, it’s because you said something that provoked them? There will be no pleasing this kind of person. They essentially haven’t grown up, and never will as long as they continue holding everyone else but themselves accountable for how they feel.

5. Perfectionist. 

Does this person nit-pick? Does he or she have such high standards no one ever measures up? Does this individual have to do things himself because anyone else would just “mess it up”? If you’re still in the honeymoon or courting phase, you may be temporarily exempt from this person’s unceasing criticism. In time though, their insistence on things being done a certain way (their way) will transfer to you and then you’ll never be able to do anything right. Jimmy Hoffa once said, “I may have my faults, but being wrong isn’t one of them.” Bullies won’t admit to any faults, least of all being wrong.REPORT THIS AD

6. Hates to have authority questioned. 

Does this person take umbrage if you dare dispute his or her facts or opinions? Does s/he come across as a “know-it-all” who has to have all the answers? Bullies can’t stand to be challenged because they’re afraid their “power-house of cards” could come falling down. Their “my way or the highway” communication style is based on their need to be in control and beyond reproach.

If you disagree with this person, does he or she escalate their intensity in an effort to force you to concede? If so, it means that every conversation is going to turn into a verbal battleground. It means this person will start disparaging your intelligence, expertise, and experience so you no longer know what you know and won’t have the intellectual confidence to challenge them.

7. Lies, Lies, Lies.

Mark Twain once commented that “Truth is more of a stranger than fiction.” Does that description fit the person you’re dealing with? Does he or she self-aggrandize and exaggerate his or her achievements? In order to win respect, bullies often claim to have been to places they’ve never been, boast of knowing people they’ve never met, and excel at things they’ve never tried.

In the mid 1970’s, I had the privilege of working with Grand-Slam tennis champion Rod Laver at his Hilton Head Island resort. A couple times a year we sponsored national tennis camps. Every once in awhile, someone would blow in and we would sense that we were able to deal with a type of individual the Aussies playfully refer to as “all flap and no throttle.” These “blowhards” always talked a bigger game than they delivered. Does the person you’re dealing with display “blowhard” tendencies? Does he or she wax eloquently(or not so eloquently) about past accomplishments? Did this individual somehow manage in the first few minutes of meeting you to let you know how much money he made, what degrees she had, or what awards he’s won? Was she so intent on impressing you with her curriculum vitae that she failed to ask about yours? Watch out. Red alert. Bully on the loose.

8. Constant Fault-Finder.

“A critic is someone who’s at his best when you’re at your worst.” -Tony Pelleto

Verbal bullies do their best to make you feel worse. They always focus on what you do wrong, never on what you do right.

Are you thinking, “Well, my partner or boss does some of these things some of the time, but so do I! After all, no one is perfect.”

You’re right. We all have bad days. However, bullies don’t have bad days once in a while, they make the people around them have bad days most of the time. The key question to ask yourself is a) how frequently does this person engage in the above behaviors and b) is s/he willing to change?

If you checked off many of the behaviors above, then this person is not just having a bad day — they intentionally verbally abuse others because it’s working for them.  

They have little incentive to change because their bully behavior is giving them what they want – power.

Do you have any clout or leverage with this person? Are they open to input or are they so defensive they’ll dispute anything you say?

If you have tried to reason with this person; if you have tried to be logical and fair and have gotten nowhere — it’s because bullies don’t respond to reason. 

They want what they want and they’ll do whatever they have to do to get it.

Dealing successfully with bullies requires a whole different approach. 

Kindness will be perceived as weakness.

 I’m not suggesting you sacrifice your integrity and become a bully yourself. 

I am suggesting that if you’ve suffered in silence; if you’ve waited for the bully to “come to his or her senses” and apologize for their inappropriate behavior; that’s never going to happen.

You must take the bully by the horns if you want things to get better. 

You need to change the way you respond to the bully or he or she will continue to take advantage of your good nature and make your work or home life miserable.

The good news is, there’s help.

My “Take the Bully by the Horns” book features a series of questions you can ask to determine whether this personal or professional relationship is worth saving.

You’ll determine if it’s possible for this situation to get better. 

If so, you’ll learn exactly what to say or do to motivate this person to treat you with the respect you want, need and deserve. 


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