The Friendship Doctor

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Dealing With Adult Bullies

I cannot believe I am dealing with a female, adult, bully at age 42---but here I am. She is a neighbor who lives behind my house. Read More

I have a sister in law like

I have a sister in law like this and for advice I say avoid as much as possible. No rationale talking will get this person to see your side. Only a tharapist can help. Dont subject yourself to it anymore.


Yes, Your comment feels right to me. AND, I will try it as my situation sounds VERY simular. Still, I fear this woman.

I am in the same situation

I am in the same situation and I feel fear---what did you do

Hi I need some urgent

I need some urgent advice
I have sister in law who is behaving in a manner towards her fmily which is physically and emotionally abusive.
She has never been abusive to me but I have always jumped back into my box after an event but I did not do so after the last and she is now lookin for me-------------we live next door and have not spoken for at least 10 weeks as I could no longer tolerate her bad behavioiur to her immediate family which included voilence.
Help me I need good advice urgently!

dealing with adult bullies

My belief is that when we ignore someone's poor treatment of us we teach that person that what they're doing is okay. Calling someone nasty names is not okay. I recommend that she address the nasty comments directly by either simply drawing attention to it, "That was nasty" or directly stating, "Your comments are rude and not okay for me. If you can't speak respectfully then I will end the conversation." How the woman replies to this is almost irrelevant. the point of standing up for ourselves is so we have our own back. When we say nothing to poor treatment we take a double hit: first from the person who's being hurtful and second from ourselves for not standing up to it.
Just my thoughts...Lisa

Spot on Lisa!

I believe Lisa has hit the nail on the head. As kind hearted, decent people, we tend to work harder than we should to stand up to these bullies. We always end up engaging more, talking more, sharingmore than we have to. A simple 'If you cannot be civil I am going to end this conversation' will suffice, and since these sharks target only easy (read nice) targets, it sends a signal that we are more difficult to intimidate,and they will swim off somewhere else. Nevermind how they are feeling, or what their response will be - that is not our concern, and we need to detach from this when dealing with these truly pathological individuals. This is not something that will come easily or naturally to us - our initial instinct is to care abot their response, to feel it is too cutting to say this, we think 'Ouch' when we consider saying what Lisa has suggested in (2) don't we! Indeed, even in (1) I believe we will have difficulty at first. But I think this is the only way to get a bully off our back. Most won't bother to attack back because they will not expect us to be so assertive.
Another technique I think works is throwing it right back at them, with a 'What do you mean by that?' or 'What are you trying to say?' This is epecially effective in a workplace situation with a dubious criticism from a bullying boss or colleague - put them on the spot, get them to elaborate in other words, turn the spotlight back around on them. Make them explain themselves! You'll soon get a clear idea of the agenda behind the criticism, and then once you have smoked them out, you can better assert yourself because you know what you are dealing with!

doesnt work for me

When you do this with my sister, she makes your life a living hell. She loves to act this way right in front of everyone hoping you retaliate and stand up for yourself because she has a whole speech of 'your sins' stored up in her head that she is dying to add up to tell you off in front of as many people as possible.

I find with this kind of bully it doesnt matter what you do or say, you have to be impervious to hurtful comments and believe in yourself without counting that person as important in your life.

Spot on Lisa

I agree with the technique of throwing it back, especially in a crowd so others can see that you are not afraid to stand up to them. I recently did that and made them look so stupid. Their lies are starting to surface and other people are actually wanting to know the real truth. Being nice and saying the comment was rude doesn't cut them from stopping but a firm response does. This is a nasty world to live in but we can defend ourselves in a calm firm manner. For those of us that are Christians, we recognize that we are dealing with powers and principalities that need to be addressed in everyday life. Stand on the word for "greater is He that is in You than he that is in the world. John 4.4"

Lisa, I see what you’re

Lisa, I see what you’re saying and I see where that would be a great tactic, however having experiences with facing head on and ignoring, I have bit myself in the butt by confronting head on, and letting them know I am not going to take their abuse. It is a catch 22. I think a lot of it is personality types and who you are dealing with.

