How to handle intimidation

How to handle intimidation

There are numerous psychological tricks for dealing with intimidating people and I’m going to outline the most important ones below. Some people tend to have natural abilities when it comes to dealing with others, they tend to be able to read other people quite well and can read between the lines. The more emotional intelligence one has the easier it is to deal with intimidation from others.

The reason for intimidating behaviour

As a general rule, I have often found that the people I encounter who are aggressive, judgemental, miserable, rude or just plain horrid usually have a reason for being the way they are. As a Psychologist, I find it easy to look beyond the behaviour to the underlying reasons. I very rarely take people at face value. Having said that, understanding the reasons doesn’t automatically make me like someone!

It does offer me more tolerance though. When we come across an angry and unhappy person, many of us take this behaviour personally. We tend to respond with anger. I remember when I worked at Broadmoor Hospital, we would have supervision to help us cope with the various personalities we had to deal with. The person who had come to talk to us explained that the aggressive and intimidating behaviour that we received most days from those held in Broadmoor was more about them than it was about us. She went on to explain that these negative behaviours were projections of inner misery and chaos. Ever since then, when I meet someone who spews out anger and negativity, it offers me a glimpse of how awful their internal experience of the world is. A person who is content and has peace of mind is very unlikely to project anger and bitterness on a regular basis.

The vulnerable inner child

We’ve all been in the company of someone who makes us feel on edge, uneasy or unsure of ourselves. There is a very clever way to deal with this situation. Every single one of us was a child once, fairly powerless and open to the rules, restrictions and attitudes of the ‘powerful’ adults around us. Adults can often seem like intimidating people when we are young and have to go along with what they say.

If you can tap into this energy/mindset, it might just give you the edge when dealing with intimidating people. Imagine yourself talking to the little child inside the intimidating person. Be careful with this though – I don’t mean you should put on a condescending voice and offer them a sweet!

What this technique does, is allow you to ‘frame’ the other person in a different light. It helps you to see them as a person, who was once small and powerless just like you. It resets the psychological parameters. We often get caught up in the hype surrounding a person – they’re the CEO of a huge corporation, they’re a celebrity..whatever it is, it can lead us to thoughts that don’t assist us. We automatically put ourselves on the bottom end of the seesaw. Remember – you can choose what to think about any situation.

Intimidating people

You can choose to believe that someone is scary, or better than you or unmanageable and feel the accompanying negative emotions (working for you?? didn’t think so…) or you can choose to see the inner child in someone and experience the emotions associated with that thought. Believe it or not, we all feel like children inside, no matter what age we are. We can all be regressed to feeling like that little kid again depending on how someone behaves with us. Have you ever been around your parents or an adult that knew you as a child and suddenly realised that you have changed your behaviour? Perhaps you have gone back into ‘kid mode’? Acting sheepish and childlike amongst adults from our childhood is quite common.

In order to appeal to the child in another adult, it is important to act like an adult dealing with a difficult child. Stick to the facts and take the dignified path always. Look at the other person as someone to figure out and understand rather than someone to challenge. Ask questions such as “and how is that going to work?”.. “Why? What? Who? When?”…. Intimidating people are often all bravado and have very little to back it up with. They are used to others being intimidated and accepting their behaviour. When you approach them with curiosity it takes them by surprise and they often begin to unravel when they are asked to explain themselves in more detail. Never be confrontational or belittling with intimidating people. The aim is to diffuse, not to cause more damage.

Ironically, many intimidating people have learned this behaviour due to feeling powerless and unheard as children. This is a generalisation but I have come across many clients who seem intensely gruff on the outside but once you get to know them, you realise it’s all a ‘front’. They have, more often than not, adapted this behaviour to cover up their own insecurities.

See intimidating people as telling you something non verbally – intimidating behaviour isn’t normal when someone isn’t being threatened or is not in fear. They are giving you behavioural cues that you can use to your advantage.

