How To Deal With Toxic People | Adult Bullies

“All cruelty springs from weakness.” —Seneca, 4BC-AD65

I think most of us have found ourselves on the receiving end of adult bullying – perhaps it’s your boss at the office, or maybe it’s a manipulative friend, or an abusive boyfriend. Today, we see toxic behavior in the forums and in the comments section of social media posts. This poison spreads and penetrates all of us in big ways.

Just last night, I received a handful of hateful comments on Soul & Scribble. I was essentially laughed at. I was judged for living in a shelter – that I was hardly qualified to give advice and write about the topics I am passionate about because I, apparently, suck at life. Bigoted statements were made. Pain was inflicted. And, I was hurt.

Unfortunately, this ignorance is the same exact ignorance felt by the entire homeless community – it is the stigma that we’re stupid, irresponsible, and make bad choices. That we’re bums, degenerates, and unworthy of basic human rights, respect, and dignity.

What’s even worse? These comments are suspected to have come from an acquaintance I once admired and respected. A fellow writer, in fact. For the better half of a year, myself, as well as numerous others, have been at the receiving end of such behavior, coming from this old friend of mine.

Suffering at the hands of an adult bully can become very consuming, even drowning, if not addressed early on. “Bullying takes a real and profound toll on stress levels, self-confidence, and even our grasp on reality if the bullying is prolonged and unfettered…” says author Ellen Hendriksen, PhD, a clinical psychologist at Boston University’s Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders.

In How to Successfully Handle Aggressive, Intimidating, and Controlling People, author Preston Ni M.S.B.A. shares key ways in successfully handling adult bullies. One of the first steps is knowing your fundamental human rights – this way, you can know when they’re being violated.

Some of our fundamental human rights are as followed:

You have the right to be treated with respect.

You have the right to express your feelings, opinions, and wants.

You have the right to set your own priorities.

You have the right to say “no” without feeling guilty.

You have the right to have opinions different than others.

You have the right to take care of and protect yourself from being threatened physically, mentally or emotionally.

You have the right to create your own happy and healthy life.

A close friend and I were once mutual friends with this bully. Over a year ago, his behavior changed drastically and he became the toxic person in our friend group. His once friendly and kind demeanor turned oppressive, abusive, and tyrannical. He continued to treat my close friend poorly for the majority of their remaining friendship. Because I attempted to speak out about it, I soon became his enemy, completely removed from his life, and have remained so ever since. Until now, I continue to watch him wreak havoc in the lives of those who care about him most, and he remains unpunished for his vile, disgusting, and quite unacceptable behavior.

So, I’m sure by now you’re asking yourself why I didn’t try to stop him. Well, it’s easier said than done!

Unfortunately, from the very beginning, I did the one thing I wasn’t supposed to do, and that was ignore it. Again, Dr. Hendriksen explains that we must call out the bad behavior when it happens, and that it is essentially the most important rule in dealing with a bully. You guessed it – no one has ever, not once, addressed this bully’s behavior directly – certainly not when it started. Hundriksen also stresses the power of “strength in numbers”. Again, we failed. Although many of our peers shared the same sentiment towards the situation, we were all too afraid to act. It did not take long before cowering in fear, obedience, and walking on eggshells was the norm.

Months later, we tried to “dish it out”, mediate the situation, and problem solve. To no one’s surprise, the bully was disinterested. In fact, Hundriksen would have also advised against this.  Odd you might think, right? Well, studies have shown that mediation does not work on bullies, and it makes quite a lot of sense too. According to Hundriksen, “Mediation is great for resolving conflict, but conflict implies equality and a desire on both sides to come to a solution. By contrast, the bully has nothing to gain from mediation.” The bully does not care about you. The bully does not respect you. The bully is a bully – remember that.

The biggest piece of advice from any expert is this: Get out. It is my best piece of advice to you as well. If you can deflate the bully early on, do it. If not, leave early.

If I had the emotional strength at the time, I would have encouraged my dear friend to do the same. But, I admit, as weak as any bully is, I am weak too. Even now, the pain inflicted remains, and I reflect on those moments with despair. My bully was one of the best. He hit me where it hurt most, when I was going through some of the hardest months of my life, and kicked me when I was down. In my most venerable time, he attempted to turn a friend, a woman I consider my sister, against me and continues to do so now. If I were to go back, I would have prayed for an ounce of strength to defend myself, my dearest friend, and all those who suffered with us.

 

 

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12 thoughts on “How To Deal With Toxic People | Adult Bullies

  1. Great article. I love the rights you listed in the beginning. I didn’t learn early on that these rights exist. I had parents as bullies so you can imagine the damage they inflicted. Getting out of such situation is the better choice.

