mean people bullies roaches

4 ways to respond to bullies (shining the light on the roach)

Ever wished you knew how to respond to the bullies in your life? You know, those people who feel free to say things that hit us right where we are most vulnerable? A co-worker, a family member, a boss, a neighbor: whoever they are, their words catch you up short and leave you gagging for the right response. No more! Here are four ways to fend off the bully without becoming one yourself.

A little background: My mother grew up in South Georgia where, according to her, “the roaches grow as big as your thumb.” She says she would occasionally return to the kitchen for a late night snack or a glass of water. She’d switch on the light and too often she would spy one or more of those nasty monster roaches scurrying into cracks and crevices, hurrying out of sight.

When I learned about this phenomenon, I considered a parallel: like roaches, bullies spread nastiness with every flick of their tongues. I wondered: What kind of light could cause these humanesque roaches to skitter away? I came up with several.

  • “That’s mean.” I know of grown men and women who still make jokes at the expense of others. It’s tempting to throw back a barb or two of our own, isn’t it? But, really, we don’t need to become roaches to defeat them. Just turn on the light by saying, “That’s mean.” If the person then continues to pick on you, repeat yourself. (Some roaches are nearsighted, and may need you to keep turning up the voltage on your light.)
  • “Could you explain?” This light works particularly well on roaches who cloak their insults in false compliments. These roaches say things like, "You sure are brave to try college after the mess you made of high school." When someone says something like this to you, pull out your light and say, “Could you explain?” Continue to ask the question as long as you get an answer. Eventually, the roach will get frustrated and either escape to a darker place or say something outright nasty. If they do that, you say, “That’s mean.”
  • “Why do you ask?” A twist on the "Could you explain?" tactic, this one works best when the roach asks an insulting or invasive question. Imagine hearing the question, “Honey, haven’t you put on a few extra pounds lately?” Shine the light on them by responding, “Why do you ask?” Then just listen as they explain themselves, more than likely realizing along the way that they just need to hush.
  • Repeat the bully comment as a question. Roach still crawling around? Try this annoying trick: just repeat the comment back in the form of a question. Like this:
    • "You know you will never make any money with that major, right?"
      • "I won't make any money with this major?"
    • "No! No one makes a living with that degree."
      • "No one makes a living with this degree?"
    • "Of course not! There are no jobs for those graduates."
      • "So there are no jobs for those of us who graduate?"
        (Irritating isn't it? Probably even irritating enough to send a roach into hiding, don't you think?)

If the roach bully persists, do not give into the temptation to squash it. Violence: it's never good. Besides, if you allow yourself to crawl around on the level of the bully, you'll just get roachy yourself. Instead, stand firm and turn on all of your lights at once. The conversation might go like this:

Bully: "What is WRONG with you?"
Response: "Why do you ask?"

Bully: “You can't even understand English!"
Response: "You don't think I can understand English?

Bully: "Good grief! No one even likes you!"
Response: “Could you explain?

Bully: “You aren't just stupid, you're weird!"
Response: "Whoa, that's mean!"

Bully: "What is your problem?"
Response: "Why do you ask?"

(You get the point, right?)

Those are the ones I've found. What about you? What is your best response to a bully? Share in the comment section below!

About the Author Aileen Lawrimore

Aileen Mitchell Lawrimore is a mother x 3, wife x 28 (years not men), minister, speaker, writer, retreat leader, and lover of beagles and books. She has a lot to say.

Leave a Comment:

brandon russell says March 13, 2013

this could be helpful for me im kinda shy and when someone comes at me in certain ways im not sure how to react it's good to know there really are some things that work out so I don't have to become the bad guy.

James Hamlin says March 15, 2013

It sound so simple. I am going to try it. I can't wait for someone to be mean to me again.

Chris Baldwin says March 18, 2013

This resonates with me because I was bullied most of my early a consequence, now that I am big and strong enough to make it stick, I will not abide a bully! I may not have made the expression up, but I have always said "mean people SUCK!!" And another way of saying 'so...?' is to say "and..?" or "is that right?"
I have recently read a book, 'Controlling People'- no, it is not an instruction manual! The author suggests that one keeps saying 'what?' when someone says something controlling or manipulative- which is all meanness amounts to- in order that the person hears how ridiculous what they just said actually sounds , through repetition...And I can testify that it works, david; it REALLY works! Lastly, I absolutely love the imagery of the last line of your post...thankyou veddy much, I will be thinking of a giant flashlight every time someone is mean to me, now!

