Adult bullying happens to so many of us in our personal and professional lives but most people don’t talk about it.
In fact we’re supposed to just be OK with certain workplace cultures that are downright toxic. Or sit by in a friend group where a queen bee exerts herself as the mean girl against her victim.
Unfortunately bullying continues long after we leave school.
Adult bullies are dangerous and can be found in our personal and professional lives.
I know this firsthand because I have been bullied by both adult men and women.
In short, bullying is intentional behavior designed to hurt someone physically, emotionally or mentally.
Typically understood to be a problem children face and outgrow, reports show that bullying, and its subsequent impact on mental and physical health, continues long into adulthood—often in the workplace, home and educational setting.
Behavior from adult bullies is more subtle and sophisticated than what a child might employ.
A recent poll found a quarter of adults (25%) have experienced the ”silent treatment” from an individual or group on a repeated basis as an adult, while about 1 in 5 (21%) have had someone spread lies about them that no one refutes.
A bully gains power in a relationship by reducing another’s, and shows little regard for the consequences to a victim’s health or wellbeing.
Chances are, someone you know is being bullied and you’ve either ignored it or played into it by laughing with the bully, liking their inappropriate behavior on social media or quietly backed away rather than supported the victim.
One of the most unfortunate things that has happened to me over the past few years was being bullied by several people who I thought were friends or at least acquaintances. These were people in their 40s and 50s. They were grown adults. One was a woman and one was a man.
They seemed to enjoy picking on me, and I couldn’t figure out what I had done to deserve it.
I noticed that when someone is being bullied, many people don’t do anything about it. They stand back because I think they’re worried about being bullied themselves.
The man who bullied me was the good friend of the person with whom I was in a relationship.
Over the course of several years he was verbally abusive to me in person and via text. I was afraid of him.
He meddled in my friendships and my relationship. He posted negative things about me on social media. He gossiped about me. He was rude to my face. He intimidated me. He made disparaging remarks about me. He impersonated an ex of mine by setting up a fake phone number and tricking me to text with him to cause issues between me and my significant other. He lied and said I was online dating when I wasn’t in order to break up my relationship using an old screenshot of my profile as his “proof.” And the list goes on. He was on a mission to discredit and destroy me.
Who does that? Someone very unhappy with their own life and mentally unstable.
No matter what I said or did, or didn’t say or do he had an issue with me. It was almost like he was taking out his anger at the world and redirecting it on me.
I can’t for the life of me figure out what I did to deserve this and the truth is that nobody does. I was his punching bag and his anger toward me was misguided.
I didn’t know how to handle it and I didn’t want to make a bigger deal about it because I thought if I didn’t it would go away. But it just didn’t.
But here’s the thing – Bullying is not about you. At all. It’s about the bully. They are frequently insecure, may have been bullied as a child, are unhappy and they may be envious of something you have.
Many adult victims are told to “just get over it.”
“It’s not that big of a deal.”
“They’ll stop if you ignore them.”
“What, is this high school again? Who cares what they <say, do>?”
“Just deal with it, it’s just a <hug, nasty comment, lie>.”
But it’s not that easy.
Remember, you have no control over what other people say or do. But, you do have control over your response.
The best response to a bully is walking away and not showing them that their actions bother you. Their power tends to disappear when the target doesn’t react.
No matter what an adult bully says or does, try to remain polite or professional. Keep your responses free of emotion and anger. This gives them less ammunition against you and often makes them go away.
If they don’t go away, remove yourself.
Eventually their behavior will catch up with them and anyone who supports them is not someone you want in your life.
I did a mass cleansing of my friend group when this happened to me, leading to me having much more meaningful relationships now.
No one asks to be bullied and no one deserves it. Let’s shine light on this topic so we stop it.
In this video I talk about my experience with adult bullying.
And to that man and the woman who bullied me – and with whom karma eventually caught up – I hope you find grace and happiness someday and learn from this.