February 26, 2013

The Bully Who Says It's Your Fault He/She Has to Bully You

"If you weren't so difficult, I wouldn't be so angry at you."

"It's your fault that I act this way. You brought it upon yourself."

"If you only did what I asked you to, I wouldn't have to punish you."

"I know I yelled, and pushed you. I know I talked about you behind your back. I know I rallied people around against you. But I had to. You were unreasonable. You weren't listening. You were a problem."

"Everything I did was because I had to. You made me do it. I didn't want to, but you made me."

"I told you exactly what you had to do in order to make me not hurt you, but you didn't listen, so now see what I had to do."

"It's your fault that I am not getting what I want. You know what that means."

This is a special kind of emotionally manipulative bully. They claim they don't want to be bullies, but they have to, because you made them. They don't like what's going on, so they react to whatever they can to make things how they like it. It's your fault things aren't how they like, so they have to bully, because they have no other choice.

Don't fall for it. They are still bullies. In fact, they are the worst kind of bullies, because they bully twice. Once in the initial bully behavior, then again when they blame you for their behavior.

To respond to this kind of bully it doesn't work to:

  • Try to convince them it's not your fault
  • Show the bully how they had a choice 
  • Explain how their behavior hurt you

This just gives them more ammo.

Some ways to handle this kind of double bullying:

  • Ignoring and not acknowledging their blame, and continue to do the thing that you need to do to keep your boundaries, and your values, even if the bully doesn't like it.
  • Ask, "What is it that you want?" And then decide whether what they want is doable. If it is, offer other ways to achieve their goals. If they don't like the other ways, bow out and let them find a way to get what they want without you involved.
  • Focus attention on people who don't bully. If you are in a group with a bully, give more attention and conversation to the people who want to work together as a team, and spend less and less time listening to the pleas of the bully until they stop, leave or escalate their behavior into something obvious to all. 
  • Say "I do not agree," and either change the subject or walk away. 
  • Say "The way you treated me is not OK no matter what I did wrong." - and know it. 
  • If it's an email, delete it. The bully knows they've achieved their goal if they get any kind of response at all. 
Can you see this pattern in politics? In your family? At work? Watch to see how people respond, and what works. Very rarely can a bully be talked out of their behavior with reason. They aren't acting with reason. Bullies like attention. Sometimes, losing attention can be the thing that makes the difference. 

In any case, it's not our job to fix bullies. The only responsibility we have is to ourselves, to keep double bullies from making our lives hell by playing into their story like it has any credence or possibly validity. 

If the bully escalates their behavior into direct bully tactics - threats, blackmail, physical attacks, direct attacks - then it's time to stand up to their behavior and call it out. The passive aggressive, "you want to hurt me" accusations, and "You brought it on yourself" explanations are harder to stand up to, because it's a "he said she said" situation. 

Direct action can be brought into light easier and that behavior can be asked to change, but we can't change the way people think about us. That's an important distinction to make when we stand up to bully behavior. 

The bully can hold on to us securely when we care what the bully thinks more than we care about the way he/she treats us. 

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