How To Stand Up to Emotional Bullying
Bullying doesn’t just happen on the playground. When you’re subjected to repeated instances of hurtful behavior over time, that’s bullying. If those hurtful behaviors don’t leave any physical marks on you, but leave you feeling undermined nonetheless, that’s also bullying — albeit the emotional type.
Unlike playground bullies, emotional bullies are more likely to get away with their behavior. That’s because it’s more socially acceptable to hurl controlling barbs at a person than to punch that person in the face.
Still, the effect is the same. The victim not only becomes afraid of the bully, but also feels guilty for having been bullied in the first place. The victim is left wondering why someone would bully them if they didn’t do anything to that person.
One word: Power. Although everyone wants power to a certain extent, bullies feel that the only way they can be powerful is to make someone else feel powerless by comparison. As the bully’s victim, you will always be worse off, unless you take some steps to break the bully’s power over you.
Here are some tips on How to Stand Up to Emotional Bullying
Recognize Bullying for What It Is
Every time someone bullies you, remember this: No one deserves to be bullied. You are a wonderful person in your own right, and if the bully refuses to acknowledge that, it’s their loss, not yours.
So stop making excuses for the bully. Stop rationalizing their behavior. Whatever the reason for their bullying, the fact remains that they chose to hurt you, and that is not acceptable.
Of course, you can play the martyr, and let them use you to let off steam. But know this: You’re not doing either of you any favors. Not only are you letting yourself get hurt, but you’re also effectively telling the bully that it’s okay to cause pain to others.
Avoid Escalating the Conflict
If the bully shouts at you, calls you names or humiliates you in public, do not fight back with the same tactics. Otherwise, you’ll be no different from the bully, and it’ll be hard for you to convince potential allies that you don’t instigate fights with your aggressor.
Instead, take the high ground. If you feel the need to act on your first instinct (that is, punch the bully in the face), breathe deeply. Let your mind clear up, so you can talk to the bully in a calm, reasonable manner.
Lay Down the Ground Rules
One reason bullies do what they do is because no one told them to do otherwise. For example, if they grew up in a household where shouting matches were the norm, they might’ve learned that raising their voice is the best way to get what they want.
Since bullies may not even be aware they’re doing something wrong, you have to be crystal clear about which of their behaviors are acceptable to you and which aren’t. To do that, here’s what to remember.
- Start with a show of empathy. (“I understand you were upset about what the boss said yesterday.”)
- Criticize the action, not the person. (“But I don’t like it when you shout at me in front of our co-workers.”)
- Offer a solution. (“If we can discuss any issues you have with me in private, and in a civil manner, that would be great.”)
By following these steps, you can catch the bully off-guard, and may even persuade them to change their behavior towards you. If not, don’t fret. There are other steps you can take.
Take Strength in Numbers
It’s easier to stand up to bullies when you know other people have your back. Even if you’re not a people person, it helps to surround yourself with those who love and accept you for who you are.
Create a support network as wide and as deep as possible. Reach out to likeminded individuals online and offline. The more people you can turn to when you’re in trouble, the more likely you can find the strength to fight back when you need to.
If you’ve exhausted all your options, and the bully continues to hurt you, your best option is to put as much distance between the two of you as possible. You are not a coward for doing this. On the contrary, you are brave for choosing the hard road of caring for yourself, instead of the familiar road of allowing the bully to conduct their business as usual.
However, make sure you’re not jumping out of the frying pan into the fire. Build up your savings, look for a new place to stay and prepare for legal action just in case.
It might be scary to stand up to your bully right now. But it’s even scarier to let the bully have their way forever. So be brave, make your choice and take action.