The Truth About Bullies

by Jul 17, 2012

I received the following email from a blog reader. I thought I’d post my response for anyone interested in empowerment.

I need advice on how to deal with jealous bullies who will not respect personal space. I have no tolerance as I have tried to be nice and assertive but they are thick and stupid and as a result I snapped and told one to f%^& off.
How does one tolerate and be assertive when it is constantly ignored?

Dear Reader,

I am going to say some things that you may or may not like, but I feel that I need to be real and honest with you here. It is clear based on the tone of your email that you are extremely frustrated with the situation you have found yourself in. I’m certain most people respond to your question with empathy, and sympathy even. I on the other hand, am going to give you advice that might be a little hard to swallow at first.

Bullies have one motivation – to overpower you.

So take a look at yourself. This is hard. It’s hard to look at ourselves when we feel attacked by someone else. But you cannot control what others do. You can, however, learn to control your own reactions.

In order to do that, you will first need to acknowledge that while you don’t deserve to be treated this way you have indeed allowed the bully to push your buttons. Ask yourself why. Why is this person pushing your buttons? Why do you let him or her push your buttons? After all, you are in control of your own buttons aren’t you?

Next, think about your reaction to the bully. What are you communicating by doing things like using foul language? In addition, be aware of your nonverbal behavior when you are in the same room with the bully. What does your nonverbal communication say? Are you being proactive by standing with your head held high and your confidence-cap on? Or are you being reactive by blurting out unprofessional words?

Once you’ve been able to identify what part you play in the interaction with the bully, think about how you help the bully meet his or her goals. Again, the bully’s goal here is to overpower you. So how do you help the bully meet that goal? The answer is certainly not “nothing” – you are definitely doing “something”. What is it?? Once you figure that out, you can change your behavior accordingly.

Finally, you’ll need to find a way to detach yourself from these emotions you are feeling. Remember, nobody makes you feel anything – feelings are a choice. They are your choice.

You are not an innocent passerby in your own life. You absolutely have the power to change your situation. Change is a choice. Feelings and emotions are a choice. Your response to the bully is a choice. Choose wisely. The bully is playing mental games with you and you have the mental capacity to win this war. I know you do.

And, if in the end, you can’t seem to get past your anger, then it’s time to leave. Your dignity is worth way more than anything your employer is paying you.

About Catherine Mattice

Catherine Mattice, MA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is President of consulting and training firm, Civility Partners, and has been successfully providing programs in workplace bullying and building positive workplaces since 2007. Her clients include Fortune 500’s, the military, several universities and hospitals, government agencies, small businesses and nonprofits. She has published in a variety of trade magazines and has appeared several times on NPR, FOX, NBC, and ABC as an expert, as well as in USA Today, Inc Magazine, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine, and more. Catherine is Past-President of the Association for Talent Development (ATD), San Diego Chapter and teaches at National University. In his book foreword, Ken Blanchard called her book, BACK OFF! Your Kick-Ass Guide to Ending Bullying at Work, “the most comprehensive and valuable handbook on the topic.” She recently released a second book entitled, SEEKING CIVILITY: How Leaders, Managers and HR Can Create a Workplace Free of Bullying.

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