Previously I have raised the importance of being able to recognise inappropriate communication styles. Being able to recognise and identify inappropriate communication is the first step to effectively reducing it in our society. Bullying is one form of inappropriate communication that is recognised as such. Yet all too often it is not recognised in practice. Recognising bullying is critical if we want to create a more respectful society. Here we’ll look at three foundational tactics used by bullies in order to clearly identify a bullying situation.
Bullies use a range of strategies and they adapt the strategies used to fit the situation. Bullies may be told, by who they perceive to be a higher power, they are not permitted to use a particular strategy. The most skilled bullies will stop using the specified strategy, unless they believe they can still get away with it. However as bullying is related to an attitude to life and achieving a desired out come, bullies will simply adapt and use another strategy. Yet there is some core or basic Tactics bullies will use and these are relatively easy to recognise. We’ll look at three of them: Denial, Blaming and Confusion.
Bullies will ‘deny’ they did something inappropriate. They will do so with ease and systematically. They will set up documents to support the denial as ‘evidence’ they did not do what they have done. They are aware what they are doing is considered inappropriate and will select where and how they implement the inappropriate action to enhance their deniability. Perhaps they only bully when no one else is present, or only those they are able to bully or when other bullies are present. Whichever works for them, at the time, is what they will do. At the same time any thing that goes well bullies will claim responsibility for, even if they didn’t have anything to do with it.
Blaming is the follow through of denial. Whenever anything goes wrong it is never the bully’s fault or responsibility. Bullies are quick to point the finger at someone or something else. They are quick to find excuses for any of their actions easily passing responsibility, ideally you if you are their target. If you are a target you are likely to be blamed for all of their inappropriate actions. ‘You made me do it’. This is a foundational indication of their lack of willingness to take responsibility for their actions.
If bullies can get you to accept responsibility, not only have they successfully shifted responsibility from them self, they have also enhanced their control over you. For if you accept responsibility you are also likely to move into guilt and corrective actions. Or worse sink into a trap of attempting to please them. They are controlling what you do by instigating guilt and your desire to please.
If one is gullible, that is willing to accept the denial and blaming, ‘confusion’ will easily set in. One is no longer sure what is true and not. No longer sure what did or did not happen. Doubt has set in. This in itself is very disorientating, however it also leaves one open to further inappropriate treatment. Bullies embrace the ability to confuse others as it supports their intention to get their own way. Cooperative individuals are easily gullible, as they tend to want to believe in others.
If you know someone who routinely denies their actions, continuously blames someone or something else for what goes wrong and or you regularly feel confused related to them and interactions with them, it is time to take a break. Create some distance between this person and yourself. Give yourself time to reorientate yourself and then plan a means to clarify what is happening.
I repeat if you regularly experience these indicators, denial, blaming and confusion, from anyone, consider them a likely bully. Particularly if you are becoming isolated from others, who may help you keep a realistic perspective.
Yes it is critical to distinguish challenging situations from interactions with bullies. It is important to double check it is not yourself that is in denial or blame. However do not blindly accept it is you.
Always ensure you are interacting with others and ask them for assistance clarifying the situation. Listen only to those that will listen to you and ask questions of you, your response, as well as the potential bully’s actions. That is they are attempting to support you get a balanced perspective.
Importantly do not be mistaken, if you are experiencing the actions of a bully they know what they are doing and you need to take self-protective action asap. If you are being accused of being a bully consider checking out ‘Responding to Accusations of being a Bully’. If we want to have more respectful communication and interactions we need to act to reduce the inappropriate interactions while building more respectful skills. Recognising inappropriate communication is the first step. Appropriate action is the follow through.