Bully! The dictionary defines bully as: “a person who uses strength or power to harm or intimidate those who are weaker.” When we think of a bully, we picture one child bullying another. However, adults can be bullies too, and they’re the most frightening bullies of all.
Spotting a child bully is relatively easy, but recognizing an adult bully can be tricky — when you’re dealing with an adult tyrant, they’ve had years of experience and their bullying tactics can be subtle; the adult tormentor is typically cunning and hides their terror tactics behind masks of authority, money, power, or alleged intellectual superiority.
Unfortunately, most of us have or will probably encounter adult bullies at some point in our life — they can be your boss, a co-worker, a neighbor, your significant other, a ‘friend,’ or, most alarmingly, a person in a position of power, such as a political leader.
Cruel, mean and hostile
Frequently when you encounter an adult bully who is cruel, spiteful and vindictive, they dismiss the label of “bully” by declaring “hey, I just tell it like it is.” Never buy into that excuse, because their hope is that you’ll give them a free pass to continue the abuse. Bullies are hateful because they’re unhappy with themselves — they have low self-esteem and can only deal with their personal self-loathing by belittling others.
The website bullyingstatistics.org shares this keen insight into the non-physical adult bully:
While adults are more likely to use verbal bullying as opposed to physical bullying, the fact of the matter is that adult bullying exists. The goal of an adult bully is to gain power over another person, and make himself or herself the dominant adult. They try to humiliate victims, and “show them who is boss.”
There are several different types of adult bullies, and it helps to know how they operate:
- Narcissistic Adult Bully: This type of adult bully is self-centered and does not share empathy with others. Additionally, there is little anxiety about consequences. He or she seems to feel good about him or herself, but in reality has a brittle narcissism that requires putting others down.
- Impulsive Adult Bully: Adult bullies in this category are more spontaneous and plan their bullying out less. Even if consequences are likely, this adult bully has a hard time restraining his or her behavior. In some cases, this type of bullying may be unintentional, resulting in periods of stress, or when the bully is actually upset or concerned about something unconnected with the victim.
- Verbal Adult Bully: Words can be quite damaging. Adult bullies who use this type of tactic may start rumors about the victim, or use sarcastic or demeaning language to dominate or humiliate another person. This subtle type of bullying also has the advantage – to the bully – of being difficult to document. However, the emotional and psychological impacts of verbal bullying can be felt quite keenly and can result in reduced job performance and even depression.
- Secondary Adult Bully: This is someone who does not initiate the bullying, but joins in so that he or she does not actually become a victim down the road. Secondary bullies may feel bad about what they are doing, but are more concerned about protecting themselves.
In the simplest of terms, bullying means that one person, or group of persons, is deliberately being cruel to another person or group, for any random reason they self-rationalize. In the internet age, besides the spoken word, bullying can take place in multiple mediums such as Facebook, TV, Radio and Twitter — the bullies have a mass-media platform with which to spread their hate and cruelty.
Some common characteristics of the adult bully:
1. Bullying is intentional — the bully is well aware of their tactics and after years of tormenting people, it becomes ingrained in their psyche. They become bitter and descend deeper into unhappiness and bullying becomes part of their daily lives.
2. Bullying is aggression — the bully will deny that they’re a bully, usually by trying to discredit that person or by responding with escalating cruelty (mocking or threatening the other person). Due to the bully’s ingrained aggression, anyone who tries to expose them, ends up on the receiving ends of their rage.
3. Bullies are control freaks who seek power — the adult bully craves power and validation; because they lack a sense of self-worth, they hide their low self-esteem behind a facade of “success.” In their own minds, they delude themselves into believing they’re “great” or “hugely successful” and they rationalize that false belief as a reason to “tell it like it is.”
4. Bullying is often borne out of hatred or resentment; an adult bully will seek out a person or persons who may appear weak or vulnerable and will focus their hatred on that person or persons, often trying to get others to join in; an example of this could be a politician who, in order to feel better about themselves, gets a mob-mentality going in mutual bullying/hatred of a vulnerable group. Adolf Hitler certainly fits that mold.
The adult bully is more disturbing than a child who bullies, because an adult knows better. When a bully isn’t properly addressed as a child, they often go through life abusing, criticizing, attacking, mocking and vilifying anyone they can, simply to make themselves feel better about their own short-comings.
When an adult bully manifests their rage through words and actions that intentionally belittles, harms and diminishes the self-worth of another person, they are rapidly descending into a pit of negativity. To truly have positivity in our lives, it’s vital to consider the feelings of others and to always be striving to grow and improve as a human being. Sadly, adult bullies tend to lead lonely, unfulfilled lives.