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What Are the Best Tips for Dealing with a Verbal Bully?

Not dealing with verbal bullying could result in greater emotional damage.
It is important to walk away with confidence, not frustration.
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  • Written By: Tara Barnett
  • Edited By: Jacob Harkins
  • Last Modified Date: 19 November 2014
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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.

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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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mrwormy
Post 3

I realize verbal bullying is not the same as physical bullying, but verbal bullying in schools can get the same end results. My daughter went to school with a girl who was originally from Ireland, so she had a very thick accent. She was also very pretty, which made some of the girls jealous. A few boys started bullying her verbally, making comments about her red hair and her accent and her clothes. There wasn't anything physical, but at times they stayed in her face until she collapsed on the floor crying.

My daughter told a teacher about the bullying kids, but the teacher said the girl would have to be the one who reported it. If no one had assaulted her physically, it would be treated like kids being kids. It escalated to cyberbullying, and then some physical bullying by three girls in a locker room. The girl actually committed suicide just before the next school year started.

My advice for dealing with a verbal bully is to make sure other people are made aware of the situation. Hiding the verbal attacks from parents or teachers or sibling will hinder their ability to do anything about it. If you can avoid confrontations at all with the bully, do it. Plan another route through the hallways, and invite friends to walk with you.

RocketLanch8
Post 2

@Buster29- I had a similar problem with a workplace bully, and I also tried reporting the bullying and harassment to a supervisor. The guy had connections, so nothing much came of the report. But I did learn some things about him from older employees. It turned out that he tried to get promoted to the same position I hold, and the boss wouldn't do it. He's had it in for anyone who does the job he thinks is rightfully his. He's not really mad at me as a person, he's mad at the people who didn't give him the promotion.

To this day, he still makes some snide remarks whenever we're alone together, but I now have some perspective on the situation. He's not a verbal bully as much as an angry guy who doesn't know how to handle what other people did to him. He needs anger management counseling.

Buster29
Post 1

I've had to put up with some verbal bullying at work in the past, and there was no easy fix at the time. I worked in the lab as a quality control inspector, and every so often I'd have to go out to the warehouse to pull a random sample of a product off the shelf. One of the forklift drivers had some kind of problem with office or lab workers. He thought we were all "soft", and had no idea what real work was about.

He must have thought I was homosexual, so he constantly yelled homosexual slurs and other insults whenever I got to his part of the warehouse. I'd hear "Dead queer walking!" and "Don't get hurt out here, nancy boy!". All I could do was get my sample and find a safe way back to the lab. I complained to the man's supervisor once, but all it did was make him even madder. What should I have done?

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