Dealing With Bullying In Adulthood

For much of history, bullying has been portrayed as something that only happens on the playground. However, it has become more evident that this is not the case.

A recent survey of more than two thousand U.S. adults conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of the American Osteopathic Association found that adults are being bullied at levels similar to adolescents. It also found that 31% of Americans have been bullied and 43% believe the behavior has become more accepted.


Types of Bullying

Bullying is not simply contained in the typical playground bullies. Here are six types of bullying you may come across even in adulthood.

Physical Bullying – Physical bullying is the most obvious and known form of bullying. From playground bullies to abusive partners, physical bullying is prevalent throughout the ages.

Verbal Bullying – The use of words, statements, and name-calling to gain power and control is referred to as verbal bullying. The aim is to belittle the person.


Relational Aggression -This is usually emotional bullying that goes undetected. Relational aggression is a social manipulation wherein the bully sabotages their victim’s social standing and has them ostracized.

Cyberbullying – A popular and more common form of bullying in recent years is cyberbullying. The bully uses social media to embarrass, harass, or stalk and pick on their victim.

Sexual Bullying – consists of repeated, harmful, and humiliating actions with sexual intent. Sexual bullying includes sexual name-calling, crude comments, vulgar gestures, uninvited touching, sexual propositioning, and pornographic materials.


Prejudicial Bullying – this involves targetting a person based on their different races, religions, or sexual orientation. It usually combines all the other types of bullying and can lead to hate crimes.

Bully-Victims – These are usually people who become bullies after being bullied. Bully-victims look for those weaker than them as their aim is to regain a sense of power and control in their lives. 

Popular Bullies – these bullies usually have over-inflated egos and tend to be overconfident and condescending. The sense of entitlement stems from their popularity, size, upbringing, or socioeconomic status and they thrive on maintaining an Alpha-like position.


Relational Bullies – The relational bully is also popular. They determine who will be accepted in an environment and will exclude, isolate, and ostracize others to keep their power.

Serial Bullies – This type of bully is often found in popular circles. Their approach is systematic, controlled, and calculated. They use their charm and charisma to charm authority figures while inflicting emotional and physical wounds on those below them.


Group Bullies – These bullies have a pack mentality and tend to bully as a group. However, when they are alone they tend to be completely different. Some even become a victim of bullying when they are alone.

Indifferent Bullies – They are often unable to feel empathy and can be cold, unfeeling, and detached. They often feel no remorse for their actions and are often the most dangerous type of bullies. They bully because they enjoy seeing other people suffer.

Bullying In Adulthood


If you thought you left the bullies in high school, unfortunately, they also grow up and get jobs. While their tactics may change over the years-old habits die hard.

Workplace bullying is very similar to school bullying. Tactics like gossip, sabotage, exclusion, public shaming, and many other conscious behaviors are employed by the bully to break down their victim.

Dealing With The Bully


If you find yourself in a situation where you feel bullied, start by reminding yourself that you are not weak. Here are some tips to help you break free from the clutches of the bully:

1. You Are Not At Fault

Bullies often manipulate us into thinking a situation is our fault. We begin to question our abilities and value. This helps them gain more power over us.

To break free, focus on building up your self-esteem and confidence. Consistently remind yourself that they are the problem, not you.


2. Call Out The Bully 

If you have noticed someone beginning to behave like a bully, call them out. It is important to establish firm boundaries and correct rude behavior immediately.

Don’t make a joke about it. If something hurts you and you laugh it off the bully may take it that they have made you uncomfortable, nervous, or vulnerable. Instead, confidently stand up for yourself.


3. Do Not React 

However, if a bully persistently tries to break you down, the smart thing to do is ignore them. More often than not, they thrive on gaining a reaction.

Creating a scene shows them that they have managed to get under your skin. Remaining cool, calm, and collected will throw the bully off their game and give you time to regain some confidence and power.


4. Self-Care Is Important

2013 poll surveyed over 600 bullied workers. It found that most of them did not take care of themselves, pulled away from their friends and family, and many also became self-destructive by turning to drinking or overeating.

Self-care is imperative to get through the bullying. A 2011 study showed that bullied adolescents can improve their mental health and protect their grades if they maintained their relationships with friends and family. The same can be applied to adults.


5. Leave!  

According to a 2007 survey commissioned by the Workplace Bullying Institute, 62% of employers did nothing about a bully in their offices. If you believe the workplace environment is toxic, leave.

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