How to deal with bullies - Your advice and experiences.


I was bullied and humiliated when I was at college whilst suffering from PTSD and dissociating alot. Also people ganged up on me when I used to go to AA and NA groups. The bullying was so bad that I never went back. I've never been very good at standing up for myself face to face because my experience of confrontation with my father taught me that confrontation immediately led to violence. I know now that that's a cognitive distortion but I still feel that confrontation directly leads to violence. I'm now basically isolated because of other people's bullying and the way I've reacted to it.
It's a good topic. I'll have to reply to it later cos my brain is fried atm.

What I can say is that I went to one school that was terrible re bullying - it was a real cess pit - everyone got bullied - it was just a deeply dysfunctional place.

And I think that once you've been through a bad bullying experience, you kind of internalise it, and often you end up (unconsciously) sending out signals that communicate to others that you're vulnerable to bullying. So it can actually become a vicious cycle, if that makes sense? Where new people you meet, who are prone to be bullies can "see" that you're vulnerable to it. And yeah, it can be a really hard dynamic to stop happening.

Sorry you went through it. Bullying is a very harrowing experience.


I'm in my sixties and have dealt with it as a child and adult. I spent almost a year here on these forums trying to find an answer. I even got bullied into leaving the topic alone, because some members were tired of hearing from me on the subject. The good advice I did get was to read the book, Codependent No More. I am not sure why, other than through that book, prayer and realizing that I can not change others, only myself and how I deal with others, did the problem solve.

As a child I dealt with it by simply bowing my head and not answering anyone who bullied me. That, of course did not work, so I beat up a kid (not a good idea, as you already know). Better to work on yourself than do that. Maybe your T might be able to help you with this? There's no harm in asking.


I havent had the best record for dealing with bullies. I have learned a few things that have helped me deal with me after being bullied.
First, they won't change their tactics when given an opportunity. Bullies tend to stick to the name calling or mob mentality rhetoric and not rise to the debate and reconsider level of interplay. Don't waste your time.
A pointless effort defined is trying to get a passive aggressive person to be less passive aggressive. It's a pit that has no bottom, and you don't want to take on a bully in there. They were there first and are probably better than any one will ever know at it.
A counselor once gave me a beautiful tool to use to save yourself; Try to imagine the battle with the bully as a tug of war, with them pulling harder and harder on the rope, that pulls you closer and closer to the pit. The pit is anger and battle at their level, where they like it. The best way to win is to let go of the rope. Some may see it as a win for the bully, who cares what those people think? They may have already been at the end of that rope, maybe they went into the pit themselves. Those that know what just happened will admire you for what you have done. It feals like a loss, but you can't win against a bully without playing their game better than they do-which makes you: a bully. Better to drop the rope, better to never pick it up.


Some bullies I handle well, some I don’t.

Non violent communication techniques are really good with some types of bullies. (Lots of free resources online about this style of communication.) It is a way to directly speak to people who are worked up without confrontation.

Boundaries are also helpful - and not about confrontation. It’s simply you owning your own limits. Nothing more, nothing less.

The other thing that can help is calmness. Bullies and trolls feed off the reaction. Once the boundary is set, being super chill and confident about it takes out some of the gain for the bully. I’ll fake confidence at times when someone is being obnoxious. I’ll picture them even as a little kid to help myself get there. It works sometimes.


I ended up on this site because of the bully - it was the final straw that made everything else come tumbling down.

I have cut them out of my life and tried to stop giving them headspace. It’s difficult. I cannot get them out of my working life, so as much as possible I have nothing to do with them. EMDR was helpful. It’s not over but not engaging means there’s much less chance for them target me.


I have also dealt with a lot of bullying. While in grade school, it was my cleft lip that brought it on but later it seemed to be because I was obviously sensitive to negativity towards myself and other people.
After watching enough people either die or be slowly destroyed because of stigma and bullying, I have developed a zero tolerance policy for people who talk negatively about "crazy," "fat," "stupid," "lazy," "gay," "ugly," ___________ (fill in the blank) people. It's not that I can't tolerate it: I have had to at different times in my life but I just won't put myself through it, anymore, because it's nauseating poison for me.
Thankfully, my husband won't put up with it, either. As a result, we make friends very, very slowly but since we do have one another, I don't think we care that much. Granted, we both need work on our support networks but neither one of us is liable to find an asshole supportive.

The last bully I had to deal with I wrote a letter to ending our unhealthy relationship stating that the next person who chose to hurt one of my people might end up with a real fight on their hands from me. And at 38 years old, that's exactly how I felt, even though I felt like I was way too old to say it. For me, in that particular, extremely stressful situation, I had a lot of fear that I really was about to start swinging. Thus began a relocation plan after 14 years in that tiny town.

That said, I hate small towns because I think they are a breeding ground for bullies. Lack of diversity seems to create a perfect mix of ignorance and immaturity coupled with seventh grade lunch room opportunities. That's just my opinion after spending 26 years in rural America and 14 in cities. My husband is working in a small town but I am looking for work in the city, even if it means 2+ hours of commuting each day because people in the city seem to be a lot more open-minded and ready to cope with the differences that come their way.

There may be a healthier way to confront and even gain the respect of bullies but I am out of the game, myself. I don't want to be anywhere near them. That seems to be working out alright for me.


At my last job, there was a woman who had serious bullying tendencies. She spotted me right off. She would deliberately run into me in the break room, jump in front of me to get a seat, insult me and talk about me to others loudly while pointing at me. Then, she proceeded to try and have "friendly" conversations with me. I got into the habit of doing everything in my power to avoid her and this seemed to just fuel the fire. One day when she parked her work cart behind my chair and started chatting with a coworker who obviously didn't realize she knew this woman. I was trapped between them.

