How to find courage to confront an adult bully is a matter that presents a challenge. We began to tackle the question in Part 1 of this 4-part series.
We looked at the necessity of beginning at the beginning – “a very good place to start” according to the lyrics of “Do Re Mi” from “The Sound of Music.”
Next, we investigated four (4) possible locations in which you might find courage to confront an adult bully. It was not until we reached the fourth location that we found, with a prerequisite, the courage we want.
You will want to read the first post in the series before plunging into this one. You will find courage defined in that post. You will also discover the striking difference between preferences and convictions.
Learning how to find courage to confront an adult bully resembles a puzzle with a missing piece – how to identify an adult bully.
You must define a bully before you can even think about finding courage to confront a person as such. So let’s study adult bullies enough to know one when we see one.
THE ADULT BULLY’S FACE
Adult bullies can seem to be quite featureless. That is, you cannot always tell from a face whether you are looking at a bully. Bullies I have known included a tall, seemingly charismatic, well-dressed man who had achieved a fair measure of success in the workplace. Bullies among former neighbors included a happy-go-lucky hairdresser with seemingly few worries in the world. The adult bully does not wear a particular bully facemask. You have to look deeper to recognize one.
Researchers suggest that we look at personality to define adult bullies. Bullies, they say, tend to exhibit a certain personality style. Here are some similarities you might see.
Aggressive Communication: Adult bullies express their feelings and their needs without thinking about the feelings and needs of others. You may find this from the workplace to the family. They let you know what they think by hitting you with an emotional force that doesn’t give you a right to say what you need.
Indifference – Coldness: The adult bully treats others as meaningless humans. An adult bully is likely to show no understanding toward you and your needs or desires. You might just as well become an annoying fly. The bully cares very little whether you live or die – as long as it will not affect him or her.
Without a Conscience: Like a sociopath, the adult bully acts as though he or she never got a conscience. Adult bullies may act as though they are morally outraged at your behavior, but their behavior never seems to bother their consciences. They act as though they themselves can do practically anything, and then act as if nothing happened.
Domineering: The adult bully likes to be in charge, providing opportunities to push others around. These bullies admire others who act that way, and strive to mimic their actions. They admire the use of physical strength or the abuse of authority to force others to do things the way they want them done.
Unrealistic Expectations: Adult bullies look at their personal needs or desires, look at the world of people around them, and insist that their needs be met “now” and not at the convenience of someone else. Add to that the unrealistic expectation that others will adjust their schedules to meet the bullies’ convenience.
The Adult Bully’s Courage
The adult bully’s courage resembles – well – nothing. Bullies do not possess courage. For all their bluster, bullies are cowardly. Look at the representation of a woman above. Her inner “knees” knock together in fear at the idea that someone might see what she is on the inside. You may not see outward actions that belie her heart, but she knows inside that her true character isn’t worth a penny to others. She creates a false image to make others think she belongs on a gilded pedestal, and then lies about it and lords it over others. If people try to force her to tell the truth, she silences them.
Finding courage and confronting an adult bully becomes easier when you know that. Bullies pick on people whom they sense are weaker than they are.
The Adult Bully’s Victims
The adult bully can see you as a weaker person, and set out to conquer you. Remain unresponsive and yielding around a bully, and he / she will likely victimize you, i.e., harass or persecute you. For your part, you may be doing little or nothing when the aggressor tests your response to aggressive communications. You may not fight aggression with aggression, but the bully defines your passivity as the mark of an easy prey. You become a victim.
How can you find courage to confront an adult bully when you receive such treatment? Can you confront an adult bully in such a way that you cause retreat?
Confronting THE ADULT Bully
Effective confrontation calls for moral courage – the courage of convictions. Reliance on convictions can destroy bullying. Let her frown. Let her purse her lips. Let her fold her arms. Let her stare at you. Just face the bully with STRONG convictions rather than preferences. Do not “prefer” that you get back your “milk money.” State your strongly held belief that you have a right to the milk money, and stand firm for your right. Read the following true story and I think you will understand better.
The college’s Executive VP welcomed his new secretary by saying, “My former assistant faced a desk piled high with paperwork every morning, but she got most of it done on time – well, done close to on time. This is a busy office, but I’ll understand if you have trouble keeping up to things at first.”
Pam Secretary smiled, and got busy. By week’s end, everyone including her boss expressed amazement. Not only was her desktop visible – it was organized and dusted!
That is when word reached the ears of a senior office worker, Mary Bully. Ms. Bully marched aggressively to the outer VP office, dumped a stack of her own department’s work across the desktop, and ordered Ms. Secretary to do it.
“I’m sorry, but that isn’t VP office work,” the independent secretary said calmly.
“All of the offices help me!” Ms. Bully declared curtly. “Your predecessor helped me!”
Ms. Secretary refused victimization. “My contract is with the Executive VP,” she said. “I would breach my contract if I gave him less than a full day’s work for a full day’s pay.”
Furious, Ms. Bully escalated the war. She scooped up the pile of work and delivered it to other offices, disparaging Ms. Secretary as she went. A week later, she returned. “You must help!” she told Pam Secretary. “We have a campus-wide event coming, and this work has got to be done before that.”
Pam Secretary stood her ground. “The workload in this office multiplied for the event, too. Perhaps you could take advantage of the student-assistant program.”
Mary Bully stormed down the hallway, stopping at each door to vent her anger. As days passed, her visits to the VP office proliferated. She harassed Ms. Secretary constantly. Finally, Mary Bully went in and complained to the VP himself.
The VP led Ms. Bully out to Ms. Secretary’s office, and asked why she would not help with Ms. Bully’s work.
“Sir,” Pam answered respectfully, “if work belongs to the Executive VP office, I take full responsibility because of our contract and my convictions. The same convictions forbid me to become enslaved to other departments or use your time for their work.”
Ms. Bully bristled, but the VP said, “Mary, my secretary will not be helping you.”
Mary Bully wheeled around and left. Courage of convictions confronted the adult bully and won!
Learn how to find courage to confront an adult bully, and then keep these things in mind as you move to confront.