By facing head on, the bully is getting that reaction they want. They want you to confront so they know it bothers you. It gives them that control. When I have ignored the abuse, providing no interaction or acknowledgment, it has ended the comments. I also do not make eye contact. Eye contact in these situations, lets them know and give them control.

I am not the person to let somebody push me around, however I know when to pick my battles. Words do hurt, but they do not need to know it. We live in a world with very nasty and negative people. Very sad.

Show No Fear

Through experience & much reading I have learned that bullies want power. They are actually cowards who are weak of character & who feel inadequate, so rather than work on themselves they work on others in order to dominate.

When I became a target of the married couple next door, I too thought if I don't respond they will stop. I had initially responded to a couple of confrontations with some sarcastic comments back, but soon realized I was facing a couple of disturbed individuals. I figured they were wanting a reaction, and they likely were so they could do battle & conquer.

It began subtly & excalated with the male yelling character assination type comments at me in public to actually at one point entering my home (I likely had forgot to lock it before leaving for work, but I had the Maintenance staff change my locks anyway) Unless they are pro lock smiths, the locks cannot be compromised) They had installed a small camera on their side of the balcony to monitor me going in & out of my apartment (I never saw it until well into their crafted plan to unhinge me mentally) Without going into too much detail, these guys were relentless for 2+ years. Although, there would be brief periods of reprieve especially in the winter months when the balcony was not being used. But by then I had begun to experience PTSD. I thought at times I was being paranoid, but learned that constant harrassement will cause a person to become hypervigilent.

They were limited in the winter months as to what they could do, But they managed to do a couple of disturbing things. I allowed them to intimidate me thinking because of the escalation & the length of their harrassment, what were they actually capable of. The sad part of this situation is that people who want to help whether it is building management or police are really limited when there is no hard evidence. And my next doors know that. This is not there first rodeo, so to speak. Adult bullies were child bullies, they just grew into an adult body while their mental & emotional growth was stunted at 5 years old. So they have had many years, & likely many victims to hone their craft.

So self protection becomes paramount. At first when the verbal abuse excalated I pretended I didn't hear them & continued to react that way from then on. I would not look in their direction thinking that it would show I don't care, but what it showed them was that I was afraid, and I was afraid. Body language sends a huge message & they are experts at reading it. Not only can they spot fear, I believe they can smell it.

I'm still here & they are still there. Am I am not budging. I love my place. Now, don't get me wrong. If I really felt my life was in danger I would move in a heartbeat. Not there yet. Over the past year what I have done is built a support team. Friends who believe me, tenant resources who have taken measures to physically protect me & my space, & counselling services to get me back on track emotionally. I cannot change these two, I even baked cookies & wrote generic apology notes dropped at their door a couple of times hoping they would have a change of heart not realizing, again, it would feed their power craving & prove that I'm the weak one. I was in a desperate state.

Anyway, I have learned better. And actually have come to view my situation as a learning experience. It helped me to see where I WAS weak & helped me to strengthen my defences. So I could even thank these birds for helping me to change for the better. No one can victimize me unless I let them. So I no longer let them. And I have learned to take my stand & not back down. Not abusively as they are, but assertively letting them know it is NOT ok.

From what I've read these two are likely serial bullies, maybe even sociopathic type people. They certainly have a lot of the characteristics such as charm as they are slicing you open. So beware cause they could be coming to a neighbourhood near you. If not them someone just like them, because this type of situation is way too common & there are lots of these types of people out there. That is one reason why I'm staying. The devil you know is better than the one you don't, so "they" say.

