What to do about bullying

This is a follow-up to last weekend’s blog on Reverse Assertiveness, at the end of which I promised to post something on how to handle bullies, control freaks and manipulators.

Walk away or stand up to them!

The first thing to realise about these people is that they play by their own rules. They are not interested in communicating with you – only in getting their own way.

So the simplest advice to give you is not to play their game. If you are up against them then walk away. It’s no use trying to ‘communicate’ with them, because you won’t win. If you don’t want to walk away then you are going to have to stand up to them.

Stay cool

People who use communication as a form of warfare are past masters at intimidating others. And – if that tactic doesn’t work then they will throw a tantrum, abuse you or sulk.

So, if you stand up to them, then don’t rise to the bait.

  • Stay grounded in your body
  • Stay calm
  • Keep your voice level
  • Maintain eye contact
  • Don’t react to insults
  • Stick to the point you want to make

Rehearse ahead

If I am working with a client in Reverse Therapy who is learning how to handle an ogre I nearly always advise them to walk away first and rehearse what they want to say before going back into the ring.

I get them to use the Reverse Assertiveness process as a framework. For example:

  • Event – Last time we met you lost your temper…..
  • Consequence – and we ended up getting nowhere.
  • Appreciation – I know this means a lot to you.
  • Need – But I need you to listen to my point of view as well.

It can be good to practice saying this in the mirror, several times, while staying grounded, etc.

Never attack a bully head on. This just cues them to attack you in return and solves nothing.

Use phrases like ‘your point of view’ and ‘the way I see it’ not ‘you’re wrong’, or ‘you tried to bully me’, etc.

Choose ONE point you want to make and stick to it. That could be telling them to letting you finish speaking, keeping their voice down, refrain from name-calling, etc. Don’t deviate from the point.

Be ready to repeat parts of the Even Cod Need Air process again if things get heated. For example:

  • Event – ‘You’re shouting again.
  • Consequence – ‘I am getting frustrated’
  • Need – ‘Please keep your voice down’
  • Consequence – ‘If you don’t calm down I am going to have to leave the room’

Keep on making the single point you have rehearsed until either:

a) you have finished, or

b) you have walked away once more

Be ready for a climb-down. I have noticed over and over again that, when you stand up to bullies they can reverse, surprisingly quickly, into very reasonable people. But don’t be fooled. Sometimes that can just be a way of stringing you along into a false sense of security.  So don’t back down.

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