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Dealing with a verbal bully requires strategy and tact. Like other forms of bullying, those who use words to put down another person may be motivated by a number of factors, and figuring out the motivation for the bullying can often put a stop to it. On the other hand, there are a number of ways to simply shut a bully down, and these can be fairly reliable in most cases. It is important when dealing with a verbal bully not to risk losing face by losing one's temper, and to remain calm and collected at all times.
One of the best ways to deal with a verbal bully is to just walk away. Simply leaving the situation can make the bully look ridiculous and prevent the conflict from escalating. This is a great strategy for both children and adults. It is important to walk away with a head held high, not in frustration. This tells the bully that he or she has not "won" in the conversation, and tells everyone around that the bully is inconsequential.
Refusing to engage is not always a possibility, particularly in professional situations. A bully who interrupts or is sarcastic at work may be attempting to impress a superior, or may simply be mean. At work, it may be best to take the case up with the appropriate department, such as human resources.
Another strategy for adults is to actually confront the bully. While children who bully others can be too juvenile to be affected by reason, an adult may not even know that what he or she is doing might be considered bullying. The situation may be completely innocent, as differences in culture even within the same country can lead to gross misunderstandings of intended meaning. The bully may come from an area where, for example, people argue vigorously and laugh about it later with no hurt feelings involved.
As an adult, it is important to weigh the benefits and disadvantages of publicly acknowledging that bullying is occurring. For instance, if the verbal bully is an employer, resolving the conflict might not be worth losing a job over. Many people say that no one should put up with verbal bullying, presumably out of self-respect, but this isn't always true. If putting up with the bullying does not cause serious distress, and one is secure enough not to have his or her self esteem adversely affected by the verbal bully, then it may be a good idea to simply stick it out until it becomes possible to move on to a better position. Having self-respect sometimes means having enough confidence to strategically address life's choices without fear of other people's bullying.
If there really is no way to advantageously put a stop to the verbal bully's behavior, it often helps to remember that coworkers, classmates, and friends often recognize the bully's behavior as ridiculous and pathetic. Sharing a rolled eye with a peer who sees what's going on may be enough to make it through the engagement. That is, knowing that everyone but the bully recognizes the verbal bullying can often be enough to invalidate self-esteem loss caused by the bullying. In many cases, a verbal bully is an inconvenience but not a serious problem, and retaining a sense of humor can be a solid strategy for dealing with this form of harassment.
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