Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Stand Up To Grown-Up Size Bullies

Did you know that not all bullies are on the playground? Some bullies grow up and steamroll other people in their close relationships. You need to be able to identify if you are being bullied so that you can set limits, back away from the bullying behavior, and take back your own power over your own life and self-confidence. Nobody deserves to be bullied. It also doesn't bring people closer or make them love the bully. These controlling and dominating behaviors make you feel distant, unheard, and build resentment.

How do you know if you are in a relationship with a bully? Here are some warning signs you are in a relationship with one:

They deliver monologues.

They lecture.

They don't listen well.

They believe they are always right.

They are rigid and inflexible with others.

They use the words "me" and "mine" often, rather than "we" and "our".

They have difficulty shifting to see anyone else's perspective.

They yell, rant, and otherwise steamroll you.

They pout if they don't get their way.

They make verbal threats, for example threatening divorce to their partner anytime they don't get their way, or threatening their son or daughter to stop paying for college expenses.

They won't respond honestly or in an upfront way to your questions.

They manage the information they share, often withholding basic information in order to retain control.

They resist teamwork and can't share, negotiate, or compromise.

They are jealous of your friendships and healthy relationships with others. They can find something critical to say about everyone else you are close to. They want to isolate you.

They belittle, criticize, and otherwise marginalize you.

They are passive-aggressive with you, doing sneaky, mean, and deceptive actions to "get you back" for some perceived slight.

Why do people become bullies? It's often based on insecurity and emotional immaturity. People who really feel good about themselves don't need to cut others down to size or manipulate and bully to get their own way. The relational bully may have felt "less than" growing up and now is diminishing and controlling others to try to fill the gaps in their self-esteem.

What if you recognize yourself in these bullying relational patterns? Stop. Breathe. Listen more to others. Lecture less. Admit your mistakes. Practice restating what another person has told you about THEIR feelings so that you can really take it in, rather than simply pausing your lecture and resuming it. Honor other people's opinions, even if they are different from your own. Practice tolerance. Stop trying to withhold information. Be direct. Allow others to be themselves, and not be your clone. After all, that's what creates true intimacy and the closeness you desire; not mind-control. Deal with your own insecurities and fears. Relationships mean nothing if they are not based on mutual respect, and you have to give it to get it. It never works to demand respect or intimacy; you have to earn it.

What if this is your partner or your parent? Remind yourself that you have your own right to disagree or see a situation differently. Speak up. Step away.  Fill your life up with other positive people and projects. Don't allow the bully to destroy your confidence and self-esteem. Recognize this sad, poorly skilled behavior for what it is. State your own view respectfully. Don't be intimidated. See the bullying behavior accurately: a pathetic attempt of an unskilled person to always win. It won't work on you.

It's been said that everybody gets older, but maturity is optional. Some bullies graduate from school and go on attempting to control others all their lives. Let's not let them win. All important relationships have a foundation of mutual respect, honoring unique differences, and genuinely seeking to understand the intimate other, not coerce them into submission. If the bully in your life can't shift with your new dance steps, you may need to set big, healthy new boundaries for yourself. Life is too short to not stand up to relationship bullies.

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