How to handle intimidation

Photo by CJS*64 How to handle intimidation

Photo by Dave_B_ How to handle intimidation

How to handle intimidation

People appear intimidating purely due to the assumptions and thoughts we hold about them. Dealing with intimidating people becomes a lot easier when we manage our perceptions about them. Here’s how:

1) Don’t buy into the image

Dealing with intimidating people involves keeping a clear head about their intimidating behaviour. Many people with intimidating behaviour have learned to use this to keep others at bay. It is often a defense mechanism which helps them avoid having to form closer relationships. This way they feel safe from rejection and if people don’t warm to them they feel okay about it as they have controlled that situation by being intimidating. One of their biggest fears is to be kind and nice and still be rejected. Being intimidating means that they have chosen to keep others at bay and give off an impression of not caring about what others think. The truth is that they often care deeply about what others think. So don’t buy into the image of intimidation – it’d not what is going on underneath for them- the part you don’t see, they part they hide.

2) Acting intimidating is a form of avoidance

Intimidating people use this behaviour to avoid others getting too close. It is far easier to avoid what you fear than to invite it in and possibly lose control. This idea is far too scary to contemplate.

3) See beneath the exterior

When you stop seeing the intimidating person as someone who might bite your head off and start seeing them as someone who probably has issues with intimacy and personal relationships, it becomes easier to put their behaviour into context. Ignore their off putting behaviour and act as if you haven’t noticed it. Appear calm and unaffected. This is the first secret in getting through to intimidating. By appearing unphased, you will begin the ruffle their carefully crafted exterior and make them more amenable to communicating on a less intimidating level. They observe that you are not intimidated and thereby lose their power to ‘keep you at bay’. This is psychology at work. I have worked with intimidating clients and have never allowed them to witness any anxiety on my part. That is what they hope for, that is what they expect. Throw them off guard and this opens the way for a more effective style of communication.

4) Intimidating people expect to intimidate others

When you show them that you are unaffected, intimidating people immediately lose their power.

5) Visualise the vulnerable person beneath the gruff exterior

Everyone designs how they wish to come across but beneath that we all have vulnerabilities, insecurities and self doubt and this is no different for people with intimidating behaviour. When dealing with intimidating people, it is important to remember that they have a vulnerable side too. Try to appeal that part of them rather than reacting to the bear-with-a-sore-head character that they prefer to project.

I have even visualised high powered clients who hide behind their corporate identities in vulnerable, human situations such as – on the loo. I know – unconventional but it works. Bringing intimidating people back into the realm of where I am rather than seeing them in an unrealistic light -not buying into the image they have created is the key to dealing with intimidating people. You do not have to accept them at face value as they would want you to.

Intimidating people are good at keeping others at bay by being frosty and seeming ‘hard’. This is very rarely who they really are. If you can keep this thought in focus you will never be intimidated again.

Photo by Symic How to handle intimidation

It’s regrettable that the legal profession is held in such disrepute. Newspapers are full of stories about lawyers who abuse their clients and charge unconscionable fees.

It’s regrettable that the legal profession is held in such disrepute. Newspapers are full of stories about lawyers who abuse their clients and charge unconscionable fees. It is no surprise that so many people wonder if the legal system and its army of lawyers is out of control. Lawyer jokes say much about the frustration people feel.

Almost everyone is afraid of getting involved in legal battles. Disdain for the profession is pervasive. People are intimidated by the threat of legal action, and for good reason. In an extended legal battle opposing lawyers are certain to expose weaknesses in your procedures, policies and judgments. They can cause the most competent and self-respecting executives to lose confidence in themselves. In a lawsuit, business secrets may be exposed. Is it any wonder that we are intimidated by lawyers and lawsuits?

In addition to the stress of going through a lawsuit, we have to consider the huge costs involved. Top lawyers earn $1000 an hour. It’s easy to run up a bill of two or three hundred thousand dollars on even a simple matter.

