We like to believe that bullies are 2 dimensional people who will just grow out of it. I have posted arguments that education is a solution and avoiding turning the bully into a victim is necessary to support the evolution of their consciousness.
Then I see bullies like Russia’s Vladimir Putin, The US’s Donald Trump, Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and Turkey’s Tayyip Erdogan and recognize that sometimes the problem is that bullying WORKS!
I’ve seen this in my own life. Most of the aggressive bullies I’ve seen may not be liked, but they get their way most of the time. While complaining about slow service simply irritates reps, demanding concessions and special treatment gets a surprising amount of them. The rules of society which support healthy interactions between people demands we be willing to “give and take.” Unfortunately too many of us deal with a bully by giving, giving and then giving some more.
Israel is a perfect example of this. In 1946 Palestine was 97% of the territory. Jews had settled around 3% of the land. In 1947 the UN worked with Israel and Palestine to draw lines splitting up Palestine with the Israelites. It was moderately equitable splitting the country up evenly. Israel was not content with this though. So little by little, year after year they pushed the borders, built new fences and constructed new settlements until as of 2016 Israel occupies 93% of the land and the Palestinians are isolated into a couple dozen separate settlements. A few days ago in 2016 the UN voted on a resolution to declare new settlements encroaching on Palestinian Lands as unlawful. Israel responded by issuing sanctions against every country which voted for this resolution and specifically declared that “Israel would be glad to reverse these sanctions as soon as your country reverses its position on the UN resolution.”
THAT is how you bully for the win!
Why and how they Win:
We tend to see bullies as angry, demanding and stupid, but what happens when they aren’t stupid? What happens when they know what they are doing and choose to do so because it works?
This is where things get difficult. You see, a bully has learned that if they keep pushing, eventually people will give in. They will keep trying, over and over again in old ways, new ways and more. They will lie, cheat and steal to get their way and when they are smart they know how to push the line and only cross it in ways they will be able to get out of.
A bully will never be satisfied with what you offer. They will always want more. Figure out what your line is and set it. They will keep pushing for more concessions and more offerings, and you have to hold fast despite continuous, fluxuating pressure, threats and lies. As long as a bully believes there is a chance they can get what they want they will continue to push and the best you can hope for is that they disappear or decide to focus their efforts on another issues. In the second situation be ready for them to come back. Most bullies have learned patience. They will push, stop and then push again. Sometimes they push gently and sometimes its sudden and overwhelming. The worst part is that the smart ones will seem random. Sometimes they’ll switch tactics, sometimes they’ll repeat.
Standing up to Bullies
Ok… we discussed the problem. What’s the solution?
Identify the bully by their past. Become aware that the more you give into bullies the more they will push. Help others around you know this too. Keep track (write down) examples to use to convince others.
Evidence is everything. Bullies care very careful to avoid making written agreements. I’ve had multiple times when I started a conversation in email and they moved the conversation to phone calls. When it returned to email they were careful to avoid any written admissions or commitments. In the USA sending an email counts as evidence as long as they do not have writings opposing what you state. Thus after you get off a call with a bully write down the key points and email them to them saying (Please let me know if we aren’t in agreement here). If they don’t respond you have legal evidence!
Set your line and do not give in. Use evidence (steps 1 and 2) to prove to 3rd parties that the bully is violating agreements/boundaries. 3rd parties will be cajoled to see your lack of “giving in” as “not working in the spirit of cooperation.” Your evidence will help you stand your ground against that perception.
Clean your house. If you have old drama, stories or secrets which can bite you take care of them as soon as possible. Depending on how focused the bully is they WILL find and leverage them to erode your stance.
Organize support with others. It is easier to destroy than to create, and bullies are masters of destroying resistance. Gathering help and being in such a strong position that bullies decide its not worth the work is a lot of work, but its worthwhile. Additionally the act of creating this support against the bully will build a long term network that you can rely on for support and aid even when the bully isn’t involved.
Attack their support. Bullies often have a large and intimidating network, but a bully is a bully. Their network will mostly be people who wish they could stand up to the bully themselves. Sometimes they will also be bullies, but those bullies will have the same problem. Study their network and erode their support by empowering their “serfs” to overthrow the yolk. Be honest and committed to this though. If you break your word and don’t support people you promised to support you will solidify the bullies power (Hey USA! I’m talking to you! Arab Spring?!)
Build popular support for your position. Bullies are usually incredibly selfish, and while they can sell their ideas on the surface (Trump) they rarely deeply connect with people. This is where you will need to form authentic and deep support by listening and responding to people’s authentic concerns and teaching them how your effort and their options can resolve them.
Treat the situation as a war, not a battle. Most people are too impatient, but not bullies. They can lose 10,000 battles as long as they win the war. Winning a battle against them is NOT a win. It is simply a delay. Losing to them is only a loss if you quit. Get back up and keep moving.
Flank the Bully. Like any person/organization a bully only has so many resources. Study them well enough to identify ways that you can distract them. What opponents do they have that just need an opportunity? What can you do to help the opponent have that opportunity? Don’t worry that you are escalating the situation by doing so. The bully has already put basic effort into discovering your weaknesses and seeing if they use them to hurt you. The bully will have many, many, many more skeletons, secrets and bitter ex-relationships.
Win or Lose, Keep Fighting. Bullies rely on people’s desire to end conflict and move on with their lives. By following their scorched earth policy they leave a wake of victims behind them who generally just want to lick their wounds and move on. Because they don’t actually face any continuing consequences for their old behaviors they are free to move on to their newest victims. What would happen in their past victims kept the struggle up? What would happen if the people who they screwed gathered together to stop them the next time and actually bring justice?
This is hard advice to give because it goes against the “live and let live” mindset the “spiritually enlightened” normally offer. It requires careful balance to perform the anti-bully campaign without becoming it. How do we maintain our faith in people in general when we watch how they roll over and support the very bully who is hurting them?
The answer I choose to that question is to own that our ancestors knew what they were talking about when they declared that “Eternal Vigilance is the Price of Liberty.” We can make the standing for justice a part of our very life. We can become someone who recognizes the struggle in all of its varied forms in our day to day lives and helps be part of the solution as often as possible.
Like any decision which requires personal sacrifice, it’s important to study the tools which attract allies and support. Recognize that most people will only support your efforts if doing so supports their personal needs, social needs or perception of self. Make your peace with the fact that most people will not authentically understand the lifelong vigilance you are carrying and will pay lip service at best.
It’s only when people are personally at risk or facing loss that they come to understand what you’ve been standing for all this time. At that point if you hold your vision and support them during their struggle they will truly begin to understand. If you are lucky, a few of them will join you in your constant vigil, but most of them will return to a relaxed place where they don’t stand up unless they are rewarded or manipulated.
Again… Make your peace with the few who DO get it. Celebrate them and support each other. Support them as they build power with the same fervor as you work to build your own. If during your lifetime you can find and work with 12 different people (including yourself) who build personal, financial, political and/or social power while maintaining social vigilance, you will change the world.