There is little written to adult bullies, even though they are prevalent. Maybe it is time for everyone to ask themselves, “Am I a bully?” Here are some questions I think everyone should reflect on. Try not to deflect these questions, but point the finger at yourself for a few minutes and reflect on your behaviour.
Do you intentionally try to hurt or upset someone else? You might be big or strong but many bullies are small and clever. Maybe because you are an adult, you mask your bullying behind a façade of trying to help, but really if you are honest with yourself, you are trying to control.
Do other people avoid your company? Perhaps they make excuses or say outright, “No, I can’t come”.
Do you regularly share your opinion even when people have not asked for it? People may argue or go silent because you intimidate them and you make it unsafe for them to have their own opinion.
If someone behaves in a way that you do not like or that hurts you, do you shun them, exclude them, or cut off contact? You may justify your behaviour because you believe they must change.
Do you assert your rules in an attempt to control how others behave? For example, “You will not talk to anyone else about this,” or “I do not want you involved,” or “This is how we do it.”
Do you bring in other people who are not involved to reprimand or punish the person you are trying to control? You tell the bystanders about the other person’s bad behaviour, neglecting to mention yours, manipulating the bystander to side with you.
Do you send indirect messages? This can be done with words. Asking, “Why did you do that?” implies that however the person did it was wrong. Or you may send encrypted written messages via social media that slyly prove your point but cunningly hurt your victim.
Do you see only the bad points of one particular person? These bad points support your opinion or maybe you are not open enough to see the good points. Or even worse, you forget that you are human and possibly you are wrong.
Do you find yourself often having to apologize for your behaviour? This pattern will repeat itself because your bully behaviour does not stop, it just changes. Eventually your apologies only illicit silence or short responses as the person you are bullying does not feel safe enough to discuss anything with you.
As a bully you make other people uncomfortable. The only thing that changes is the degree of discomfort. Quite often bullies thrive on a reaction from their victim. Bullies will persist until they get a reaction and then they learn from that reaction, evaluate their tactics and continue to bully.
But you know what? Bullying will usually end once the victim stops caring and removes themselves from your reach. And then they go on to a happy life and you’re left in search of your next victim.
If you are a bully you have the power to stop the behaviour. You might not be able to do this alone but the first step is to admit to yourself that you are a bully, and get yourself some help so that you can change.
Look for someone who can be objective. The people closest to you may not want to see that you’re a bully, or may even try to convince you that you’re not. Either they get some kind of benefit from your bully behaviour or they might not feel safe enough with you to be honest.
Change happens when you see the thoughts and behaviours you need to address, take accountability, visualize the adjusted behaviour and remain motivated. It takes work but ultimately everyone will be happier. A strong person is one who can take accountability for their actions, not judging or controlling others but humbly getting help to change themselves.