Recently, I fell victim to an adult bully. Only I didn’t know it. My partner pointed it out.
I should have known. After all, I was bullied relentlessly throughout my childhood and teen years.
But adult bullies are more cunning. Cleverer. A snide comment here, a subtle manipulation there. And you just shrug it off as “that’s just her.”
But even if it is ‘just her’, should it be? And how should we deal instead?
Dealing with an adult bully
This was the first time (in my 30s, at least!) I faced a grown-up bully — and one who I thought was a friend.
It was tricky territory. So I went a-browsing on the Interwebs.
Oddly, there wasn’t a whole lot to find.
Plenty of tips for kids. But it’s different when you’re a little more ‘seasoned’. You can’t just go tell a teacher, or threaten to beat them up behind the bike shed after class (JOKING! Do NOT, I repeat do NOT, do that kids!)
Then there were tips for dealing with bullies at work. Like a colleague who tries to undermine you to steal your job. Or a boss who makes inappropriate comments.
But a bully, who’s a friend, in their 30s or 40s?
Not much advice out there. Sadly.
So, I wrote a list in my journal of my options. I decided I could:
- Call my friend out on her bullying. But I loathe confrontation – it makes me seriously anxious. My heart thrashes wildly in my chest, my mouth dries, and I await being punched in the face.
- Be supportive. Assume the bullying comes from a place of insecurity (after all, why put down someone who isn’t egging you on? To get power, or feel better about yourself). And ask my friend if she needs support. But will it resolve anything?
- Ignore it and carry on as normal. Nah. I’ll only just silence my feelings, and have them manifest in other ways – like a physical illness or more anxiety. Plus, it wouldn’t help grow a healthy friendship. And it would teach her that I’m happy to be pushed around.
- Walk away from the friendship. Just, stop. No longer let this person sap my precious free time. No longer allow negative, hurtful people into my inner sanctum. Show to them, myself, the world that I deserve good friends, because I try so hard to be a good friend myself.
Guess what I chose?
Ding ding ding! Option 4.
Because I didn’t want to confront a bully head-on, when I wasn’t sure she’d even get where I was coming from. And I didn’t want to submissive in asking how I can help her improve her behaviour. And I didn’t feel it was right to ignore it and give a green light to more bullying.
So, the only option was to walk away.
After all, that’s the best thing about being an adult. You CAN just walk away from the people and situations that no longer serve you.
You CAN exit stage left and never look back.
You CAN have the final say over who you let into your life. And whether you’ll accept their behaviour.
Life is short. Friendships are precious. So why waste it on a bad egg?
Have you ever had to deal with an adult bully? What was your strategy?