Bullies, who play a win/lose game, love it when you make mistakes that give them the upper hand. Your job – avoid those mistakes. By doing so, you change the game to win/win or at least level the playing field. Here’s what you need to know:
Realize when the first test happens
We believe, or like to believe, the best of everyone. When a bully first tests us, we often think “I’m making too much of this” or “he’s having a bad day.” That could be your first mistake. Bullies test to see who may be easy prey. Watch out for thoughts like, “this can’t be happening.” You ignore a bully and his initial test at your peril.
Further, bullies operate according to a risk/benefit ratio. If they test you and you stand up to them, they often back off. Allow them an inch and they become your ruler.
You can run but you can’t hide
Has this ever happened to you – you walk up to a gathering of coworkers and one coworker gives you a frosty stare, making you feel unwelcome? How did you respond?
If you’re like many, you felt awkward and walked away. Unfortunately, you played right into the bully’s hands. Bullies love isolating their targets, much as a wolf steers a calf away from the herd. If you allow a bully to push you away from others, you leave the bully free to manipulate opinion against you.
Giving the bully all the power
Have you planned to ask your bully to change his ways or thought of appealing to his best nature? If your bully values a relationship with you, you have a slim chance of success, comparable to the success you have when rolling a boulder up a steep hill. Bullying works for the bully – why should he change? Worse, you give your bully the sense he has the upper hand.
Your best option – approach your bully as an equal, reminding yourself and him that you too have decision-making power. Rather than making an appeal, show your bully what he wins or loses by treating you differently.
Letting the bully get to you
Bullies play the shame/blame game. Never collude with a bully by accepting the insults he showers on you. Whenever you allow a bully to shape how you see yourself, you become the bully’s accomplice in a true crime, that of tearing into your self-worth. Let his garbage remain his garbage.
Playing the bully’s nasty game
Bullies have years of experience slinging mud and fighting dirty. Never let a bully push you into bad behavior. When you walk into the ring with a “give back as good as I get” attitude, you risk appearing as much of a problem as the bully – even as you get flattened. You can be firm, strong and professional, allowing others to see who plays rough and who realizes it’s work and not a game.
Want to level the playing field? Avoid the classic mistakes your bully hopes you’ll make – and you and others may witness a failed bullying attempt.