A typical tactic of sneaky, manipulative bullies is to convince their well-meaning targets to try to make the bullies happy. Although covert bullies and control-freaks aren’t usually so clear, straightforward and blunt about it, what they say is, “You’ve made me unhappy. It’s your fault that I’m upset, angry, violent and abusive. If you only acted the way I want, I’d be happy and nice. It’s your responsibility to make me happy.” Common examples of this tactic are:
Common examples of this tactic are:
- An abusive spouse yells, controls and beats his partner. Then he blames his loss of self-control and self-discipline on the target. “If you did what I wanted, I’d be nice. You brought it on yourself. It’s your fault I treat you so badly.” See the case study of Grace in “Bullies Below the Radar: How to Wise Up, Stand Up and Stay Up.”
- A covert bully in the workplace will get hysterical and claim to have low morale until you give her everything she wants in order to calm her down and raise her morale. You’ll have to keep the goodies coming because she’ll never trust you; every day you’ll have to convince her anew by doing what she wants. An overt bully at work will use the same approach as an abusive spouse for outrageous acts of bullying, abuse and violence.
- Facing the temper tantrums of two year-olds, you’re teaching them how to get what they want from you; by being nice or by being nasty. You’re also training them how to feel when they don’t get what they want. They learn whether it’s okay to fight you as if not getting what they want is the end of the world or if they have to develop more self-discipline and control. Once you’re defeated by a two year-olds’ temper tantrums, you’ll have to do what they want forever, or else. The best way to create a spoiled brat is to accept the task of providing for their happiness. The worst consequence of your giving in is that they’ll grow up convinced that they can’t be happy unless they’re catered to.
- Using surly, grumpy, demanding, entitled behavior, teenagers can manipulate or browbeat their parents. Teens will claim that if they fail in life, it’ll be your fault because you didn’t give them enough. Or they’ll threaten to hurt themselves or damage the house if you upset them. However, your job is to turn the responsibility around. You might give them things if they make you like it, not if they try to beat you into giving them what they want. See the case study of Paula in “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks.”
In all these situations, sneaky, manipulative, covert, stealthy bullies try to get what they want by using emotional blackmail and name-calling. For example, if you don’t give them what they want, “You’re insensitive, selfish and uncaring” or “You’re not a nice person” or “You don’t understand how I feel, what I’ve lived through or how hard it is for me” or “You wouldn’t want me to repress what I feel. I don’t have any control over what I feel.”
Their hidden assumption is that other people (you) are responsible for their attitudes, moods and happiness. They have no control over how they feel about getting or not getting what they want. Also, they have no control over how they act when they’re upset. And, therefore, your job is to make them happy.
I disagree with all those assumptions. Also, if you accept the guilt, blame and responsibility, you’ll be a victim for life.
The negative, bullying, abusive self-talk can corrode your spirit, sap your strength, ruin your focus and destroy your courage. Looking at yourself with their hostile eyes and talking to yourself with their critical, perfectionistic, never-pleased voice can be demoralizing and debilitating. Constant repetition of all your imperfections, mistakes, faults, failures and character flaws can lead you down the path toward isolation, depression and suicide. Don’t go there.
Their bullying and abuse will continue and escalate. If you accept the responsibility to please them in order to get them to treat you decently, you’ll give them what they want and all they have to do to keep you giving is never to be satisfied. Since you’re responsible for their feelings and actions, there will always be more things you have to do to please them.
Don’t let them destroy your inner strength, courage, determination, perseverance and resilience. Don’t go down the path to being a victim for life. Don’t let them destroy your self-confidence and self-esteem. Don’t let them stimulate your anxiety, stress, guilt, negativity and self-mutilation. Don’t let them push you toward isolation, depression and suicide.
Instead, break the game. Don’t accept the responsibility for their feelings and actions. You don’t have to be perfect before they have to change how they act. Give the responsibility back to them.
For example, you can say, “I’m not responsible for how you feel and act. You are. I don’t have to make you happy. You can choose how you feel and what you do, no matter what’s happening. I’m going to focus only on behavior and decide whether to keep you around based only on your actions. Your reasons, excuses and justifications won’t count.”
And then you have to make the consequences count.
If a stealthy, manipulative bully says, “You’re being selfish,” you can respond with, “Thanks for noticing.” And you keep doing what you were doing.
The tactics they use tell you how close you want people to be; how close you want to let them come to your wonderful, peaceful, joyous island.
All tactics are situational so we’ll have to go into the details of your specific situation in order to design tactics that fit you and the other people involved.
“How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks” and “Parenting Bully-Proof Kids,” has many examples of children and adults commanding themselves and then stopping bullies. For more personalized coaching call me at 877-8Bullies (877-828-5543).