Note: For the purpose of this article, when I use the term ‘bullying‘ I am not talking about physical violence or abuse. I am referring to emotional and psychological intimidation only. If you’re easily offended by words like dickhead, then this may not be the article for you.
The Occasional Dickhead
I live on a pretty busy street in a pretty busy area. And living on my pretty busy street in my pretty busy area gives me an opportunity to observe a large cross-section of humanity. Busy people. Cool people. Old people. Young people. Interesting people. Inspiring people. Weird people. Friendly people. A wide range of nationalities and cultures and of course, the occasional dickhead. I know that’s not a term often used in self-help literature but perhaps it should be; they exist. Yes, the psychologists might give them different labels (narcissists, delusionals, sociopaths) but at their core… they’re dickheads.
The Poster Boy
They live among us in human form and permeate every corner of society. They are bird crap on the windscreen of life. They exist in our homes, our businesses, our schools, our sporting clubs and even our churches (hard to believe I know). Periodically you will be required to deal with their dickheaded-ness (a word), so it’s always good to be prepared and understand how your typical dickhead operates. This morning I met the poster boy for dickheads. An angry dickhead. An ignorant, arrogant bully. Oh yes, he was a champion.
It was about 8 a.m. and I was waiting in line at my local supermarket. I was enjoying my own little private meditation session, humming a song in my head and using as few brain cells as possible when from out of nowhere my tranquility was shattered by an inappropriately loud voice. There I was, lost in my own little cerebral refuge, groceries in hand when Mr. Potato Head stepped out of the shadows of obscurity and into my life. Apparently there weren’t enough cashiers on duty for his liking and his exceptionally important life and very busy schedule was being ruined by having to wait in a queue. There were two cashiers working and about five or six people in each queue, so it was really no biggie. For the rest of us anyway. The Dickhead (as he shall be referred to from here on) was in his forties and wearing an expensive suit, so he must have been important. How dare he have to lower himself and line up with us commoners to wait a full two minutes to buy his cigarettes. Such an inconvenience. Poor baby.
The Dickhead started his tirade by complaining about the situation to some ladies standing next to him in the queue who clearly weren’t interested in his protest, his language or his manner. When he didn’t get the support he was looking for, he turned his increasingly loud attention to the sixteen year-old girl at the register. When she didn’t seem to have an immediate solution he began to get louder, more aggressive and more intimidating.
“Would it be possible to get any f***ing service in this f***ing place” he yelled into the atmosphere.
A Violent Fantasy
I almost laughed out loud at how stupid he was. I looked at the young cashier, she appeared to be petrified. Part of me wanted to lean over the counter and stab the Dickhead in the neck with one of the Bic pens on the stand next to him. But that would have been bad right? Just checking. Fortunately for him, I’m not the violent type. Often. By this stage he was visibly angry and beginning to rant. I looked around at everyone in line and he and I were the only blokes there. I looked at the other people lined up with their milk, bread and newspapers and they all looked extremely uncomfortable.
I stared at the ranting idiot in disbelief, marvelling at his ability to create such chaos and tension all because of his selfishness, his arrogance and his inability to control his temper. He turned and saw me staring at him. I was glad. He looked at me for a second and then turned away. I was disappointed. I kept staring. He turned back to me. Bingo.
“What are you f***ing looking at?” he barked at me.
Some Male Bonding
I won’t say exactly what I said because my parents might read this but I will say that I walked over and we shared a brief exchange over the top of some trashy mags and a chewing gum stand. In my own special (loving, caring, sharing) way I told him that he should probably treat people more respectfully, control his temper, regulate his volume somewhat and not intimidate sixteen year-old girls. That’s pretty much how it went.
After our chat, he slammed his cigarettes on the counter, abandoned his place in the queue and stormed out of the store, taking all his bad energy and extreme unpleasantness with him. Bliss.
Before I left I asked the young cashier if she was okay. She was still shaky and a little teary but told me she would be alright. I hated it that a ‘grown’ man had intimidated and bullied a young girl to tears and made twenty other people feel uncomfortable and anxious all because he was a self-centred, socially-unaware tool.
