Thursday, January 17, 2013

Dealing with a Bully

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I suspect that all of us have dealt with (or been) a bully during some point in our life.  We may have even been married to one.  After learning some coping skills, I feel like I'm more objective and aware of the bullies in our lives.  Oh yes, I do deal regularly with a bully.  Sometimes I watch in disbelief as the bully verbally challenges and puts roadblocks in the way of what could be simple exchanges.

I used to cower in the presence of a bully, to be frozen and paralyzed.  It worked for the bully because I was willing to give up or do almost anything to get away from the assault.  It can happen anywhere: at work, school, in families, friendships and marriages.  Bullies get their way by stealing power.

You have been entrusted with power from the Lord and to give that away is not what He requires.  There are way confront bullies without escalating the situation.  Keep the following in mind:

Bullies thrive on power and egotism.  Their goal is to win.  They do so through aggression and will act or talk in hurtful ways to make their point.  They will not back down so meeting aggression with agression will only fuel the rage and abuse.  When dealing with a bully, know your boundaries and be prepared to walk away.  I was often frozen and overwhelmed by a bully, but learning how to respond to an outburst with dignity gives me the ability to walk in freedom.
  1. Verbalize your boundaries.  "I can only talk for -- minutes."  or "I'm not ready to make that decision," are phrases that allow me to process a request or assess my needs.  It keeps me from relenting in an attempt to keep peace and then later feeling overrun.
  2. Talk with a safe person.  Find a family member, friend or counselor who can be a 'sane' filter.  Bullying became such a normal part of my existance that I didn't realize how unnatural the relationship had become.  I needed a sounding board and keeping it all to myself only enabled to bully to continue.
  3. Take confidence in small victories.  Practice saying (and practicing) the word, "No."  The power of a bully shrinks as your confidence grows.  When you act in dignity and self-respect, it highlights the faults of the bully.  Often when their behavior is revealed they do tone down the assault.  Bullies don't want to look bad, just to get their way.
You may (and me!) be succeptible to bullies, but you do not have to live as a victim.  Take small steps today by gathering support and learning to stand up to bullies.  When I fall prey to bullies in my life, I inevitably regret my actions.  Now, instead of letting that weaken me, I use the anger to fuel my resolve not to give into their control battles.  Many times I fail, but I can honestly share that practice does lead to improvement.  The patterns can change and we must be the ones to begin the process of relating differently.

Remember, if you're dealing with a bully you are dealing with an emotionally immature person.  Most likely, you will have to suck it up and endure some things that you shouldn't have to, but changing a bully isn't the goal - keeping your diginity and limiting their influence is.

Have you ever dealt with a bully?  Have you been the bully?