Over the years we have seen more and more adults who are struggling with another adult bullying them in their life. The most common situations of bullying are at work, in social groups like moms groups, or by relatives. We are led to believe that bullying only happens to school aged kids on the playground, etc. but that is not the case.
Being bullied at work can significantly damage a career. Such bullying can range from being kept under a manager’s thumb and treated like you are not worthy. Coworkers can say damaging remarks behind someone’s back or spread rumors to hurt career advancement or to feel better on a team. Going to work can feel like a traumatizing experience when these situations occur, because you are trapped in the negativity for many hours a day.
The bullying that occurs in group situations can leave one feeling like an awkward kid all over again. Being “backstabbed” by someone you consider a friend, or nasty behavior can make your heart sink if you are on the receiving end.
Then we have family members that cannot help themselves, but bully others in their family. The struggle with being bullied by your very own family is that people are left feeling like their innate support group is shaky or nonexistent in some cases. People can feel like they are forced to continually be around the bully, because well “they are family.” Even if simple boundaries are attempted to be put in place, often the family bully uses them to escalate their behavior even more.
So, what can someone on the receiving end of bullying do, as it so often feels like a situation in which they are trapped?
1. Gain understanding as to why it is occurring. Just like in childhood, the adult bully is acting out of a place of feeling insecure, not good about themselves or their lives. They take it out on someone that is a target. They may be a target because the bully is jealous, or perhaps they see a confidence in that individual and want to tear them down to feel as low as they do.
2. Remember happy people don’t bully others. People who are content in their lives are authentic and direct communicators if they are struggling with someone. This is fair. Bullies are too dysfunctional to accomplish healthy communication.
3. Don’t engage at their level, but stand your ground. Stand up for yourself! If you don’t like someone’s behavior, express this to that person in an assertive manner. This makes you the bigger person.
4. Draw boundaries if needed. It is within all of our relational rights to take space from people who hurt us or express to them that you will take space if they continue their bullying behavior.
Take a breath and be thankful that you do not operate like a bully!