Highlight reel (TL;DR)
- Bullying can happen at any age.
- Adult bullies can be co-workers, friends, family members, and romantic partners.
- There are ways to safely address and stop bullying.
The term “bullying” might cause nasty flashbacks to childhood. Maybe you remember dealing with rumors or being laughed at for eating lunch alone.
While some people escape their bullies after graduation, there’s no age limit to bullying.
As an adult, tactics on how to get a bully to leave you alone differ from those in childhood. You don’t have the option to report a bully to a teacher or parent.
Below, we take a look at strategies for how to get a bully to leave you alone in adulthood.
Am I dealing with a bully?
As an adult, you may face bullying in school, at home, or other social settings. But, bullying is particularly common in the workplace.
According to a 2021 review, more than 15% of employees experience bullying worldwide.
Bullies can be strangers or people close to you.
According to the organization Bullying Statistics, there are six types of adult bullies to be aware of:
- Narcissistic: This type of bully is unempathetic and self-centered. They use their narcissism to disrespect you.
- Physical: This form of bullying may involve physical harm to you. It may also involve the threat of physical harm to you or your property.
- Verbal: This form of bullying may entail spreading rumors or using derogatory language towards you.
- Secondary: This refers to someone who doesn’t initiate the bullying but joins in on bullying you.
- Impulsive: This involves spontaneous bouts of bullying that they cannot control or didn’t plan out.
- Cyber: With this type of bullying, the person uses the internet to threaten you via social media or email.
So, how do you know if you’re dealing with a bully?
According to STOMP Out Bullying, you might be experiencing bullying if the way you’re being treated:
- makes you feel depressed or anxious
- causes low self-esteem
- leads to feelings of loneliness
- leads to suicidal thinking
- causes physical illnesses
- makes you feel afraid
If you’re in crisis or know someone who is, consider seeking help right away. Please call the 24/7 National Suicide Prevention Hotline for free, confidential assistance in the United States. Call 1-800-273-8255 or text “HOME” to 741741.
5 ways to get a bully to leave you alone
As an adult, you have to navigate bullying a little differently than as a child.
Take a look at these five methods on how to get rid of a bully.
1. Protect your emotions
You might feel that all hope is lost when you’re being bullied. Holding onto these negative emotions can keep you from taking action.
Mental Health First Aid recommends protecting your emotions by sharing your feelings with loved ones, practicing physical self-care, and finding a healthy coping mechanism.
2. Consider your choices
Think about how you plan to respond to your bully or bullies.
As a person experiencing bullying, it can feel empowering to overcome your bully, but it’s essential to do so in a way that improves the situation rather than worsening it.
Be strategic about your response and focus on what you want to achieve rather than demeaning or hurting someone else.
According to the UK non-profit Respect Me, here are some examples of how to get bullies to leave you alone:
- Ignore them by walking away or acting as if they aren’t bothering you.
- When responding to online bullying, report or block the person from your social media profiles.
- Have a conversation with the bully, explain how their behaviors affect you, and ask them to stop.
- Respond to their bullying with clever, witty comebacks.
3. Create boundaries
If you have a personal relationship with the bully, set boundaries as soon as the bullying starts.
Setting boundaries can be intimidating for some, so prepare for the conversation by listing your requirements and rehearsing what to say before confronting your bully.
4. React appropriately
How should you react to a bully?
While blowing up at your bully might feel satisfying, an emotional confrontation isn’t necessarily a great way to resolve issues.
When talking with your bully, remain calm to ensure you get your point across. Showing maturity is an empowering way to let your bully know you won’t stoop to their level.
5. Seek help
You don’t have to address bullying on your own. If you’re having trouble speaking to your bully, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
For example, if a co-worker is bullying you, contact your supervisor or human resources department to report their behavior.
According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, it’s also a good idea to keep documentation of your bullying experiences at work.
When to ask for help
If you don’t know how to make a bully stop, or the situation worsens, it’s okay to seek help.
Here are some resources you can access for help on how to stop a bully from bullying you and affecting your mental health:
- Call 911 to file a report or emergency services if there’s an immediate threat.
- Call the 24/7 National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “HOME” to 741741 or Talk Suicide Canada at (833)456-4566 or text 45645, if you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts or ideations.
- If you’re experiencing abuse or think you may be in danger from an intimate partner, please call the 24/7 National Domestic Violence Hotline for free, confidential assistance in the United States. Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or text “START” to 88788.
- Seek advice from a licensed therapist to get guidance on how to stop a bully.
The final word
When you think of a bully, you probably think of kids being mean to each other on the playground. But adults can have bullies, too.
It doesn’t matter when you experience bullying. It can take a physical and mental toll, regardless of your age.
Before addressing adult bullying, take a step back to analyze the situation before making your next move. It’s also okay to reach out to others for help, whether a trusted friend, human resources department, or mental health professional.