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With bullying being such a hot topic these days, it’s rarely mentioned how this behavior extends beyond childhood. But as adults, many of us recognize a bully when we see him/her. People are out there that take pride in “pushing buttons” to make others embarrassed or uncomfortable, especially in public, abusive in places of high position in employment or societal settings, or family members that continue to hold a tight-fisted reign beyond the boundaries of grown children with families of their own.
Unlike my childhood bullying experience, I never came to a revelation on how to bring down adult bullies because the relationship is so different. I had family members that seemed to enjoy belittling my siblings, my mother, and myself in public, and I could never say anything because it was family. Playing the “fight the bully back” card was out of the question! So what did I do? Separate myself physically and emotionally from the bullies. I moved away, almost never came home, and the bully relatives created a polite, successful, and indifferent child to be proud of. The problem is, family bullies never seem to know the difference.
Professional bullies are tough as well. As a woman in a field of 95% men, the expected yelp from me would be “sexual harassment!” or “unequal treatment!” That’s not how it happens, at least, not with me. Men I worked with early on knew better than to do any ridiculous breast pinching or behind slapping, or asking for dates. The bullying was more of a exclusion; they guys were part of the group, included in educational activities, and I found myself carrying the workload during those days of “fellowship.” How did I deal with those bullies? Time and perseverance will erase the past. After years of working, I can see an adult bully a mile away and predict what they will do and say, and go from there. Nothing spoils an adult bully more than lack of intimidation. As far as employers bullying, it happens, but with cellphones, laws, and witnesses, not so easy. I’ve learned to tread lightly and be respectful, let them blow off steam (often that is the case), and some bosses want to see what you can take. Handle it, and sometimes it disappears into a different relationship. (Please, I understand this is not a fit for all).
People are around that love to make fun at the expense of others. Nowadays, with casual threats, I say, “Are you threatening a person that writes books about an assassin?” (I'm kidding!) Amazing silence follows. Another one is “Miss Manners would not approve.” Nobody likes to be told they have bad manners. As bad as childhood bullying is, it doesn’t end there, but adulthood brings freedom to recognize it for what it is and not to let it define who you are.