I received a reader email last week asking that I spend some time talking about adult bullying. As she wrote, “bullying is common, but it’s unbearable.”
And she’s absolutely right.
In a survey of 2,000 adults last October, 31% said that they’d been bullied. To put that another way, that means almost 1/3 of the surveyed adults had been bullied. 1 in every 3 people!
Clearly, bullying is not just for the schoolyard.
While getting bullied is incredibly upsetting in the moment, Stacey Colino explains how it can also “have a significant impact on your physical and emotional health, leading to sleep loss, headaches, muscle pain, anxiety, and depression, or frequent sick days.”
And just because we are adults, it doesn’t make it any easier.
In fact, recognizing bullying for what it is can be more challenging as adults. Why? Because adult bullying often takes on subtler forms.
As Colinio notes, adult bullying might include belittling or humiliating someone in public, undermining someone, the silent treatment, political backstabbing, or social ostracism.
So what can you do? If you or someone you love is struggling, how can you handle adult bullying? That’s exactly what we’re going to explore today.
How to Handle Adult Bullying
The first thing to remember when it comes to bullies is that they’re often highly insecure. These individuals usually hurt someone else to feel better or more secure about their own situation.
So if this happens, what should we do? How can we handle adult bullying?
If the bully is someone you encounter in your everyday life, try to avoid interactions as much as possible. If you know that she hangs out in the break room at a particular time, then avoid the break room. If you’re working on a project with him, talk with your boss about a reassignment.
Franky, it’s just not worth putting yourself in that situation if it’s avoidable.
Similarly, if you experience online bullying, block that person. Period. It amazing how hurtful people’s comments can be, and it’s challenging to just “let it go.” But by blocking that person from your feeds, you can completely erase that negativity, and it’s much easier to move on.
In fact, let me share a personal experience.
I was dealing with a blogger several months ago, who left unkind, judgmental comments on my blog posts and Facebook feed. I let her get under my skin for a while, and she was really bringing me down.
Fortunately, it finally dawned on me that I could merely block her, and I wouldn’t have to deal with the negativity anymore. It was a huge weight lifted off my shoulders, and it was such an easy fix once I hit the “block” button.
So whether this bully is online or in person, avoid contact if at all possible.
If you can’t avoid the person, try your best to stay calm during interactions. Remember, bullies feed off of energy. So if you don’t rise to the bait, you won’t fuel their fire.
Patrick Allen offers some great suggestions to stay calm, which helps drain the bully’s sense of power. Allen writes:
* If someone keeps making jokes at your expense, laugh along with them.
* If someone makes sarcastic, fake compliments, thank them.
* When someone says something rude, pretend that you didn’t hear them.
* If someone harps on the same mistake or accident you made, tell them that you don’t care about that anymore.
* Keep your cool if you do anything embarrassing, so you don’t give them any fuel.
Document the Situation
If possible, keep a record of your experiences. Whether this means saving screenshots of conversations, or having a co-worker as a witness, having proof of the situation provides you with substantial evidence against your bully.
Seek Authoritative Assistance
If the situation unfolds in the workplace (or some other location where there’s an authority figure), go and talk with a “higher up.” Perhaps this means speaking with your boss, a group leader, Human Resources, etc. Bring them your documented evidence, and explain to them the situation.
As Mikaela Delia explains, “A bully thinks their bad behavior toward you will benefit them in some way, which is why they do it. Documenting their behavior, and notifying someone with authority over them to confront [the bully] about it completely deteriorates what they’re trying to accomplish by bullying you. It’s essentially like using their arm to point their weapon back at them.”
This final point is more important than anything. If you feel unsafe, get out of there, and seek help if necessary.
Nothing is worth risking your safety, so if you are not comfortable, the best plan of action is to leave the situation and seek help.
Alright, friends. Yes, bullying is a challenging topic. But it’s also one that we need to discuss, because it’s something that far too many of us face.
And if you’re facing adult bullying, it’s critical that you recognize it for what it is, and take steps to remove the negativity from your life. Remember, this bully is not worth a second of your time. You’re far more important than that. 💕
Were you surprised by the bullying facts? Have you ever been bullied as an adult? How would you handle adult bullying? Let me know below!