6 Signs You're An Adult Bully And Why You Seriously Need To STOP

Love, Self

Out of these signs, which describe you? Could you be a bully? It's more plausible than you think.

Bully is a word that has been known for a long time, but the idea behind it and the scars it creates have become a recent "hot topic" for schools, families, communities, and relationships all around the world. It is not a new idea. I would guess it has been around as long as we have (Adam and Eve, The Big Bang, whatever your belief).

The word, according to the dictionary, comes from 16th century Dutch, and meant lover. However, it has since come to mean a person who intimidates, coerces, and habitually picks on smaller or weaker persons (also according to the dictionary).

My children are learning about bullying at school. It has become an "epidemic," according to many parents and educators. However, bullying was always there—it was just not as recognized as it is today.

It is my belief that Columbine (the tragic high school shoot out) and similar instances have brought bullying to our attention. We have had too many things happen where we can no longer look away and pretend it is "just how it is."

This is often how we are still learning our lessons as humans. It has to really be painful in order for us to want to create change. We do not change what we do not notice or what we accept as "part of life." We change what has hurt us deeply.

We all bully to some extent. ... What?!

I know, I know, not you. You would never. But, we do ... all of us. It is part of being human. I hold out hope for all humankind that we continue to combat this need to bully, and continue on a path to greater connectivity and enlightenment where we learn to truly treat each other well. Okay, that was my pulpit speech, back to the bullying.

How do I bully, you ask? Or, maybe you do not ask; maybe you already know you do it. I will tell you, the ones crying, "I am being bullied" are often the best secret bullies. I have been one myself, though it is sad to say. 

We all know about the bully who steals your lunch money and tells you he will "kick your ass" if you tell on him. This, or a similar stereotype, may spring to mind when we hear the word "bully," but bullying takes many forms, and I want to bring to light a few that are even more dangerous to another's psychological well-being.  Because, they are more subtle, less obvious, and sometimes hard to even recognize—I call it emotional bullying.
 Yes, that kind of bullying.

1. Lying or Pretending

What? Lying is lying. Yes, it is, but it can also be used to bully.

  • Saying you did not do something that you did do, in order to prove your point or get your way.
  • Pretending you did not understand or do something, to save your butt and get your way ... or, just to get your way.
  • Blaming someone else for your mistake to get your way and save your butt.
  • Taking credit for someone else's work/idea to get your way or look good.

Do you see my point here?

Pretending everything is okay while doing things behind another's back is also bullying and lying. It is also referred to as passive-aggressive. I will get my way, but not when you are looking and not when you know about it. I will quietly do things while smiling to your face. I can say no more; you know what I mean—the secret, smiling bully (the passive-aggressive).

2. The Silent Treatment

Did you say something? Oh, I was not paying attention because I do not care about what you say because you are of little or no consequence when it comes to me getting my way. I will not talk to you until you cave and tell me I was right and you are wrong, or you apologize for not letting me get my way.

I think I have made my point here.

3. Withholding Emotions or Approval

We do this to our children, our siblings, our spouses. We call it "teaching them," and, "behavior modification," instead of what it really is—bullying with a nicer name. Until you do things exactly the way I want them, I will not give you any emotional feedback or approval.

While I have used this technique because I did not know any other, I have since learned it does not support my belief that we are all creative, resourceful and whole ... which is what I learned in my coaching certification and always knew it deep down as seeing the "good" in everyone.

If you truly believe that someone is creative, resourceful and whole, regardless of age (I do understand age limitations on cognitive understanding of abstract ideas, mind you), then the conversation changes and you do not need to withhold. (More on that later in the part of stopping these behaviors.) With children, you may need to withhold toys/games/privileges, but not emotions.

4. Wearing Another Down to Get Your Way

There are numerous ways to do this, and two of them are listed right above: Withholding and the silent treatment. There are also other methods:

  • Talking someone to death—asking the same question over and over and over until they tell you what you want to hear.
  • Discussing it to death (same idea)—not ending the conversation until the other party agrees with you.
  • Financial force—if you control the money in the relationship, it is taking away things that you know they want.
  • Repayment—making your spouse submit a detailed business plan for the repayment of family money for something that they want.

