Bullies are nothing new; and, unfortunately, they can be anywhere in real life or online. When you’re dealing with one, it’s unmistakable. And, since it’s national bullying prevention month, it seems like a good time to examine this toxic behavior and how to handle it — as a grownup.
Ironically, I don’t recall being bullied as a kid; but, I have been bullied in grown-up life. Yes, it was stressful and awkward. Yes, it was embarrassing. Yes, these people are no longer in my life.
It started in the late 1990s with a significant other. I left that relationship and thought, “Well, that must have been a one-off…” Then, 10 years later, I had a friend and colleague who turned out to be one. A few years later a supervisor. And, a few years later a few more people…
It made me wonder: Is the world just a lot uglier than I realized, or am I a magnet for these types of personalities? Can a person be “bully bait?” I can’t say for sure. But, I can say that the bigger and broader your personal and business circles grow, the more likely you are to meet a toxic person here or there.
What were the common denominators?
- They had no empathy for others.
- They left little to no room for my point of view when they wanted something.
- They belittled me, who I am, what I do and how I do it.
- The negativity I encountered seemed to have no logic or reason behind it.
- No matter what I did, it was like a “spinning wheel of misfortune” in terms of the negative feedback I received.
- The more time I spent with them, the more it felt like they were trying to brainwash me into believing the only opinion that mattered was theirs.
Does this sound familiar?
According to Psychology Today, there are four types of bullying: physical, tangible/material, verbal, passive-aggressive (or covert) and cyber. Unfortunately, I have experienced them all. It’s enough to make anyone paranoid, right?
Lifehacker reports, “Adult bullies act out for the same reasons that kid bullies do; they’re trying to make up for some shortcoming of their own. As Psychotherapist Jenise Harmon at Psych Central suggests, bullying is not about you. You’re not the one with the problems, so you shouldn’t ever take bullying personally.”
I get it. There are reasons anyone does anything. But, don’t make the mistake I made with my ex by rationalizing why they behave so badly. That will only keep you stuck in a pattern of abuse.
Ditch the Label offers some great advice and resources that can help anyone who is or may be dealing with bullying. Its top ten tips include:
- Understand the bullying.
- If you feel safe enough, speak up about it (to someone you can trust).
- Never go through it in silence.
- Know it may be a crime, depending on the extent.
- Know you’re not the problem.
- Deal with the stress.
- Don’t isolate yourself.
- Take care of your health through it all.
- Seek role models.
- Get help.
So, to answer my question, I don’t just think anyone is bait for bullies. Everyone who isn’t a bully is. And, the only way to stop it is to recognize it, deal with it and move on. Life is too short to waste precious time on people who will only bring you negativity.