Legal intimidation does influence negotiation. One of the parties may be afraid of the legal process. One may have the resources to pay high legal costs, while the other does not. There are people in business who budget legal action into their competitive strategy, knowing that others will run from it. The possibility of a lawsuit is often a hidden factor in determining the outcome of negotiations.

Intimidating people; the ones who make us afraid to speak. They adjust our behaviour, make us hold back and hibernate like timid hedgehogs in winter. Perhaps your boss, colleague or a complete stranger. What makes a person intimidating and how can we respond?

Feeling inferior

Some people enjoy making others feel less than. Maybe they talk down and use belittling language, perhaps they verbally judge and mock. Mostly however, it’s us ourselves who create the fear. As Dr. Mike Bechtle website suggests, when we view someone as “better than us”, we begin to worry about embarrassment and how we’ll compare. We’re intimated because we don’t feel we are equal. That instability makes us panic and infuse self-doubt.

Standing next to a person you consider stunning; speaking to a highly intellectual person – conversing with a louder personality. Intimidating people make our insecurities stand like shivering arm hair. In some cases, our partners unintentionally cause a passive response. Psych Central spoke to a psychologist Julie de Azevedo Hanks who says people struggling to show assertiveness may fear social exclusion, “shame” and “being challenged”. With loved ones, it’s sometimes more difficult because we additionally fear losing them.

How to handle intimidation

Intelligence is my insecurity. Although I read and educate myself vigorously and work hard to build my career beside intellectual clients, my high school doubt convinces me I’m dumb. In the presence of medical students, financial experts and science fanatics, I crumble trying to prove myself. When researching What Defines Smart, I discovered puzzling evidence over the definition, yet I follow my presumptuous stereotypes.

When you’re an introvert

I grew up in the shadow of my extrovert sister. She established conversation with distant relatives, she found effective ways to communicate while I smiled and nodded. Finding my voice against hers challenged me to confront my issues. Throughout school, I remained “quiet” and “shy”. Confident, assertive people frightened me. This due to experiences of interrogation and judgement. I remember a popular girl asking me (aggressively in a patronising tone) “why don’t I ever speak”. And I froze, not sure how to respond.

Finding out why a person intimidates is the first step according to The Muse. They recommend trying to find a pattern and recognise the link between that and your insecurities. They further state to humanise intimidating people by recognising “similarities” instead of noticing differences. It helps to analyse their actions and ask whether their way of avoiding self-doubt is to dominate and speak up.

When we understand our feelings, it’s easier to work on challenging them. The more confident, stronger and happier we feel within ourselves, the less we’ll project on others. It’s like jealousy – when you see someone with something you want, you can’t help but feel a sense of anger. By accepting ourselves, we accept the great qualities we notice around us.

Tips to handle intimidating people

I use to work with a girl who repetitively gave me orders when we were valued at equal positions. She criticised my choices and diminished my thoughts by always managing to one-up my memories. On the other hand, when I have worked next to people who were quieter and less confident than me, I happily shined as the dominant figure. I admit – me leading and possessing authority gave me a sense of power and comfort, knowing I wasn’t the one who felt tested. So, in acknowledging how to respond to intimidating people, I think we also have to confront whether we intimidate. Learning not to abruptly jump to conclusions, actively listening and respecting opinion makes a huge difference.

Publication INC shares 7 steps for dealing with highly intimidating people. Their list includes planning the key points you want to address, adapting your body language and practicing speech beforehand as tips to prepare you. Additionally, they mention to “Talk firmly from the heart”. Try to avoid starting sentences such as:

“This may sound silly but”

“I’m not an expert… I guess”

Beginning in an unsure negative tone places you away from power. How do you respond to intimidating people? What makes you feel inferior to someone?

How to handle intimidation

Many organizations operate out of the belief that people in leadership need a tough mindset to be effective. Especially in turbulent times, there’s a sense that the only way leaders can reach the financial and subjective goals they’re measured against is to bulldoze their people. But of course this approach doesn’t yield great results, and it leaves employees feeling unnerved, insecure and even frightened.

