Backfiring on a bully – forget the “I” statements…


Here’s a concept worth trying!

I’m reading Take the Bully by the Horns as I mentioned in my previous post. The author has some tough advice for boundary setting with difficult people who really don’t believe there should be any boundaries as far as they are concerned. The “why” of the matter isn’t important because the point is that using the typical conflict resolution tools (e.g., “I” statements) does not work with bullying behavior.

Thinking back on the few times I’ve successfully stood up to H, I remembered that I had to “out-bully” him as Horn suggests. Every time I have stood up to him with more force than he supplied with whatever tactic he was using, he stopped dead in his tracks. The problem for me is that I am trained in conflict resolution and the idea of creating conflict (ok, by standing up for oneself) is counterintuitive. Well of course it’s counterintuitive, but when we deal with bullying behavior, we aren’t dealing with rational individuals who give a damn about being respectful. If they cared about being respectful, they wouldn’t bully. [duh, I say to myself]

Horn recommends strong, assertive “You” statements such as “you need to back off” or “you are out of line”. The author cautions that we shouldn’t join the ranks of the bullies by being aggressive but reminds us that we have every right to set boundaries and draw the line with a Sharpie [my words].

If we do not speak up, the bullying behavior will continue because the person thinks that because we have not reacted that it must be OK. Further, the mindset is that it’s our problem to do something about it. [wow this makes so much sense to me, especially after living it and being unable to see it!]

Horn states that the other problem with “I” replies is that the bullying person can and probably will boomerang “back on us because it plays right into their strategy to keep us on the defensive and them on the offensive. ‘Doing the You” keeps the attention where it belongs— on the bully’s inappropriate conduct. Imagine someone is calling you names. Saying, ‘I don’t like it when you do that’ makes your reaction the problem. ‘Doing the You,’ saying ‘Keep those kind of comments to yourself,’ deflects verbal arrows and keeps them from penetrating your boundary” (Horn, Sam (2003-09-09). Take the Bully by the Horns: Stop Unethical, Uncooperative, or Unpleasant People from Running and Ruining Your Life (Kindle Locations 1291-1294). St. Martin’s Press. Kindle Edition.).

Personally, I think it damages my soul to throw back snotty remarks, even when bullying. I do not like to do this sort of thing as I think it is ugly behavior. Dude, seriously, who needs that kind of karma!? Nonetheless, when I’ve “lost my shit” has been when I’ve gotten results.  This type of quid pro quo, insult for insult behavior is what my parents thrived upon while I was growing up. Hell, they still can’t see that they do it even today. Not my problem really. However, that behavior [in the negative sense] was modeled quite well for me and I can remember the horrible reality of constantly being caught in a violent and nasty household. I’m not going to do that to my kids. So, only in self-defense would I be inclined to follow Horn’s advice. I certainly would not want that to become a way of life for me or my family.



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