Dealing with adult bullies

I had to deal with an adult bully in the workplace for the first time in my life when I was in my 50's. She called me nasty names, and did underhanded things to hurt my credibility. I met with her a few times, and explained to her how I felt about this, wishing to deal with this in an adult manner. Each time, she cried profusely, said she was sorry, and would never do it again. That didn't work. I didn't want to report this to my boss or anyone else because I knew she would retaliate and I would end up hurt even more.
Finally, I decided to retire early to be away from this person.
I believe the best thing is to stay away as much as possible from those people. You can't reason with them and they strike back if you protest. It is a losing battle.

Second that

I have had to deal with bullies all my life. I am a very small person (5'4 and 95lbs) and have been an easy target sense I was young. No matter how much you "stick up" for yourself the person either A. acts like you are taking it wrong and belittles your feelings B. attacks you more. My current situation at work with this girl (she doesn't earn the title woman because she still acts like I Jr. Snob) always talks very condescending to me, and I try to avoid her as much as possible. Unfortunately she is right next to our office fridge and microwave so that is usually when she tries and digs into me. Sad thing is others like her and the people I us to talk to I no longer do as much because she is always by them chatting. ONe of my co-workers asked me why I never come over there anymore and I flat out told him "some people don't make me feel welcome. I feel safer over here by my desk." I just wish I could retire like you. My whole building is like JR. The way they talk about people is awful!

Some people are reasonable...

Some people are reasonable and rational, and some are not. Some bullies are having a bad day, or are so thick headed they don't realize they have said something hurtful. Some bullies you can have a private conversation and make things marginally better.

Then there are some people whose brain constantly misfires. They'd like to have friends, they'd like to be popular. But their reality is different from anyone else on planet earth. Having an honest private conversation with them about their behavior is a 1) A waste of time 2) Just signals that you are willing to give them the attention they crave where will behave badly again in the hopes they can create more attention-seeking drama.

The trick is to know the difference between the two. All I can say is that I have been bullied by the latter, and my only recourse was to get as far away from the bully who even in my absence continued to say derogatory(and illegal) comments about me. It took a year but her public verbal attacks finally subsided.

Some people are reasonable......

Well said, Crimson. You have to "know thine enemy" and act accordingly.

In theory, calling attention to the mean-spiritedness clearly and firmly can work with some and definitely not with others, who crave attention, any sort of attention, with negative attention giving them a frisson because they know they have upset you. And they're waving invisible flags and gathering unholy strength for their next assault as you politely rationalise things for them. This I know because I have experienced this, being on the unwarranted receiving end of really nasty and manipulative neighbours.
My husband and I find ignoring them to be the best defence of all, and the addition of a thick evergreen hedging that will grow up to some 16 feet, an extremely important, if expensive, emotional saver for us, planted inside the property line. Not addressing them drives them wild as a matter of fact. We will not stoop to their level and just get on quietly with what we have to do. There is a lot of fly screen banging, and a strange and very noisy assault upon unknown items in a large green bin near the fence whenever I am outside doing some gardening or filling the bird feeder, and the latest addition to these odd behaviours is loud puffing and exasperated blowings! They have started taking photos of us as well, I kid you not. I believe it is all miserable attempts at intimidation, and if there were three words I could utter, if I felt like it, they would be " GET A LIFE".

It really boils down to assessing the type of neighbour you are dealing with. There are some who have bad moments and act accordingly and you may find you can be, after all, on the same page. And then there are these others who have an axe to grind for some undeserved reason. And if you try, as the kind-hearted person that you are, to resolve the issues, you will quickly find that they are already into using leverage to do their bidding and waiting for the time when you stand your ground so that they can bad-mouth you as much as possible to people you have never met, but who will telephone you to find out why you are being so "awful". These are the ones you ignore completely, forever.

Don't let it slide

One of my family members had a neighbor like this. She called the police, and they gave her a lot of support. They said next time, call the police immediately. They will come for them. These bullies are actually cowards and will back off if they see you're not afraid of them.

