how to deal with adult bullies

How to deal with adult bullies

Bullying in the playground is awful and easily recognizable. Usually adults interfere and help the situation change. But what if you are an adult and are ‘subtly’ being bullied by friends and family?

Subtle adult bullying is more common than you think.

Christel, a bubbly personality with loads of friends and a busy social life, discovered she was being bullied. The bullying took different forms and was often very subtle:

  • Not being asked for her opinion, but being expected to go with the flow – ‘Okay, we all agree to do this now’, but Christel hadn’t voiced her opinion
  • Being put down for things she did – ‘Oh dear, you always do these things so clumsily’. An unacceptable, unkind and unnecessary statement
  • Being put down for things you didn’t do – ‘You never organize anything’, which was right because Christel didn’t use her voice and was used to follow others
  • Being manipulated – ‘I thought you didn’t think it was an issue, didn’t you say that?’ Whenever there was a dispute within a group, she got involved in a manipulative manner
  • Not being listened to – ‘Keep talking while I am making this phone call’. Christel didn’t feel important and valued at all
  • Not being taken seriously – ‘It can’t be like that and it can’t be that bad’. When she wanted to talk, it often was cut off with similar statements

Her friends were by no way mean or intentionally unkind, but it was as if Christel wasn’t seen. When she started to value herself and became clear about what she wanted herself, she discovered how she allowed herself to be treated. And she learned how to do it.

It came down to one thing: Christel needed to be crystal clear about what she wanted and just tell that to the others. ‘I want to see this movie. Or, no, I don’t want to see this movie’.

4 things NOT TO DO when being bullied

This would be a new experience for Christel and her friends. As people don’t like change I warned her that she might be challenged and get the usual comments and I told her the following:

  • Don’t discuss your choice or decision
  • Don’t argue about it
  • Don’t defend your choice
  • Don’t justify
  • Just tell them, that’s all you need to do to change the communication in your peer group. And that is exactly what happened.

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The relationship with her friends has changed, thanks to Christel changing her communication and she feels much happier and more confident.

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