The bully in your life does not have to be your enemy. You can be friends. Just remember to draw the boundary lines very clearly. To engage with the bully in your life, especially if the bully is a sibling, parent, spouse, a friend, a boss or even a grown-up child - they have to realise that you will withdraw and be distant or tell on them if they allow the monster within them to surface. Never be intimidated, stand your ground, and be firm but polite. To give in to temper and get upset would allow the bully to have triumphed. Instead, you must stand up to bullies and ensure that the bully realises that you are onto them.
Bullies are irrational. You cannot show the mirror to an irrational person, but you can definitely make them aware that you are onto them and you will expose them further if they continue to behave like petty tyrants. To hide the truth of what you’re going through is a big mistake. The bully has to internalise that they lose your friendship and camaraderie if they try to tyrannise or boss over you.
It is important to cut the bully out of your life for a while when they’ve had an episode of tantrums and hysteria because they seldom or never confront their faults and almost always rationalise their behaviour in their minds. They aggressively shove the blame onto you.
Through these episodes, it is important to remember that the reason you are being bullied is not you. The bully is bullying you because they have issues like low self-esteem and pent up aggression against their own life that they’ve never acknowledged and never dealt with. And so trying to explain, discuss, and illustrate your point of view is almost futile. The only way is with the carrot and the stick method. Reward restraint and politeness with the gift of your friendship if the bully behaves with decorum and respect toward you. This restraint is often a veneer but may become a pattern if the bully realises that you will walk away at any minor sign of a tantrum or outburst.
A bully would definitely have subjected some others to their destructive behaviour, short temper, impatience, desire to beat down your opinion with theirs, their ‘superior’ knowledge over yours, tirades of cold spells, shouting matches. But don’t expect the bully to take any feedback willingly and be receptive. The typical response is resentment and argument, justification and fits of sulks. My advice is to stick to your guns and not cave in. Don’t buy into their propensity and staged cunning performance of friendship or playing the victim. Always be on your guard and create a ‘partition’ of space, time and conversation at the slightest sign of raised voices, hysteria and a tirade.
Trying to use logic and rationale with the bully in your life is nearly impossible as they become resentful of any feedback. You see they have created a ‘logical’ scenario and explained away their behaviour in their minds to deal with the inflated sense of self-righteousness and their low self-esteem. Don’t also slip into a victim scenario and feel sorry for yourself but deal with it and get a life.
A smart way to deal with a bully is to gang up with other family members and friends and confront the bully, never cower down to them. Now what will happen is that outbursts will be less tolerable to all of you and the bully will have to amend their ways. They can never entirely change but they can definitely temper down their hysteria and tantrums when it becomes clear to them that this pattern will isolate them from friends and family if they continue their irrational, self-absorbed ways.
I remember clearly the aggressive bully in my life terrorised me if I ever told on her. I was squarely warned that if I dared to share episodes of her bad behaviour with any outsiders, people would alienate me and think very poorly of me. This is characteristic of a bully to protect themselves from being exposed to the outside world where they display a veneer of politeness. The charades of good behaviour are short-lived and they quickly go back to their obnoxious behaviour. They return to being those people that ride roughshod over and dominate in a shrill intimidating voice.
Bullies feel threatened whenever they encounter someone who appears to have an opinion different to them — especially those who are confident and popular. They’re threatened by people who don’t kowtow to their views or who challenge them in any way. Their defence mechanism is contempt, rage and coldness. There is no betrayal in seeking help, taking stock of your situation and moving on. Get a life and live your way. The bully will definitely not change, but you can change your life isn’t it?
The writer is a columnist, designer and brand consultant. Email: email@example.com