Now, I know the behavioural psychologists would address this issue in a much more eloquent and academic way than me, but I gotta say, my tolerance for people who intimidate and bully… is zero. I can’t help myself. That’s not entirely true; I don’t wanna help myself. Most bullies are gutless and need to be told.
“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
Every time I’ve confronted a bully in a situation like the one above, they have backed down. Every time. They operate on intimidation and when they realise they can’t intimidate someone, they will change their tune and move on.
I have an issue with angry people. Especially bullies. For the most part, their anger serves no productive purpose. Especially the moronic, wanna-be alpha males who feel compelled to intimidate people who are physically weaker or smaller than themselves. Strength of character – good. Assertiveness – good. Intimidation… pathetic.
Some facts about Bullies.
2. Bullying is not always obvious. Coercion, manipulation and emotional blackmail are more subtle forms of bullying. This happens everywhere from the workplace to church. People being pressured to conform to certain behaviours and standards, or to embrace certain beliefs or philosophies can also be a form of bullying. Someone who is constantly telling you how and what to think, is a bully.
3. Some bullies hide behind their public persona. Outwardly some are perceived as ‘pillars of the community’ while in reality they are manipulative bullies who control and intimidate rather than lead and inspire. In other words they are hypocrites.
4. Bullies typically prey on people who they perceive to be weaker and more vulnerable than themselves. They don’t seek conversation, they seek compliance.
5. It ain’t just blokes. When it comes to emotional and psychological bullying (what we’re talking about today), women can compete with the best of them. Er… worst.
6. Beware the ‘sales bully'; the person who tries to manipulate, coerce and even trick you into spending your money. “You can have the car at this price but you will need to sign up right now because this is the last one we have in stock and I have five other people interested….”
Dealing with Bullies.
1. Don’t stab them in the neck with a Bic. The thigh perhaps.
2. Stop being a people pleaser. Some people are so desperate to keep the peace and not ‘rock the boat’ that they spend their entire lives letting themselves be coerced, manipulated, pressured and controlled (bullied) by people around them. Often a spouse, parent, sibling or boss.
3. Don’t walk around with that victim sign on your forehead. Consciously work at being assertive and expressing your own thoughts and ideas. Just because you respect someone doesn’t mean you need to agree with them. Your thoughts, ideas, beliefs and values are just as important as anybody’s.
4. At times it will be necessary to distance yourself from people who would seek to intimidate or manipulate you into compliance. This could mean a range of things from changing jobs, to ending a relationship, to spending less time with an over-bearing family member, to leaving a church.
5. Acknowledge bullying for what it is in your life. Don’t make excuses for the bullies in your world. It only allows them to continue their selfish, controlling, anti-social behaviour and keep you in that submissive, compromised, unhappy place (exactly what they want). They want power over you and they can only have it if you give it to them.
6. Bullies are essentially gutless. Sometimes it is necessary to involve someone else in the process to deal with a bully in a strategic, productive and firm manner (no, not violent just assertive). A few years ago one of my friends was being bullied by her boss. When his ‘advances’ to her were shunned he decided to make her life hell. He constantly made her feel uncomfortable and intimidated. I made an appointment to see him. He didn’t know who I was and thought I was a new client seeking some kind of professional advice. When I walked into his office he was surprised to learn that he was the one who would be receiving the advice. I did not threaten him (at all) and did not touch him (physically). I told him I knew exactly what was going on and that it needed to stop immediately. The entire meeting lasted sixty seconds and he didn’t speak. He never bullied her again. In fact, he became surprisingly friendly and accommodating. Funny that.
7. Name it and Deal with it. Don’t pretend it’s not happening. Don’t wait for it to resolve itself. Left unaddressed, bullying can lead to a range of social, professional, personal and even health issues. Things like anxiety, depression, sleeplessness and loss of appetite are not uncommon consequences of bullying.
Let me know your thoughts on this article and/or share from your own experiences by clicking on the comment thingy.
Enjoy your day. Or don’t. No pressure.