    Aileen Lawrimore says May 8, 2013

    Thanks for this thoughtful response Chris. Glad you could identify with the post.

Shamira Temple says March 26, 2013

I know a few people who reminds me of roaches with their actions! I plan to attack back by shining my light on them. I like the idea of keep saying 'what?' Cant wait to put these in effect. I got my light on high voltage now!

jill freeman says March 29, 2013

Sometimes I fall into these situations. I may not say much but enough not to get into a bicker. It can bug me but I'm fast to think of it this way...they just don't know any better. Then I just roll my eyes and giggle.

    Aileen Lawrimore says April 2, 2013

    Good for you Jill! Excellent way to handle it!

John Rogers says April 7, 2013

Mrs. Lawrimore,

After reading this I feel that "roaches" are everywhere! People can be, well..... ROACHES! I would be lying if I said I never made an off pudding comment, or that I didn't stop someone from dwelling in the dark and dragging me in with them. Things you see these days are people that want to be politically correct and not wanting to confrontational. All this does is allow people to get away with misbehavior. As I have aged, I have started to be more and more like my grandfather and father. I tend to call people out when they act like roaches now. This doesn't make me the most popular person but life isn't about being the most liked but instead I sleep very well at night as a result!

    Aileen Lawrimore says May 8, 2013

    Yes John, I find that I am better at calling a roach a roach now that I'm older! Thanks for reading. 🙂

Susie Burns says April 23, 2013

I like the analogy of people and roaches~ I have been thinking of many ways in which I can apply this moving forward to comments that others have made. I am also wondering about the level of or I am thinking the lack of conscious thinking that roaches do and then appying that forward to the human condition.

I love the prospective on giving them the opportunity to perhaps think just a bit deeper about what was just said and then explaining back to me.

Thank you !

eldridge says May 2, 2013

This is a great way to looking at it and hopefully will help my kids in there days of bullies.

he says May 2, 2013

I read this month or so ago, and I should read it every week to remind myself different ways to respond to people. Recently, this girl I know said to me," well, I see I am not the only one that has gained a lot of weight." I explained to her yes, I had stopped smoking in September and put on quite a few pounds. She said she still smokes. I replied by saying, "At least I have an excuse for all the weight I gained.' Later I felt like I was the one that was mean.

    Aileen Lawrimore says May 2, 2013

    I have done the same kind of thing Amanda! It's so hard not to respond from the pain! Kudos for quitting smoking! Best gift you can give your loved ones!

Emily Friend says May 9, 2013

That's helpful to me in a job where I deal with people all day, some of them very unpleasant. Another comeback that is sometimes helpful is, "Are you sure you wanted to say it that way? Because it sounded to me like it came out the wrong way." That way they have a conscious choice to either retract the statement or openly become the bad guy of the conversation. They've made the choice, and you haven't precipitated an ugly confrontation. Then they can live with the consequences, not you.

    Aileen Lawrimore says May 9, 2013

    Great Response Emily! Love it!

Sierra Robinson says May 13, 2013

People seem to be more harsh these days. The internet/text world we live in lets people hid behind a screen or even many miles away so they don't have to physically face the results of their actions. This makes them more bold, and less afraid of hurting someone. You may start out at the beginning not really meaning to do something, but you desensitize yourself the more you do it and become less aware of how it is received.

Matthew Best says September 27, 2017

Great suggestions. Another one that I found to be helpful is to agree with the person. It really doesn't matter what they say - just respond with the obvious overstatement that lets the person know that they are being ridiculous and that you aren't interested in fighting about it. The response I use is "You are absolutely right!" This works effectively when the person says something that starts with an I statement, like "I think...." You can actually agree with the person at the foundational level without agreeing with what they claim. If the person says "I think you are fat." The response is "You are absolutely correct." You agreed with them that this is what the person thought. You didn't agree with the content though - no comments were made about the content. Mostly because it was ridiculous and doesn't deserve legitimacy of a response.

    Aileen Lawrimore says September 27, 2017

    Excellent idea! Thanks!

Carol McCord says September 28, 2017

I really threw one lady off by replying " I pray that God will change your heart" she walked away dumbfounded!

    Aileen Lawrimore says September 28, 2017

    That's awesome Carol! Love it!

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