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  2. Great blog! Thanks for the encouraging words. I may not often deal with these bullies but I am praying to those people who received a lot of hurtful words everyday, to be brave enough to overcome the situation and have a positive outlook in life. Thanks for sharing ♥️ ♥️ By any chance you are interested on doing collaborations, you can connect with amazing brands through the influencer directory of Phlanx.com!

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    Tiffany

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  3. We must be kindred spirits or something… I wrote about this very issue back in Nov., although not as extensively & more from a spiritual introspective perspective. It’s so important to continue the cycle of positivity & power. We all have the right to self-love & self-care and to nurturing that in others as well. Wonderful read.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your kind comment ❤
      Drop a link to your post! I'd love to check it out 🙂 Perhaps others who come by might also be interested!
      Also, I completely agree with you. We all have the right to self-love and self-care, and I think we also have the right to demand respect from others!

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    1. Honestly, even though I’ve lived in shelters, including some really shitty ones, that;s still not an easy question to answer. If you’re asking me specifically, if I would advise someone to leave the shelter…no, probably not. However, I know a handful of homeless people who have and actually do prefer the streets to shelters because, as hard as it is for me to hear, they actually feel safer on the streets. That’s pretty fucked up…but probably a topic for another time. In regards to my blog post itself, “get out” doesn’t mean run out the front door without a plan. A plan is important. Sometimes that plan might mean staying until you can safely leave. “Get out” can mean detach, make space, or avoid, too. I didn’t really like my caseworkers, either, or really anyone I have come into contact with within the homeless sector. In some instances, I think they actually made things worse/harder for me. My own personal experience with the NYC shelter system would probably influence me to advise the following:
      Document everything. You may have a right to a shelter transfer. Here, at least, you can present evidence to DHS. But, again, there is no guarantee that you’ll actually receive a transfer. In my experience, it’s been very much a “you get what you get”.
      “Strength in numbers”, build friendships, allies, etc. speak up. However, this would GREATLY depend on whether or not you feel safe.
      I’ve had friends who have intentionally logged themselves out of the shelter, and started from scratch — meaning they got themselves kicked out on purpose and went back to shelter intake with hopes that they’ll be placed somewhere safer, better. In one of the shelters I was at, in Manhattan, this was extremely common, because the shelter was so bad.
      But, again, I mean, this has a lot to do with each individual case, and the safety of that individual/family. To choose to stay or not to stay at a shelter is not a decision I could advise without speaking to anyone. Make a plan, seek help — yes. But, still, it would greatly depend on what their options are, what their situation is like etc. But, in most cases, like I said above, I would probably always advise against the streets, and instead, try to match them to services/service providers, do some research, and help them however best I can. Just off the top of my head, I can say that I’ve spoken to advocates with the Coalition for the Homeless, and have found them to be a good resource for advising, too.

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      1. So, when you said “get out”, you didn’t really mean to get out, leave, but only to avoid contact? And how can a shelter resident avoid contact, when his caseworker meetings are required? That’s where most abuse happens. If you don’t show up, they put you out for “failure to comply”.

        To “start over”, you have to be out for at least a year. If you come back sooner, you’re sent to the same “official shelter” you were last assigned to.

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      2. While I wrote this, I specifically wrote it with adult bullies in mind — perhaps former friends or colleagues. Bullies that you can safely pull away from. Not necessarily an abuser who has some level of control over your safety and well-being.
        In regards to your situation, it can mean avoid contact — or taking the necessary steps in safely removing yourself from the situation. However, regardless of it’s a caseworker at a shelter, or a an abusive partner, you can’t always “just leave”. There may be a way, but in my experience (shelters), it’ll take some creativity and the right support/advising. Hence why I mentioned the uncertainty and the risks people take to change their situation.

        Are you specifically asking for yourself? Are you currently residing in the NYC shelter system right now? Have you tried to, sort of, gather evidence of your interactions between yourself and your caseworker? And tried to reach out to DHS? If you’re being abused by your caseworker, and you can record/take down what he/she says, I feel that you may be able to request another one. I’m sorry that you’re going through this. I’ve gone through about 3 different case workers while homeless, and, to put it simply, they were all trash. And, I’d say probably a large factor in how I was doing/feeling overall. Well trained, well educated, caseworkers are needed. They should (and need to be) a safe space. How else can they help you? My on-site caseworker wasn’t at all qualified for the job. Seeing him usually had me feeling defeated and lost. I didn’t get any help from any of them, either. I essentially had to get creative and “work the system”. I can only share what I experienced first hard and learned from others. I may not have the right answers.

        The last thing I want to do is advise you in a way that puts you further in harms way! Still, I’ll try to get in touch with someone who may be able to advise me, so I can advise you.

        Inbox me via my Contact page. We can talk more over email if you’d like.

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      3. One more thing: I can invite you to an online support group. It is for homeless and formally homeless people. It is also a private group. I can give you an invitation, but I don’t want to do it publicly in the comments. Feel free to reach out if you’re interested! *hugs*

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