The list is endless. Again, I think you can "read my mail," or "see what I am saying."

5. Saying "No," "You Are Wrong," or Constant Criticism

When the first thing out of your mouth is "no," there is little room for negotiation or discussion. When you start from "no," there is no place for your spouse/friend/child to go. And, discounting everything your spouse/child/friend says, by telling them they are wrong or saying no, just creates deep emotional issues of not being worthy of being heard or known. It stops all communication. It taints the communication that has already happened. 

As I tell my children, "Every time you say no, a door closes." Sometimes the door needs to close. Like, "Hey, Mom, can I run out in the street in front of this big truck?" "No!" No door needed there. But, that is extreme example. 

When you set out to "prove someone wrong" at every turn, you completely undermine who they are. You are, in essence, telling them that they do not belong in the world because they think "wrong." The thought process inside of them is broken. What a sad way to feel about yourself, and it is a sad thing to show someone else.

6. Adult Temper Tantrums

Oh, yes. I know we all recognize them in children, but I have seen so many adults have them, too. I have no doubt you have as well. 

An adult temper tantrum can be humorous and a bit scary ... the scary part being that it can often work. The temper tantrum gets the adult's way even more often that the child's because they know how to "wear the opponent down," and can play better mind games. They can throw barbs that hit just the right emotional triggers for the other person(s), and lead all feeling abused and scarred. It is ugly, while still child-like.

Some examples:

  • Yell and scream.
  • Call the other person names and call out insecurities loudly—sometimes in front of others, sometimes alone.  This is also called verbal abuse.

These examples may seem like everyday things that we all do, and they are. However, to elevate our relationships, we need to really look at these items and work toward eliminating them. I hope we can learn how to look at one another as creative, resourceful and whole, and allow whatever anyone else needs or feels to become just as important as our own needs. Not because we need to meet them for that person, we just need to allow them to express them and be able to meet them themselves. 

Here is a very important lesson for all humans (myself included): we do not always need to get what we want. No, really. For those that are bullied: we do not always need to give up what we want.

There is a balance that needs to be found in each relationship. I know, crazy idea: balance. Our whole existence is about attempting to find balance, if you really break it down. But, that is a topic for another day.

All of these behavior examples hold the same basic premise for the bully: I need to control something or someone mentally or physically or both, and how I control them is by getting my way or making it all about me through physical or emotional means.

If we can heal this, it can make all of the difference. Even bullies are not broken. They are also creative, resourceful and whole, but somewhere along the way they found a method of social and personal interaction that feels like it is beneficial to them. Underneath, it hurts them as much as it hurts the person they bully.

If this list is your way of life and you see nothing wrong with it, then go right ahead and keep it up. You are living a lonely life, though. Always being the one to push and get your way pushes people away, maybe not physically, but emotionally, it certainly does.

If we are all equal, then our conversation changes. We say what we need; we do not need to throw a fit and make everyone else really unhappy to get what we want or need. Or, we quietly ruin them behind their backs. This is not an easy task to put aside years of conditioning and actually "say out loud" what you need or want. If you need to discuss it, present what you want, not what is wrong with the other person for not giving it to you. 

This is really about learning to live together, not working on furthering our own agenda in every action. This is about building real relationships and connections with others.

In what I refer to as "real" relationships, we are not proving ourselves, forcing ourselves, or competing with each other. We are supporting and loving without all of that other noise. A rivalry-type relationship can help bring out the best in each other, but can destroy a vulnerability that needs to exist in deeply connected relationships. Save the rivalry for people you do not wish to be deeply connected with.

So, what now? We need to stop all of this, but how?

How do I stop bullying?

There are questions you can ask yourself when you feel that you MUST get your way and begin to unravel the knotted cord that has been building on itself your whole life. If you are unable to do it before you push to get your own way, then look at it after you have been an emotional bully.

As I tell my children, it is never too late to apologize. That does not mean it will fix anything, but it will allow you to let it go, knowing you tried to fix it. And, learning how to really communicate and "be together" takes time and practice.