If you’re among those who are feeling intimidated and overwhelmed, here are some tips for coping:

Manifest the right mindset. The best way to deal with an intimidating leader is to keep a good mindset. Don’t take anything they say to heart; remember that what they’re saying and doing is a reflection on them, not you. When you keep that in mind, it becomes a lot easier to manage your attitude and your emotions.

Practice direct and concise communication. Never give anyone who’s trying to intimidate you reason to believe their efforts are working. When you need to communicate with your intimidating leader, plan and rehearse to make sure you’re clear, direct, confident and firm about what you’re saying. Some examples

  • I think…..
  • I appreciate the feedback, but I don’t agree.
  • Let me get back to you on that.
  • Here’s what I can do …
  • I understand your position; here’s mine.

Maintain your professionalism. When your leader is intimidating, it’s more important than ever to avoid negative behavior like gossip, yelling, or losing your temper. Don’t badmouth your leader to others. Whatever happens, remember that you can’t control their behavior but you can control your response and keep your own behavior impeccably professional. That doesn’t mean you have to put up with bullying—report abusive behavior to Human Resources or through your organization’s official channels.

Develop a stronger relationship. If you can get past the intimidating façade to the human beneath, it may be possible to begin developing a stronger relationship with your intimidating leader. If they know they can trust you, they may be inclined to let go of their hard exterior—at least with you, and maybe eventually with others as well.

Lead by example: Be a model for a better way of leadership. Show your leader that appreciation, recognition and reassurance lead to better results than intimidation, and they may start paying attention. Demonstrate to your leader, and to others on your team, what open and authentic leadership looks like.

Leadership through intimidation often gives rise to mistrust and skepticism, and the consequences to people, teams and organizations can be deep and long-lasting. If you’re in leadership yourself, take stock of yourself to make sure you’re not guilty of intimidation. And if you’re working for someone who exhibits patterns of intimidating behavior, do everything you can to deal with it and turn it around—and keep yourself healthy and grounded in spite of their efforts.

Lead from within: Leadership at its best is based upon inspiration and motivation, not domination or intimidation.

#1 N A T I O N A L B E S T S E L L E R

The Leadership Gap
What Gets Between You and Your Greatness

How to handle intimidation

After decades of coaching powerful executives around the world, Lolly Daskal has observed that leaders rise to their positions relying on a specific set of values and traits. But in time, every executive reaches a point when their performance suffers and failure persists. Very few understand why or how to prevent it.

Additional Reading you might enjoy:

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    • The One Quality Every Leader Needs To Succeed

    Photo Credit: iStockPhotos

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    Lolly Daskal is one of the most sought-after executive leadership coaches in the world. Her extensive cross-cultural expertise spans 14 countries, six languages and hundreds of companies. As founder and CEO of Lead From Within, her proprietary leadership program is engineered to be a catalyst for leaders who want to enhance performance and make a meaningful difference in their companies, their lives, and the world.

    How to handle intimidation

    Is there someone you fear and try to avoid in your office?

    This post is for you if you feel intimidated at the workplace.

    Bullying can come from anywhere; It could be your manager, coworkers, your client or even a vendor. It can show up in the form of threats, uncalled for anger, tantrums, rebuke, being ridiculed or judged, made to feel isolated, harassed.

    Working with over-aggressive, ultra dominant, abusive people can be a miserable experience, and If left unaddressed, it is likely to make you fearful, anxious and exhausted. It gets trickier if you work in a toxic and intimidating environment and link your identity strongly to your career.

    Numerous factors can contribute to such dysfunctional behaviours, including parental programming, childhood experiences, trauma, early disappointments, abuse, misplaced beliefs, unmanageable pressure, personal insecurities, jealousy, fear.

    People who intimidate and treat others disrespectfully continue to exist and sometimes thrive in organizations despite stringent HR policies, employee training and education programs.

