When we think of bullying, we typically envision the kid stealing lunch money or shoving their peer to the ground at recess. Sure, these are the most common depictions of bullying in pop culture, but bullying doesn’t end when we graduate high school. So how can we handle adults who bully us? While there are a variety of reasons as to why adults display bullying behaviors, those reasons don’t excuse the behavior. Whether it’s a family member, a colleague, or another parent at your child’s school, here are some tips to deal with adults who bully.
The first, and most obvious, suggestion would be to say something to them. Let them know that how they are speaking to you or treating you is hurting your feelings. Best case scenario, they didn’t mean to offend you and will change their behavior. Worst case scenario, they continue behaving that way. You don’t lose anything by confronting them.
Unlike school-aged children, adults have more ability to avoid the person who is bullying them. If you have tried to tell that person how you feel and it wasn’t received, then you can distance yourself from them. For situations taking place on social media, block them. If it’s a family member, minimize visits with them. If it is happening at work, talk with HR and see about moving desk locations or reporting to someone else.
Just like we tell our kiddos, ignore them and they will lose interest. The same concept applies to adults. Quit responding to their comments and focus on you, your work, or your family. If it’s on social media, delete the comment or message and move on.
If it doesn’t improve, you can always seek out another person to help you. If it’s happening within the family, try to share what is happening with an unbiased family member. Sometimes just having someone else know how you are feeling is helpful. Maybe they will stick up for you if they witness it. If it’s happening at work, talk with HR. They may be able to help prevent interactions without that person ever knowing you were involved. If the behavior is very bad, HR can help you file a complaint or address the situation with your colleague and their supervisor.
Another source of help could be a therapist. Therapists can help you sort out your feelings and thoughts and see a situation more clearly. They can also equip you with coping skills to prevent the situation from causing you trauma or harming your self-esteem.