Adult Bullying

“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.” ―Unknown

The term adult bullying sounds absurd doesn’t it. When we were kids we often thought that once we became an adult no would bully us anymore. Well, we thought wrong, because adult bullying is a real thing, with today’s fast-paced life, stress and being cornered with duties have led us to become jerks and insensitive to others. Be it your boss, colleague/s, a romantic partner, siblings/cousins or other family members, some client or even a friend these condescending bullies don’t leave any chance (time or place) to vent their frustration out on their victims.

What is considered as adult bullying?

In terms of definition, when an adult is being bullied it would make them feel oppressed, humiliated, de-energized or belittled. All these are the result of the cruel action by the perpetrator including insults, ridicule, threats, public shaming, and invasion of one’s personal space or unauthorised personal contact.

Harassment v Bullying

Although both the terms are quite often used synonymously, they both are hurtful and destructive behavior. The similarities they bare are, they both center on the disproportion of power between victim and bully, acts to intentionally hurt or harm the victim and the perpetrator having trouble to stop their actions against the victim.

The difference is when the bullying is targeted to those belonging to a protected class, then it becomes harassment. Protected class include: race, religion, national origin, sex, age, disability and color.

Different types of adult bullies

Tangible/ Material bully: These include those who have a large disparity of power between them. They are most likely to use their formal power, like your boss or manager/ client or they might have dominion/ control over your finances/livelihood, which they use a leverage to threaten you.

Verbal bully: These tyrants take pleasure in shaming, insulting or belittling other with words. They relentlessly criticize or cruelly tease or publicly shame their targets. Regrettably, they make sexist, racist, homophobic or threatening remarks.

Passive- Aggressive bullying: Remember how the old Indian serials depicted the mothers-in-law behavior towards the daughters-in-law. Well, they are known as the passive-aggressive bullies, they show an amicable outward act but take unexpected swings at you. They tend to gossip, use hurtful jokes and sarcasm, spread rumors, make rude facial expressions and ridicule their victims. They isolate their victims causing them to become anxious and insecure.

Cyberbully: With the rapid growth in the internet bullying has taken a virtual form. Not only teenagers but vulnerable adults have become victims to harassing emails, text messages, and social media. The anonymity of the internet provides people with the power to say anything and be unapologetically insensitive about it to others.

Physical bully: These entails those who stimulates violence like raising their fist as if to strike, throwing or breaking stuff, to physically, domestically or sexually abuse. 

What to do if you’re a victim?

Select your battles: Decide how to act depending on the severity of the bully’s action. If they are not too violent or harmful and you come in contact with the bully only once in a while (for example an abuse relative or your boss), you may want to keep distance. You may pick and choose your battles if they aren’t directly toxic/harmful to you.

Look them in the eye: Ensure you make eye contact with your perpetrator as bullies tend to have less empathy when they don’t see your eyes or face.

Document the offence: Keep a record every single time, if you have decided to complaint. If the offence is of sexual or physical in nature make sure to loge an official complaint.

Talk to someone about your abuse, call out on the atrocious act of your bully or write a blog so your courage can be an example to other suffering the same. You may lack the courage but by telling someone, they’ll help you and you don’t have to do this alone.

If you’re the bully

Seek emotional support or therapy (whether its court mandated or self realization). In quite some cases bullies have had a traumatic childhood and quite often are themselves victims of domestic violence, physical abuse, or other forms of abuse.

For those who are experiencing bullying might have trouble sleeping, feel paranoid, experience increased anxiety, losing self-esteem and constantly feel on edge. Overcoming this would require years of therapy and support from those around. For the bystanders when you see someone undergoing bullying try helping them so the victim don’t feel so isolated and helpless.