    In such situations, there are two sets of behaviours at play

    One person is dominant, forceful, aggressive, demanding and possibly disrespectful, while the other is tolerating, nervous, anxious, compliant, fearful and blaming themself.

    Like all challenges in life, this, too, needs to be understood and not feared. So here are eight actions you can take to manage your emotional, mental well being and claim back your power.

    Recognize your faulty thinking

    Fallacy Number 1

    “They are stronger/more powerful than me and can ruin my career”.

    Just because someone appears more powerful or has more authority does not mean that they can ruin your career. Reflect and ask yourself if the situation is as dire as you imagine, or is your fear distorting your thinking?

    Imagining extreme and catastrophic outcomes pulls you down and are not helpful. Instead, your efforts should be to develop a clearer perspective and understanding of the situation.

    Fallacy Number 2

    “I am weak and incapable of handling this”.

    By visualizing yourself as the victim, you are making it harder to face the bully. While you may not have the same authority or power as them, you can always choose an empowering attitude and outlook.

    Avoid justifying poor behaviour.

    In coaching conversations, clients sometimes tell me that the other person only intimidates them because they care deeply about the company. A few even tell me that the bully is not bad at heart and attribute the behaviour to high pressure, working with a lousy boss or an aggressive work culture.

    Remember this, irrespective of reasons, poor behaviour is just that and cannot be justified. The moment you start doing so, you are silently enabling and encouraging the intimidating behaviour.

    And what’s more, someone else may suffer twice as much at the hands of this bully because you unwittingly encourage them.

    Calibrate your expectations

    If you wish, hope, and wait for the bully to become aware of their behaviours, develop remorse and change, you are in for a massive disappointment. Instead, bring the focus back to you and explore ways to respond to the situation better.

    “This too shall pass.”

    Here is another line of thinking that’s futile, frustrating, and best avoided because it can be harmful in this context. The more you tolerate intimidation, abuse, the longer you are likely to experience stress and fear. It could also impact your levels of confidence and self-esteem.

    Work on yourself

    We all need someone to lean on in our hard times. So be proactive and build a network of friends/helpful colleagues who can hear you out and make you feel supported. Also, practice speaking up, one conversation, one day at a time. Unless you speak up for yourself, you are unlikely to see changes.


    Living with fear and anxiety is not healthy in the long run. If you have tried all you can to resolve the issue and find it beyond you, maybe it’s time to seek help from your seniors, the human resources team or a mentor within the organization.

    Most mature organizations are conscious of this need and have helpful systems, processes in place. Reach out, state your challenge in an objective manner, present facts, data on hand and ask them to intervene.

    Seek help

    Pay attention to your emotional and mental health, do not ignore signs of exhaustion, burnout and stress. Your well being is your biggest asset and needs to be nurtured, nourished. Reach out and seek support from a Therapist, Counsellor or Coach to manage your stress, achieve clarity and build your confidence.

    Make the hard call

    Sometimes, despite all your efforts and the intervention of Human Resources, you may notice that the intimidation and bullying do not stop.

    You can now choose to stay and continue to suffer or take the risk, quit your role, maybe even the firm, and seek a better work culture elsewhere. But, of course, there are consequences to both, and you have to make the call of choosing the one that’s appropriate for you.

    In closing

    The world is full of people wanting to be helpful and supportive; it also has difficult people. Seek and surround yourself with the former. Avoid the latter. By taking charge of your growth and well being, you can sustainably enable your success.

    And if as you read this, it occurs to you that you are the bully in someone else’s life, please avoid the intimidating behaviours. Understand your frustrations, find a healthier way to communicate your needs and seek support if necessary to overcome your derailing behaviours. You deserve to be happy too.

    How to handle intimidation

    This person could be your boss – someone with genuine positional power over you. Or this person could be a colleague – someone who uses clever words and exerts personal power or expert power that you believe you can’t compete with. This person might even be a subordinate – somebody who works for you (believe me, this happens more than you might think.)

