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!