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Managing the Bully in Your Life

Bullying has reached epidemic proportions. How to deal with a bully.

Bullies can be anyone: bosses, coworkers, friends, parents, even spouses. The first step in managing the bully is recognizing that bullying is occurring. All too often, the target (many experts on bullying prefer the word “target” to “victim”) will not recognize that he or she is being bullied or will believe that somehow he or she is the cause of the bullying behavior.

According to workplace bullying experts, Gary and Ruth Namie, bullying consists of persistent abusive verbal or physical behavior that is designed to put down the target. The, a resource from the U.K. suggests some of the bully’s motivation: “the bully gains a great deal of gratification (a perverse form of satisfaction) from encouraging and provoking argument, quarreling and hostility.” Bullying can lead to intense feelings of stress and depression in the target.

Here are some strategies for dealing with bullies:

1. Avoid, If Possible. If there is a bully in your life, say a friend or relative who bullies you, and you can avoid that person, do it. Life is too short to have a bully ruin it, and your health.

2. Don’t Show the Hurt. The bully gets enjoyment from seeing the target’s pain, suffering, and humiliation. Bullies often hurt others to compensate for their own inadequacies or feelings of low self-esteem. Not showing the hurt frustrates the bully (although the bully could escalate the bullying).

3. Report the Bully. If bullying is occurring at work or school, report the bullying behavior. Document the bullying for authorities (HR or administrators). Realize, however, that sometimes others won’t act — either out of fear of being bullied themselves or because they don’t “see” the bullying [find out more about this here].

4. Stand Up to the Bully. Assert yourself and show that you won’t be bullied (this is often hard to do, particularly if you have been bullied for a long time, lack confidence, or when the bully persists).

5. Get Some Support. Although friends and relatives may not be able to intervene, they can provide support to help you deal with the stress of being bullied.

Realize that you are not alone. Nearly 40% of U.S. workers report being bullied at some time during their working careers. Even more report that they have seen the bullying of others. Bullying in schools is rampant, and bullying in the home is likely an “unreported epidemic.”

It is important to not let the bully get to you. Realize that the attacks stem from the bully’s own problems, insecurity, inadequacies, etc., and the attacks are not valid. If you witness others being bullied, intervene, or provide support to the target.

Here are some resources: