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Adult Bullies: They’re Everywhere

How to Deal With Adult Bullies

From bulldozer bosses to pushy neighbors, bullying continues long beyond the playground years. Here’s how to recognize a full-blown, fully-grown bully – and what to do about it.

Medically reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH

When you hear the world “bully,” what comes to mind — a pre-teen ruffian who’s constantly picking on the neighborhood wimp?

Actually, bullying lasts well into adulthood — and instead of the playground, the abuse is most likely to occur in the workplace. A recent survey of American workers found that more than 41 percent of them had experienced some form of bullying at work in the past year; 13 percent of them were bullied on a weekly basis. “Often, adult bullying occurs between bosses and employees,” explains Irina Firstein, LCSW, a relationship counselor in New York City.

But that’s not all: Many adults find themselves emotionally tormented by fellow employees, nasty neighbors, aggressive friends, and even their spouse, says Firstein.

No matter who’s doing the antagonizing, the effects of bullying can be extremely damaging psychologically. Here’s what you should know about adult bullies.

How to Spot a Grownup Bully

A recent Iowa State University study found that childhood bullies may very well grow into adult bullies. Of the participants, those with a history of childhood bullying were six times more likely to get in a fight and two and a half times more likely to threaten someone than those without a bullying past.

“Adult bullies tend to be opinionated, judgmental, and coercive,” says Katherine Krefft, PhD, a practicing psychologist in Buzzards Bay, Mass. “If a person repeatedly makes you feel intimidated or humiliated, you are probably dealing with a bully.”

These people tend to:

  • Abuse a position of power.
  • Repeatedly give undeserved criticism.
  • Use verbal or physical abuse.
  • Have excessive and unrealistic expectations.
  • Repeat insults or threats.
  • Abuse the rights and dignity of others.

The Toll Bullying Takes on the Victim

“Repeated bullying — whether it occurs between bosses and employees, between spouses, or in any adult relationship — is a form of traumatic stress that is toxic to one’s emotional health,” says Firstein. In fact, the effects of bullying have been linked to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a trauma-induced anxiety disorder.

In addition, bullying victims may experience:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Loss of self-confidence or self-esteem
  • Fearfulness
  • Financial losses from missed work
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Aches and pains
  • Digestive disturbances

How to Put an End to the Abuse

The worst thing you can do if you’re being bullied? Ignore it.

“The reason child bullies grow up to be adult bullies is because the behavior is repeated and reinforced,” warns Krefft. If not confronted, a bully will likely continue his antagonizing ways.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Recognize that being bullied is something no one deserves.
  • Document the bullying behavior as well as you can.
  • Try to have witnesses to support you.
  • Seek help from an appropriate authority.

Never try to retaliate directly, says Krefft. The proper authority will depend on the situation: If at work, your employee handbook or HR department may identify the right person in your workplace to talk to. If you have been physically threatened or attacked, you may want to go to the police.

Could You Be the Bully?

What if you’re the browbeater? In a national survey on bullying, 6 percent of adults admitted to picking on others.

If you’re constantly taunting others, enjoying other people’s discomfort, have trouble controlling destructive behavior, take out your anger on others, or have threatened other people, you could have a bullying problem. Other warnings signs include frequent lying and fighting.

Whether you are the bully or the bullied, it is important to recognize it and take steps to stop it. If not, it could continue on a destructive path, affecting the emotional health of everyone it touches.

From AOL Health News

January 4, 2012 Posted by | Character, Civility, News | 1 Comment

Teach Your Teen to Negotiate

I found this article on the National Public Radio Health Page; with the title Why a Teen Who Talks Back may have a Bright Future. It has to do with teaching your teen to talk problems through confidently; researchers found teens who could express themselves confidently had a greater likelihood of turning down offers of illegal drugs or behaviors.

It is interesting to me, too, that the Dutch who had the courage to shelter the Jews during the Holocaust were those who had learned to think independently as teenagers.

If you’re the parent of a teenager, you likely find yourself routinely embroiled in disputes with your child. Those disputes are the symbol of teen developmental separation from parents.

It’s a vital part of growing up, but it can be extraordinarily wearing on parents. Now researchers suggest that those spats can be tamed and, in the process, provide a lifelong benefit to children.

Researchers from the University of Virginia recently published their findings in the journal Child Development. Psychologist Joseph P. Allen headed the study.

Allen says almost all parents and teenagers argue. But it’s the quality of the arguments that makes all the difference.

“We tell parents to think of those arguments not as nuisance but as a critical training ground,” he says. Such arguments, he says, are actually mini life lessons in how to disagree — a necessary skill later on in life with partners, friends and colleagues on the job.

Teens should be rewarded when arguing calmly and persuasively and not when they indulge in yelling, whining, threats or insults, he says.

In Allen’s study, 157 13-year-olds were videotaped describing their biggest disagreement with their parents. The most common arguments were over grades, chores, money and friends. The tape was then played for both parent and teen.

“Parents reacted in a whole variety of ways. Some of them laughed uncomfortably; some rolled their eyes; and a number of them dove right in and said, ‘OK, let’s talk about this,'” he says.

It was the parents who said wanted to talk who were on the right track, says Allen. “We found that what a teen learned in handling these kinds of disagreements with their parents was exactly what they took into their peer world,” with all its pressures to conform to risky behavior like drugs and alcohol.

Allen interviewed the teens again at ages 15 and 16. “The teens who learned to be calm and confident and persuasive with their parents acted the same way when they were with their peers,” he says. They were able to confidently disagree, saying ‘no’ when offered alcohol or drugs. In fact, they were 40 percent more likely to say ‘no’ than kids who didn’t argue with their parents.

For other kids, it was an entirely different story. “They would back down right away,” says Allen, saying they felt it pointless to argue with their parents. This kind of passivity was taken directly into peer groups, where these teens were more likely to acquiesce when offered drugs or alcohol. “These were the teens we worried about,” he says.

Bottom line: Effective arguing acted as something of an inoculation against negative peer pressure. Kids who felt confident to express themselves to their parents also felt confident being honest with their friends.

So, ironically the best thing parents can do is help their teenager argue more effectively. For this, Allen offers one word: listen.

In the study, when parents listened to their kids, their kids listened back. They didn’t necessarily always agree, he says. But if one or the other made a good point, they would acknowledge that point. “They weren’t just trying to fight each other at every step and wear each other down. They were really trying to persuade the other person.”

Acceptable argument might go something like this: ‘How about if my curfew’s a half hour later but I agree that I’ll text you or I’ll agree that I’ll stay in certain places and you’ll know where I’ll be; or how about I prove to you I can handle it for three weeks before we make a final decision about it.”

Again, parents won’t necessarily agree. But “they’ll get across the message that they take their kids point of view seriously and honestly consider what they have to say,” Allen says.

Child psychologist Richard Weissbourd says the findings bolster earlier research that finds that “parents who really respect their kids’ thinking and their kids’ input are much more likely to have kids who end up being independent thinkers and who are able to resist peer groups.”

Weissbourd points to one dramatic study that analyzed parental relationships of Dutch citizens who ended up protecting Jews during World War II. They were parents who encouraged independent thinking, even if it differed from their own.

So the next time your teenager huffs and puffs and starts to argue, you might just step back for a minute, take a breath yourself, and try to listen. It may be one of the best lessons you teach your child.

January 4, 2012 Posted by | Character, Civility, Communication, Cultural, Education, Family Issues, Free Speech, Generational, Parenting, Statistics | 6 Comments