Response to bully letter

I feel your pain. I've been an on-site property manager for 25 years. I have never experienced bullying in the way that I have at the current community I'm at. I've had one resident who has basically destroyed lives with her gossip and meddling. I planned to non-renew her lease but then the 'waterworks' came, along with promises to 'not act that way'. I should have followed my gut instinct; a leopard will not change its spots. This horrific person would get everyone around her spinning, sit back and watch the chaos, ocassionally 'stirring to make it stink' whenever it started to die down. This was hidden behind a facade of 60's love-child/surfer lady nicety to your face and 16" knife to your back at the same time. An average resident calls 4-6 times per year; this resident called an average of 3-4 times per week (Yes, thats 208 calls/year or approximately 700+ calls during her occupancy). The calls were always to report a 'wrong doer' or perceived 'violation'. I feel like I've been through combat during this resident's tenancy and they have no clue how insane their relationship/whatever you might call it - was with management. Abnormal doesn't begin to describe it. Any other manager would have terminated the lease 2 years earlier. I just kept thinking "there's no way anyone can be this messed up in their head!?"
I was so wrong. Just know, it's not you, it's the one in a million (hopefully) nutcase that we are forced to deal with in our lives.

Good thinking, folks, thank you for your comments

I am dealing with an irrational bully right next door, who appears to be fighting a battle and is determined to direct his "problem" to us. This kind of person needs to fill his cup of victim-hood and will find a way to blame everyone for how he/she feels. Passive aggression, verbal assaults, and blaming are all in the mix here. And attempts to engage us are started with a loud "Hi, Neighbor!" issued from across the 2 yards. After several serious passive aggressive maneuvers and then a backyard verbal assault, I have decided that the way to deal with him is to hold up my hand, avoid eye contact, and firmly say, "UH-UH!" (as in "No!"). We shall see how this unfolds, but praying for sanity to envelope his home.

Doesn't sound like any bully I've ever met.

Just that. Perhaps you aren't giving enough information.

You can stand-up for yourself

You can stand-up for yourself by pointing out the rudeness of her comments and possibly excusing yourself if forced to be in close proximity. If she persists, you can even thank her for her input and wish her happiness in life. I'm sure most people around you will know you're being sarcastic as she has a reputation for nastiness. I'd not let her ruin your fun and letting yourself be an easy target. Ignoring a bully usually makes it worse.

Dealing with adult bullies.

Let's get one thing straight from the start, bullies bully for one reason and one reason only, we let them. Now, in order for a bully to bully they must interact with the target,even if the target is unaware of the interaction. Here is the simplest possible explanation of how to stop a bully. The target has to make the interactions far more unpleasant, distressing, and detrimental for the bully than for his or her self. Of coarse the details of this process have taken me the better part of 30 years to develop but them I'm what you could call a serial target. But that's another chapter. I'm a former US Marine and I studied Martial Arts for years. I'm not what you'd call a stereotypical push over, but I get caught in situations where physical intimidation has no practical or legal use. Obviously not in my own neighborhood. Let me put my standing on my street this way. My left wing liberal neighbors think of me as their local Col Jessep. Check out the page

very true

I just choose to ignore my pyscho sister because she is the way she is and she won't change ;) So I don't engage her, if I did she would lose

"right" fighter

Sounds to me like you are not dealing with a bully, but instead, you are a "right" fighter. Someday you will realize how lucky you are to have a sister and always being "right" is not that important.

To "right fighter" comment

How wrong and misguided you are! In the case of a bully sister, it is not a lucky thing to have one. You obviously have not suffered this type of bullying and have no idea how damaging it is to put up with a psycho family member that hates you and stops at nothing. I can tell by people's attitudes if they have heard all the lies my sister goes around spreading about me. The reason is I've exposed her as a liar, and now she's threatened by me. If you want to learn more, there is good info at this link:

You are correct, anonymous.

