Ignoring someone who is bullying you

Don’t ever ignore a bully. Ever.  Except when …

What has this got to do with leadership? Everything. Leadership is about leading people. Not fake imaginary people. Real people. Real people with real personalities and real issues and real emotional baggage. In short, it means leading flawed people who may or may not behave “optimally” all the time.

To do this well, you need to know how to deal with jerks. Because, some people are. You also need to recognize when you are being a jerk. Because – seriously – we all have our moments. Best to be honest about it.

So, let’s get to this. Ignoring a bully almost never works. What you need to do is not reward them. This is almost always best done through direct action.  Sometimes not rewarding a bully looks A LOT like ignoring them, but that’s not what you are actually doing and the difference matters.

Ignoring a bully and hoping for the best isn’t a strategy. Strategically not rewarding a bully – is a strategy. All things being equal – having a strategy tends to work better than just hoping for the best. Bonus if your strategy is based on science and best practices that are actually best practices and not just wishful thinking.

Taking a Strategic Approach to Bullying

Moving on. When you are strategic, you can strategically choose to not engage. Or to engage in a way that doesn’t engage.  Knowing what to do when will help you not be a jerk to people you think are being a jerk to you. Which means, you are less likely to be part of the problem.

The trick – knowing what to do when. That requires a bit of knowledge of how behaviors are shaped and formed so that YOU can get better control over YOUR responses to other people so that YOU not only aren’t adding fuel to the fire, you are putting out the fire, like the professional you claim to be.

While I can’t teach you everything I know about it here in this blog post what I can tell you is this.

  1. Don’t ignore a bully. Just stop rewarding them. There are multiple ways to do this.  Ignoring them is one possibility but it’s rarely the best – the best option is to issue a delta – a signal that what they did wasn’t ok without being a jerk about it.
  2. Be consistent. Once you stop rewarding the other person is likely to get worse. That’s fine, it’s part of the process. Just keep not rewarding them whenever they act in a way you don’t like.
  3. Be compassionate. With yourself and with them. In most cases, they aren’t actually jerks. They were just responding to a difficult situation or stress in an inappropriate way and when you stop reacting as if they are a horrible person, they stop acting horribly. 
  4. If they really are horrible people, you being a good person will help you deal with it more effectively than if you sink down to their level.

To learn more practical skills – check out my continuing education programs


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