    You probably sense a lack of ‘parity’– that you don’t have the right to engage with this person at the same level. Anything you do is scrutinized, challenged or faces disagreement. You might feel useless when you work with this person.

    How can we get over these situations to stop the intimidation?

    Assess why you’re intimidated

    To tackle this problem, you need to understand why it is a problem in the first place. Take a look at the relationship you have with this person and how you interact. Think about your default response, as much as theirs. Consider what prejudices you bring to the table as much as what this person might bring. Here is a list of considerations:

    Is it because of this person’s reputation?

    You may feel intimidated if the person’s reputation precedes them. You might have heard they are an ogre, or aggressive. Is this the reality, or just the opinion of somebody else who has projected their own feeling of intimidation onto you? There maybe truth in the opinions of others, but perhaps, with an open-mind, you might come to a different conclusion?

    Is it because of this person’s body language?

    You may be feeling intimidated because this person stands tall above you and their positioning and proximity could be overbearing. This person might be tall in stature, eliciting a ‘fight or flight’ response in you.

    Is it because of this person’s turn of phrase?

    Does this person use blunt language? Is this person articulate who uses words you don’t understand? Does this person use coarse language or aggressive words?

    Is it because this person is unpredictable?

    Perhaps this person is a mystery to you – one moment they seem on side, and the next against you? Do they behave in a way that leaves you puzzled and not knowing what to do next?

    Is it because of this person’s own feeling of vulnerability?

    Some vulnerable people behave aggressively – it’s their fight or flight response. You probably don’t see them behaving meekly, rather, you see their fight response, shrouded as intimidation or aggression.

    Is it because you don’t have a strong sense of the value you add to this person?

    Are you struggling to understand how your working relationship is mutually-beneficial? You may be sensing that this person doesn’t need you as much as you need them, which puts this person in a perceived position of strength. This feeling might arise because of your interpretation of the situation, or vice-versa.

    Is it because this person treats you with a lack of respect?

    Disrespectful behavior can come in many forms. For example, this person might talk over you, or they undermine your decisions. They might not be overtly aggressive, but their behavior causes you to feel small and unimportant.

    These things work the other way around, too. This person may be sensing weakness in you and see you as intimidated, and this could be as much of a problem for them as it is for you. If so, one of you must step forward to making this happen. Why not make that step yourself?

    It’s important to draw the distinction between somebody intimidating you, and you feeling intimidated.

    Some people deliberately set out to intimidate others. These are the bullies and cads who use aggression and coercion to get their own way, or do it just for ‘fun’. Then there are people who don’t deliberately intimidate you and it’s you, for whatever reason, that feels intimidated. Of course, one can lead to the other – cause and effect. But it’s not necessarily so. It’s really important to understand the difference in order to deal with it.

    If you’re genuinely feeling intimidated, could you just say so?

    One tactic is to come right out with it – tell this person you feel intimidated and why. It is possible that this person has not deliberately set out to intimidate you, and does not sense that this is happening. A possible outcome is that this person will moderate their behavior to be less intimidating, and not just to you. A chance to reflect may give them the information they need to make a change.

    Grasp the reasons for parity

    As mentioned above, you will probably feel that you’re not at the same level of this person. I don’t mean the level of seniority in the organization (although that does come into it.) I mean, you don’t feel that you have an equal part to play in your joint success. So try this.

    List the benefits you bring to this person, and how your work makes this person successful. Or if it helps, list the consequences, if you weren’t around, that this person will experience. Grasp why the relationship with this person is important to you both. You are not required to revere this person just because they are higher up the organization than you – that is your choice to do that (and it is a perfectly valid thing to do.) Position does not give a person the right to intimidate, nor, position is not a reason to feel intimidated.

