10 behaviours of an emotional bully

by Sep 13, 2015

An emotional bully is generally unhappy in her core. She tends to have an emotional injury in her background that has damaged some inner part of her. This might be a divorce, being raised by a single parent, an addiction in the family, having poor family role models, or being a victim of some other abuse. It can simply be some unacknowledged unmet need, she is not even aware of.

It just leaves a psychological gap that needs filling.

Her level of insecurity is so high, she overcompensates by tightening her control on events and people in her life, in a usually hopeless struggle to feel more secure.

 An emotional bully uses non-violent means to put herself in a power position.

Litmus test

A good way to establish if you have emotional bullying tendencies is to examine how you handle conflict.  We all manifest some of the behaviour patterns, but if you exhibit a large number, now is the time to take stock, to avoid any negative impact on your relationships in the longer term. You might be an emotional bully.

If you have a pattern of difficult professional situations or challenges (complaints, being fired, disciplined or passed over for promotion) or struggle with personal relationships, seeking professional advice would be advisable.

Behaviour patterns of an emotional bully

1. Interrupting

In emotional moments you demand to be heard. You constantly interrupt and don’t let others finish and dominate any disagreements. You bully verbally by demanding everyone’s full attention… NOW. Your body language, perhaps palms turned outwards, shows you are not willing to listen.

2. Getting Angry Easily

Your outbursts of anger allow you to dominate any interaction. You may even make people afraid of you. Anger stops any constructive communication which leads to an effective outcome.

Maybe people will try not to upset you, to avoid incurring your wrath. Your reputation will go before you in what is called “Pre-emptive anger” as people tip toe around you.

3. Using Harsh and Blaming Language

“You always …” “You’re like…” “ You made me…” ” If you hadn’t… “

These phrases form a part of your speech pattern. Blaming language is the least constructive form of communication. The other person is not responsible for your behaviour. You are.

You might also be sarcastic and put people down, humiliate or belittle them, either privately or publically. This can be done with body language as well as verbally. A withering look can be as damaging as a tirade.

4. Crying

Crying is not necessarily a form of manipulation per se, but unchecked it can become that. Crying is an extreme form of emoting in response to stress. No positive outcome can come from a discussion where any party is crying. It is down to you to control your tears. Unless death or some genuine catastrophe is involved, especially in the work place, crying will never produce lasting beneficial results

If you are unable to stop crying, reschedule the discussion.

5. Shouting, name calling and swearing

These are all forms of over-emoting and therefore emotional bullying and verbal abuse.

6. Being Violent towards objects

Throwing objects around the house or office, even if not directly at the person, is still an act of violence. It’s intimidation and the hallmark of an emotional bully.

7. Withholding

You ignore, hang up the phone, don’t respond to emails and texts and generally give the silent or cold shoulder treatment. You might withhold physical affection or sex. You stop doing tasks in the workplace or chores at home, or anything that will make life difficult for another person, without having a constructive conversation around the topic to address the issue.

You might even withhold yourself and walk out of the office or a room. You retreat to another place and shut yourself off from the possibility to resolve the issue by refusing to participate.  This does not allow the person to finish any conversation.

This is not to be confused with removing yourself from a difficult situation and warning the person of your intention.

8. Seeking Revenge

Any act that causes another person discomfort or anxiety, which is probably rooted in deep and sustained anger, is a form of revenge-seeking, emotional bullying, designed to sabotage them. This behaviour is selfish and spiteful.

In the workplace this can include: constantly being late for meetings or deadlines, short notice instructions to work late, unnecessary corrections to submitted work, micro-management, unreasonable after-hours contact, excluding people from key communications or meetings, dumping your work on your colleagues or other acts of professional sabotage.

In personal relationships it can be staying late in a bar, infidelity, not doing assigned or agreed chores, and breaking trust through non-appearance or participation. (your partner’s work cocktail, kid’s events etc.)

  9. Making threats

If you threaten to quit or fire a person, leave with the kids/take the kids from their parent, discuss a person with someone else which would damage a person’s security, reputation or livelihood, this is a form of extreme emotional abuse.

10. Focusing on the past

If you focus on past issues, you lose sight of the future and the only contribution is to the resentment bank. Whether it’s failed assignments or a domestic issue, this approach damages the trust in any relationship.

How many of these sound familiar?


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