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How to Deal With Adult Emotional Bullies

The word "bullying" conjures up images of the big kid pushing around the little kid on the playground and taking his lunch. Unfortunately, adults bully too. Although adult bullying also may be physical, it often appears in the more insidious form of emotional bullying. An emotional bully psychologically attacks you through actions including threatening, mocking, embarrassing and ignoring you. There are multiple steps that you can take to disarm an adult emotional bully.

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  1. Ignore the bully. Bullies are trying to dominate and gain power. By choosing not to engage with their emotional abuse, you take away the opportunity for them to gain more power. You may either pretend you did not hear them or choose to leave the room. Because you are not rewarding your bully with a reaction, you may even find more positive behaviour coming from the bully. Ignoring someone who is purposefully trying to invoke anger, rage and tears can be very emotionally difficult, so you may need to take more drastic measures.

  2. Use humour to deflect the situation. Many times adult emotional bullies use tactics such as sarcasm, name-calling or incessant teasing to put you down. If you are skilled at thinking on your feet, consider a sarcastic or witty comeback. Using self-deprecating humour or putting yourself down before the bully can come up with an insult also takes away his power.

  3. Directly confront your bully. Be assertive and confidently speak to your bully while looking her in the eye and firmly telling her, "Stop teasing me or mocking me." You also may share your feelings with your bully at this time by using "I" statements. For example, "I want you to quit mocking me" or "I feel disrespected when you ignore me." It is important to remember that bullies bully because of their own anger and insecurity issues. You may not get a response but do not take it personally. She most likely interacts this way with many others.

  4. Enlist outside help. If you have tried all other angles, it is necessary to ask someone to help you with the bully. If you are being emotionally abused at the workplace, talk to your supervisor or another authority figure. If you are being bullied by an acquaintance, ask your friends to support you. Make social plans that exclude the bully or force him to engage in a positive manner.

  5. Tip

    If you must report adult emotional bullying in the workplace, be sure to keep a journal before going to your supervisor or boss. Record the dates, times and specifics of each bullying incident so you are armed with solid facts with which your bully cannot argue.


    If you choose to verbally engage with your bully, be careful of erratic behaviour that may turn dangerous.

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About the Author

Jessica Morelock began her professional writing career in 2007, after a three-year stint as a producer and co-host on Sirius Satellite Radio. She has also worked for the airline industry and as a travel agent. She completed a bachelor's degree in political science at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.

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