    Invest in the relationship

    Give your relationship time, and invest in it. It is tempting to dis-engage and work with this person at arms length (flight response) – but this won’t solve the problem and could even make it worse for you. By working more with this person, you will learn about their default behaviors, and they will about you. In my experience, intimidating people become less intimidating the more we understand them and build a strong relationship with them. Intimidation is a default behavior – they put up a front. It isn’t personal, and aimed at you specifically. Sensing weakness, they press their ‘superiority’ to get the upper hand, because they haven’t yet seen the value you bring to them. Or, you haven’t shown your teeth.

    Don’t accept intimidation

    If you’re sure that the intimidation is genuine and not just how you perceive the relationship, then you mustn’t accept it any longer. You don’t deserve this, nor is it acceptable. Before you go to HR with a grievance, tackle it head on by telling this person that you’re feeling intimidated, and give them a chance to moderate their behavior. If it continues, then you have a genuine case for approaching HR to mediate a solution.

    Are you feeling intimidated by a colleague? How are you coping with it? Tell us your story by leaving a comment below.

    How to handle intimidation

    Attending school almost every day for the first 18 years of our lives, each of us has experienced bullying in one form or another. Walking in the front door of elementary school can feel like entering a war zone for some. Whether physical or verbal, all forms of bullying are painful.

    It’s easy to believe we’ll escape bullying altogether once we leave school. Unfortunately, bullying doesn’t stop after our school years. Adults continue to face harsh words and intimidation from coworkers, acquaintances, and even family members. That’s why it’s important to learn how to handle an adult bully.

    Campaigns to end bullying are now commonplace. But the best way we can cope with less-than-friendly individuals in our lives is by preparing and learning how to respond in these negative situations. Here are five impactful ways to handle interactions with adult bullies.

    Make Eye Contact

    Cyberbullying has increased dramatically with the rise of internet use. This is because it’s easier to act harshly toward others when you don’t have to face them in person. By looking someone in the eyes, you can confront them with the harshness of what they’re trying to do. You can lower the chances that they’ll follow through with their harsh words. The next time you feel someone trying to intimidate you, try making continuous eye contact with them. It might feel awkward, but it will be worth de-escalating the situation.


    You can also try leaving the situation or avoiding the bully entirely. As an adult, this can be difficult if they’re a coworker or other person you interact with on a regular basis. But you can try your best to avoid meeting this person in the break room at work. Or try only talk to them when there are other colleagues around. If you can’t always avoid running into them, make a plan of escape. This can involve saying you forgot about an important call you need to make. Have a list of these excuses ready for when you need to get out of a situation with the bully.

    Respond with Kindness, Humor, or Apathy

    If you have no way of avoiding interactions with the bully, try responding with a different tone. Reacting with kindness is a common tactic for encouraging others to treat you better. You can also try making a joke. This can throw off the individual and show them you aren’t intimidated or affected by what they’re saying. Last, if you struggle to react with kindness or humor, try showing as little emotion as possible. Bullies feel empowered by the response of their victims. But if you’re apathetic and show little response, the bully loses their reason for trying to hurt you in the first place.

    Keep a Record

    Keeping a record of interactions with the bully is essential for professional situations, such as in the workplace. You may need to remember events exactly as they happened if you decide to report the incidents to your company’s human resources department. While you don’t have to record every word of a conversation, do your best to write down key sentences the bully said to you that caused harm. Make sure to record how you responded as well so you can show your efforts to de-escalate the situation.


    Finally, use empathy to help yourself feel less hurt or affected by what the bully says to you. Remember that oftentimes people choose to hurt others because they experienced bullying or other traumatic events in their past. This doesn’t justify their actions toward you, but empathizing with them can help you feel less intimidated. You can have a clearer mind and be able to better handle the situation.

    All of these strategies can be applied to different types of bullying, from shallow comments to aggressive manipulation. Be confident in your ability to choose the tactics that best fit the type of bullying you’re facing. Always ask for help from a trusted friend if you feel you can’t handle the situation on your own. And remember you aren’t the only one facing bullying as an adult—we’ve all been through it and the right friend will help you find a solution.