You are correct, anonymous. In my case, the manipulative bully is a cousin I have tried to stay away from for 11 years because she is so overbearing and attention-seeking, and somewhat of a narcissist. We had a family party over the weekend that I purposefully arrived at 1 1/2 hours late because I knew she'd be there. It didn't matter. She followed me around, interrupting my conversations, and when I put silverware on the table, made a point of announcing that she had already brought some over. I told my sister I was leaving. The "bully" happens to belong to my health club, and yesterday I noticed a police officer in the club for a different reason. I persuaded him and a staff member to go over to her. She was mortified when I confronted her and told her she was never to interrupt my conversations or talk about me with others within earshot of me. It was pretty heavy-handed but it put her in her place.

the right fighter comment

The link you provided is a great resource of info. I have been dealing with adult family bullies for 57 years and the emotional and physical ramifications are life altering to say the least. I have estranged myself from the 2 family serial bullies for 5 years now and they are now targeting my adult children. They never stop. Do not allow them to silence you as to their behavior.

Sister bullying

I didn't realise how much this goes on! My whole life my sister has been a bully, everyone is scared to tell her, and when anyone stands up to her she gets argumentative and starts calling you nasty names and making things up, my mum excuses her behaviour by saying "that's just her being her" what kind of excuse is that, she criticizes you to your face and is totally tactless, when you pull her on it, she just says "that's me" enforcing what my mum says,It got worse when l met the love of my life, she tries to belittle the relationship, we got married two years ago, and she still refuses to take us seriously, she fell out with me days before the wedding, when incidents like this have happened since childhood and we are presumably in out fifties it goes beyond a joke and being petty. she was diagnosed with cancer, and the surgeons managed to remove the tumour, so now her tactic is to use the cancer card with the family to get her own way, she has been sniping at me for months now and l finally snapped l had had enough, we had a big bust up, with each of us hurling abuse at each other, and l know this will make me look the bad person. because she will now tell everyone what a bitch l am, l have decided to block her off my social network and phone and have nothing else to do with her, my mum and niece are devastated for my sister, they are still being emotionally blackmailed, and there is nothing l can do, l feel like l have had my heart ripped out.

bullies that are siblings

I find that one of my older siblings still attempts to bully me, I just refuse to be her victim since she trys her hardest to cause me pain and grief. The problem is that I know that she is bipolar, and has other mental health issues that were addressed when she was younger but apparently aren't now. She now resorts to cyber bullying because that is how she deals with her issues. The nice thing is that I can ignore her pathetic attempts to treat me less than as an adult.

SIL bully

Your sister sounds a bit like my sister-in-law. I'm so tired of her bullying, aggressive explosions at everyone in the family. The weird part is that no-one does anything, they just stand back and let her do it, presumably because they're afraid of her. She's even gone off on one of the 10-year-old cousins, sending him shivering with fear into hiding. I know she has mental health issues and has been in therapy for years and years, but this is not acceptable. I dread family events, stress about them for weeks in advance and fight with my husband about it. I wish I could just "refuse to be her victim" as you've done with your sister, but I just don't think I can put up and shut up anymore. I'm afraid of how I might react to her the next time I see her, seriously afraid that I might do her physical harm. Not the answer, I know, but I just can't stand by anymore while she does this.

I feel your pain

I know exactly what you mean as I'm in the same situation with a sister-in-law. I do my best to avoid her but it seems that the second I'm alone she swoops over and starts with the covert (read cowardly) insults. I would love to know If you find a solution to this because I haven't in the 17 years I've been a part of this family where nothing can be talked about.

Resources on Bullying

I recently found a wealth of resources - books and articles - on bullying! I thought this would help others too. Many titles really speak to me. Let's break the cycle and find a little freedom from the abuse.

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Irene S. Levine, Ph.D., is a psychologist and professor of psychiatry at the NYU School of Medicine. Her latest book is Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup With Your Best Friend.


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