Here are questions to begin the process:

1. What is it I really want?

Say, for example, you want a new car, and you are used to just pushing until you get what you want. You are ready to do just that ... push. Ask yourself: what is this really all about?

  • Do I need to be noticed?
  • Do I need a new car because mine is dying?
  • Do I need a new car because I am jealous of someone else?
  • Do I need a new car because I just think I deserve one?

Then, take it deeper.

  • If I am jealous, what am I really jealous of? The envy of that person or the car?
  • What do they have or I think they have that I want? Is it approval? Is it a good relationship with their spouse?
  • If I deserve it, what makes that the case? Because I work hard? Am I the only one who works hard? Am I the only one who deserves it because I have not had one in a while?

So, what is not being noticed inside of you that needs attention? Do you feel appreciated?

Another example is criticizing your spouse about something like not closing the dishwasher. If you continually discuss this issue, and you are not making any headway in resolving it, you need to look at what it means to you. What message am I getting when he does not close the dishwasher door? What is important about it to me?

Does it just look sloppy? Have you hit your shin on it too many times? What is under that? Do you feel like your spouse does not care that you like it to be clean? Or, that you are getting hurt because it is open? And what is under that?

Do you feel rejected by your spouse because they will not do what you ask? Is that really what you think is happening? Could it be that they are just not understanding the importance of it and may never understand it? Can you be okay with that and just look for it and close it?

We often make more out of little things than is actually there because we do not look at what is really underneath the thought.

2. Is this important enough to potentially hurt those that I love?

If you are willing to hurt others by forcing your way, it must be pretty darn important.

  • What makes it so important?
  • Is it a basic need?
  • Would it cover a basic need for your family or friends?
  • Is it life or death?

Bullying often takes on this dramatic "life or death" aura that is just not true. Who would benefit most from this? Who else would benefit? 

3. Is it important or is it just about my ego?

Winning, proving, and showing off are all things that your ego requires, not your deep personal relationships. Does your spouse care if you drive a brand new Whamatoozi car, or that you are communicating deeply and sharing what is really going on in your heart and mind?

Well, maybe they do just care about what you drive, and maybe that is where you are. That is okay, but that is not what this article is about. And, if they do not actually care, then you need to think about what makes it so important to you, as stated earlier.

  • Does it matter if all of the neighbors really like your car?
  • Does it matter if you look good driving up to your friend's house?
  • Does it matter if you look good driving down the road and others turn their heads and look?
  • Really? What do these things give you that you are not getting?

Bullies need to feel control. Often, it is because they themselves have been bullied and do not know of another way to get what they want. If you have read this far, you are thinking, seriously? This makes it sound like we are all bullies if we try to get our own way at any time in our lives.

Maybe we are. I would guess that most of the population has used one of these tactics at some point in their lives. Or maybe, it is not about getting our own way, but how we go about it. Maybe it is more about hoping to get what we want, but not counting on it and hurting others if we do not. 

Isn't war just a larger scale form of bullying? Isn't it about one country or group of countries wanting to control something at the same time as another country or countries? Not that I am simplifying some of the horrific things that have brought on some wars, but really ... look and break it down. It is bullying.

What if it is time to elevate ourselves from this type of treatment and behavior? What if it is time to really start treating each other well? That is what I hope for every singe day. 

Honestly, I am tired of watching the anger and the fighting on all levels—personal, city, state, country, whatever. There is always a middle ground. There is always another way to say what you need or want. There is always another reaction to someone else saying what they need or want, even if they approach it in a way that is like a bully. You do not have to take the bait and play victim. You can just calmly respond to whatever is said and let it go.

There is so much more that can be said about this, but I think I may have written too much already.

Let me break it down into three steps:

  • Look at what you really need/want.
  • Say it with kindness.
  • Let it go.

If you get what you want/need, great; if not, you can try again another day. However, if it truly is about survival, getting your basic needs of food clothing and shelter met, then these rules do not apply. Then, you are trying to survive, and that must be fulfilled in order to move on in your spiritual growth.  

I hope this article reached you in some way, good or bad.


Explore YourTango