I turned to her and told her that I needed her to stay out of my space. She claimed to not understand my English. I told her I was pretty sure she did.

She then ran through the warehouse pointing and talking shit. I just continued working. The next day, my supervisor asked me to tell my side of the story -- I did. I told the whole thing which had gotten quite ridiculous. He expressed nothing but agreement that I shouldn't have to put up with these things.

Apparently, she was told to keep her distance from me because she did for a while. Then it started coming on slowly again.

Then, covid happened and I got laid off and eventually quit and thankfully I don't have to deal with her, anymore.

I couldn't help but wonder if she had a cultural issue with my cleft. She is Indian and in some parts of India, people still believe that clefties have no souls.


I had a boss who was a bully assistant principal, ran on the narcissistic side, and he had been a former coach. He did not like women, fat people, gay folks, and people with seniority. I brought to his attention that an act of his went against 25 student individual education service time plans putting all of us who service those children in legal harms way.....and they weren't getting the education they deserved. I was a whistle blower.....and stood up as my student's advocate to get them their service time back. Payback came all day, every day. I cried a lot......I did the right thing.....but I was punished for making him look bad.

During this time, the principal had her own trauma issues and let him take the reigns. She hardly ever came out of her office. People with seniority could not say no to him without the repercussion of getting an improvement plan and folks couldn't and wouldn't and fight him.

After realizing that I had an "absent principal and no support-one who is never seen and ill from her own trauma" she had let him handle the teachers and a crazy controlling assistant principal wowing on his power, I knew I wouldn't mentally last all year long. I requested my principal to change evaluators 3 times, citing my issues and she refused....That year, I was up for my evaluation-which is what determines whether you are hired the next year. Never having a bad evaluation in the over 25 years I worked there, I was being threatened and picked at daily. He was making every day miserable.....gas lighting me....then lying and making up lies on my improvement plan ---

I called the union and asked if I could get a mental health accommodation. I got a federal work accommodation (Americans with Disability Act), with the diagnosis PTSD -my old T's paperwork documenting bullying and citing that he was the trigger for my anxiety at work got me a different evaluator ....Since I worked for a state agency, they had to review the accommodation and determine if it was doable (doesn't cause the employer undue hardship). You can get a job accommodation if you have a diagnosis of PTSD and a bully for a boss. If there is an alternative person who can monitor and evaluate, you can request a federal accommodation. Because it is medical info, Human Resources couldn't tell anyone, and the principal was just "told to do it." My request was approved immediately by HR, I was transferred to a different assistant principal for evaluation, and the other assistant principal was told to stay away from me because if he harassed me past that point, it became a legal issue and he could lose his job.

What not to do in this situation? Do not tell your principal your home problems, never tell your diagnosis, or your personal stuff. Align yourself with a union rep if one is available. Follow the chain of command with documentation. An accommodation in the U.S can be done with therapist and ADA paperwork sent to the to human resources. Every time you are bullied, take out your phone, write the time, exactly what was said, location, who was with you, your response. Never write or import personal info from home on your work computer; keep it on your own phone. Keeping data is critical in depowering a bully at work. So, in my case, long story short, it took 6 months to figure out I could get a federal work accommodation for bullying because my boss was triggering. When human resources got the paperwork, it took only a few days to approve. He was not allowed in a room alone with me for the remainder of the year, and he had no input into my evaluation. So I guess I was using the law to stop it.
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@Survivor3 Awesome thread as well as some experienced answers from the members!

Insofar as you mentioning 12 Step Groups, I personally found Codependents Anonymous where I gravitated or hung my hat, while sponsoring, plus chairing on-line for several years. Much different style of boundary reinforcement from within and bullying is stopped cold in on-line groups by having the ‘mouth’ work on their own side of the street or risk being blocked for a time from meetings.

Melody Beattie (the author of Codependence No more) has several newer books addressing the dynamics of Boundary Busting forms of behaviors for the younger set facing a newer set of concerns. However, as I am older, I was literally saved through her emergence, the book mentioned by myself and another member plus therapy decades ago.

Bullies, narcissist often go hand in hand and since you mentioned you were bullied (or conditioned by abuse ) example your Dad, there are earmark traits that can set us up until we learn ourselves better. This is not to say you are at fault. I repeat- no engaging the self critic, please. I offer this to share with you that you can change your responses, perhaps through therapy, perhaps codependent self help books then heal some mind/body memories while learnIng red flags of others to minimize or nullify some of their intent. You can get back your power!

I see you taking the first step by asking for help: bravo ??! Remember we are powerless over others so we need to be the change. Safe journey and be well.


I struggle with this too. My family bullied me (called me names; laughed at my expression of emotions, or my mistakes, or my questions, or my behaviour - everything really). Then I got bullied at school as the boy who sexually assaulted me told everyone I did it willingly. As we were 11/12, so very young to do these things, I got called a slut for the rest of my secondary school.
All of that was very confusing.
So I believed all the name calling and ridicule and felt like utter s*it. And so began drink and drugs etc.
As an adult, my family still bully me and I have no effective means to deal with them.
I got bullied at work 3 years ago by my then manager. She would phone me about 20 times a day, accusing me of all sorts: not liking her, not being flexible, not helping her, undermining her.
As a child I just learnt to be passive and placate bullies. Submit submit submit. Clearly ineffective strategies that invite more bullying.
But I'm learning boundaries.
I've started that with my parents. I've said "no, I haven't done anything to justify your behaviour".
So I don't have the answers but I think like others have said, the answers lie in putting in boundaries. But to put in boundaries you need resilience and the ability to think through what is happening and your reaction to it. All very hard when triggered and flooded with emotion.