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Toxic People: Part 4

Nov 05, 2020


Today, 5th November, is International Day Against Violence and Bullying at School. As part of our current discussion on toxic people, we will focus on bullying today. However, along with bullying at school, our focus will also be on adult bullying.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a bully as a blustering, browbeating person; especially one who is habitually cruel, insulting, or threatening to others who are weaker, smaller, or in some way vulnerable.

Childhood bullies torture others physically and mentally. They beat up weak kids, make fun of obese and slow kids, and embarrass others whenever the opportunity arises. Mental, verbal, or emotional abuse is often worse than physical abuse because only the abused individual can see and feel the damage.

Bullies attack your weaknesses and vulnerabilities to feel better about themselves. They also use your past mistakes or secrets to embarrass you or bring you down in front of other people. They bully people they feel inferior to, as an attempt to knock them down to their level, or they bully someone else to get other people’s attention.

Bullying Amongst Adults
Bullying amongst adults is quite common. Often, adult bullies are friends with, or family members of, the people they bully. What better way is there to know your vulnerabilities and weaknesses than to know you on a personal level? If they trick you into trusting them, you’ll be more likely to share your secrets.

The adult victim believes the bully because they think the bully shows cares for them. “I believe they like me and are my friend. So, if they care about me, maybe what they’re saying is true. Maybe I don’t deserve success. Maybe I won’t measure up. Maybe I’ll always make mistakes, do poorly…”

2 Common Ways That Adults Bully Each Other

  1. Tangible/material bullying – Using one’s formal power (i.e. title or position) or material leverage (i.e. financial, informational, or legal) as forms of intimidation, threat or harassment. In these scenarios, the bully uses his or her advantage in stature and/or resources to dominate and control the victim. The greater the power, the more dangerous the abuse.
  2. Passive-aggressive or covert bullying – This is a less frequently mentioned form of bullying, but in some ways it’s the most insidious. With many bullies, you can see them coming because they are quick to make their intimidating presence known.

Examples of passive-aggressive and covert bullying include negative gossip, negative joking at someone’s expense, sarcasm, condescending eye contact, facial expression or gestures, mimicking to ridicule, deliberately causing embarrassment and insecurity, and deliberately sabotaging someone’s well-being, happiness, and success.

A bully doesn’t always need an audience. A husband or wife can bully the other by continually reminding him or her of mistakes or flaws, or by putting down his or her ideas, or just disagreeing with everything the spouse says.

What To Do

Firstly, remember that bullying has nothing to do with you. It’s the bully who’s insecure. Someone who hates you normally hates you for one of three reasons: They see you as a threat. They hate themselves. Or they want to be you.

Unless strong and effective boundaries are established, the bully is likely to repeat and intensify the abuse. The most important thing to keep in mind about bullies is that they pick on those whom they perceive as weaker. So, as long as you remain passive and compliant, you make yourself a target. Many bullies are also cowards: When their victims begin to show backbone and stand up for their rights, a bully will often back down. This is true in school-yards, as well as in domestic and office environments.

When confronting bullies, be sure to place yourself in a position where you can safely protect yourself, whether it’s standing tall on your own, having other people present as witnesses and support, or keeping a paper trail of the bully’s inappropriate behaviour. In cases of physical, verbal, or emotional abuse, consult with counselling or contact people that can help. It’s important to stand up to bullies—and you don’t have to do it alone.

If you find yourself in a situation where it is not possible to seek help, then try as much as possible to avoid the bully. Keep your distance. This is in a case where nobody believes you or everyone who could help is under the ‘control’ of the bully.


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