Note: This is part two of a two part article. Please see part one for the signs of subtle bullying.

Line of Defense

The best way to defend yourself against subtle bullies is to become aware of their tactics. Knowledge and discernment are your most effective tools for protecting and guarding yourself.

Become keenly aware of the signs of subtle bullying discussed in this article. Be on guard around new people that you don't know very well. Practice READING people, evaluating their facial expressions, tone of voice, and how they act around other people, and what they say to and about other people. Observe their social interactions closely. Ask yourself what their intentions are towards you and others. If they say negative, derogatory things about other people behind their backs, they are more than likely to treat you in the same way.

Try not to talk about or reveal any personal information about yourself or any personally-held thoughts, opinions, or explanations about yourself until you can determine what this person's intentions are towards you. You do not want to give a bully any ammunition that they can turn around and attack you with. Talk about common, everyday types of information such as the weather, sports, movies, television shows, music, or books.

Work at making a conscious effort to maintain direct eye contact with the subtle bully and others either talking to you, or who you are talking with. Practice lowering your voice to deeper sounding tones-speak from your chest. Become very conscious of your emotions, breath in slowly and deeply, and tell yourself to remain calm and relaxed. Stay in control of what you say. You do not have to answer every question aimed at you by anyone! Practice responses such as the following: I'd rather not go there; I have nothing to say about that; That's complicated; I have no comment about that; and during times when the subtle bully launches a public-shaming attack, look her straight in the eyes, and say nothing at all. Silence can be a very powerful tool in a line of defense against a subtle bully.

The Tap Root of Bullies

The primary emotion that acts as the tap root of all the malicious intent of the bully is her jealousy towards her victim. She sees her victim as someone who is more capable, creative, talented, popular, attractive, or likeable than she is, and so she does what she can to tear her victim down to be beneath her, at least in public opinion, by launching a smear campaign against him.

Subtle bullies love to have an audience that they can manipulate against their victims.

Recovering from Past Bullying

Bullying, whether if it's in the form of overt aggression or subtle behavior, is a form of intentional violence inflicted upon a person. In either case, the intent of the bully is malevolence towards her intended target or victim. The bully can be a child, teenager, young adult, middle age, or elderly person, and her victim can fall into any age category as well.

If you have been a target or victim of bullying, the first steps to recovery are to identify what happened to you, reflect back to the events, and view these events as times of trauma in your life. See the bully's behavior through the lens of the information covered in this article. If you felt fear, shame, embarrassment, or feelings of inadequacy, realize that these were emotions instigated by the bully, and that these emotions do not belong to you, they are not who you are, and they were the result of something done TO you by someone else-an act of intentional violence towards you.

You did nothing to deserve to be treated with the abuse, and nothing about you is grounds for the bully's attack. The subtle bully creates and promotes a false narrative about you to others around you.

It is crucial that you believe that you have the ability to control your emotions and to choose your emotions. You have been emotionally injured and your negative emotions are similar in nature to that of someone who is experiencing a post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can be caused by many different types of trauma, including emotional trauma set forth by subtle bullies.

If you allow the emotions of fear, shame, embarrassment, and feelings of inadequacy to fill your mind whenever you are faced with social situations that are similar to the ones in which the bully attacked you, then you risk becoming controlled by these emotions which you could cause you to become ineffective in your work, withdraw from family or friends, become depressed, or over anxious.

The key is to stop these emotions as soon as they begin to creep into your mind and replace them with emotions of power such as courage, bravery, self-control, calmness, fearlessness, and self-confidence. It is imperative that you see yourself as being able to control your emotions, but you must become very aware of them, very sensitive to them, and very fast to identify them.

Whenever you are going to face a social situation that you think will cause negative emotions to surface, try imagining yourself in the situation, and applying your emotions of power. These are the emotions that belong to you, and emotions that you can put into daily practice in your life. You do not have to allow other people to control your emotions; you can choose to control them yourself!

Note: This is part two of a two part article. Please see part one for the signs of subtle bullying.

Copyright © 2017 Timothy G. Weih, Ph.D.
University of Northern Iowa, USA

About Author / Additional Info:
Timothy G. Weih is an associate professor of education at the University of Northern Iowa, USA, and teaches elementary teaching methods courses.