Never Be Bullied Again

I had the honor of presenting “Take the Bully by the Horns” at the ASAE (American Society of Association Executives) convention in Detroit this past week.  Many participants asked me to please share the handout as they said it gave them so many “I can use this TODAY” tips on what to say and do if someone is trying to control, intimidate or manipulate us – at work, at home, or in our community.


Please Note:  This handout doesn’t have my backstory, the participatory exercises, or the real-life examples that illustrated each insight and contrarian recommendation, so it doesn’t have that all important context.  However, I hope it gives you a head-start on speaking up for yourself so bullies no longer have the power to run or ruin your life - or undermine the success of your organization. 


1. Are you dealing with someone who is trying to control, intimidate or manipulate you?

Take the “Are You Dealing with a Bully?” quiz to see if this person has a pattern of mistreating others and to determine if you’re dealing with a 5%’er.


Please think of a difficult person you deal with.  How often does this person do the following behaviors - on a scale of 1 (rarely), 3 (sometimes), and 5 (often)?

  • Do you “talk on eggshells” and watch everything you say because s/he has a hair-trigger temper?
  • Does this person act condescending and superior and treat everyone as if they’re “stupid?”
  • Is this person hyper-critical? Does s/he blame everyone else for what goes wrong?
  • Does this person have a Jekyll-Hyde personality – charming one minute, cruel the next?
  • Does this person play martyr and make everyone else responsible for his/her moods?
  • Does this person insist on controlling decisions and attack anyone who dares question his judgement?
  • Does this person love to create drama, i.e., twists things around, make and then break promises?
  • Does he make passive aggressive remarks and then say “Just kidding” and say you’re over-sensitive?
  • Are you happier when you’re NOT around this person?

If this person scores more than 30, you’re dealing with a bully – a 5%er.


2. Have you “tried everything” but win-win approaches don’t work? Please understand:         95% of people:                                                    5% of people:

  • Are difficult on OCCASION                    *  Are difficult on PURPOSE
  • Listen to LOGIC                                        *  Dismiss LOGIC
  • Try to solve what’s WRONG                  *  Try to make YOU WRONG
  • Want to COOPERATE                             *  Want to CONTROL
  • Play by the RULES                                    *  Make up their own RULES

Win-win techniques  work with 95%ers because they care what’s fair. They have a conscience and self-reflect or self-correct.            

Win-win techniques backfire  with 5%ers because they don’t care. They don’t have a  conscience which means they don’t self-reflect and self-correct.   


3. Realize they are THREE ways to improve the situation if you’re dealing with a 5%er.

“People treat us the way we teach them to treat us.” – author Jack Canfield

  • Change THE OTHER PERSON.  (Ha ha.) 
  •   Change THE SITUATION. (Easier said than done.  You may not want to leave. Firing can be tough because they may be a Jekyll-Hyde who has the “keys to the kingdom.”)
  • Change THE WAY YOU DEAL WITH BULLIES.  (It’s time to reverse the risk-reward ratio.)
  • From now on, do the OPPOSITE OF YOUR ALWAYS. It’s time to DO the YOU and hold bullies accountable by keeping the focus on THEIR INAPPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR.

“Every time you point your finger at someone else, there are three fingers pointing back at you.” -Louis Nizer  (This belief holds US accountable for the bully’s behavior.)


4. From now on do the opposite of your always. Being physically or psychologically crowded? Do NOT back down or back away.

  • Picture a HULA HOOP of space.
  • You have a right/responsibility to articulate and enforce your BOUNDARIES.
  • Literally and figuratively, STAND UP for yourself.
  • Use your HAND to stop them from encroaching.
  • Say, “BACK OFF” or “ DON’T EVEN START!”
  • Say, “Okay, if you want an answer right now, the answer is NO!”

5. Being blamed or accused?

“Our task is not to fix the blame for the past, it’s to fix the course of the future.” – JFK

  • INTERRUPT!
  • “This won’t HELP. Instead OF FINDING FAULT, let’s focus on FINDING SOLUTIONS.”
  • Don’t deny or defend.  Put the ball back in their court with “WHAT DO YOU MEAN?

6. Being teased?   

“If we can laugh at it, we can live with it.” – Erma BombeckUnderstand this is a TEST.  Come up with COMEBACKS.


7. Being controlled or manipulated?”  “If you’re mean to me, I’m going to write about it, and you’re not going to like it.” – Taylor Swift 

  • Are you using the words “LET” and “ MAKE?”
  • Picture the See Saw of NEEDS being met.  Are they in balance?
  • Are you a PEOPLE-PLEASER?  Are you habitually going along to get along?
  • Assert your RIGHTS and TELL them (don’t ask) what you’re going to do.
  • This is not open to DEBATE.  Keep it brief or they’ll give you GRIEF.
  • Name their GAME.  Say what they’re doing to neutralize it.

8. Being threatened?

“Human beings are blessed with a sixth sense that alerts us to dissonance and warns us of danger.” – Gavin de Becker, author of The Gift of Fear

  • Honor (don’t over-ride) your INSTINCTS. 
  • REMOVE yourself from situation.  Don’t risk your health, safety, life.
  •  DOCUMENT what happened with the W’s so this IS OBJECTIVE, NOT EMOTIONAL.
  • If this is cyber-bullying or online abuse, take a SCREEN-CAPTURE.
  • REPORT the behavior – and its impact on you and OTHERS – to the authorities. 

9. Is your child being bullied? Understand school is about establishing a pecking order.

“You’re the weak one. You’ll never know friendship.  I feel sorry for you.” – Harry Potter

  • Are you unintentionally contributing to LEARNED HELPLESSNESS?
  • Give kids opportunities to become physically CONFIDENT.
  • Show kids how to “Act like a cat” and TOWER vs. COWER.
  • Rehearse responses so they have ­PRACTICE thinking on their feet.

10. Is this person making you miserable, stressing you out, driving you crazy? 

“Hate in your heart will consume you.” – Will Smith

  • Counter-act attempts to ISOLATE you by seeking out trusted friends/advisors.
  • Find a TOUCHSTONE and carry it with you wherever you go.
  •   Keep a LEDGER of blessings so you have tangible proof of what’s right in your world.
  • TELL YOURSELF A NEW STORY & keep your vision for a better future in sight, in mind.

11. Want to initiate a bully-awareness-prevention program in your association/company?

“Just one habitually offensive employee critically positioned in your organization can cost you dearly in lost employees, lost customers, and lost productivity.” – Christine Porath, Christine Pearson, “The Price of Incivility” in Harvard Business Review

  • Be an UPSTANDER, not a BYSTANDER.
  • Understand the “disproportionate bottom-line damage” done by one bully.
  • Distribute the “Are You Dealing with a Bully?” quiz to determine if this is an issue in your organization.
  • Take the initiative in approaching your HR/Training Director to request action.

Plan of Action:  What Next?  How Will You Take Responsibility for Making Things Better?

“I stayed because I thought things would get better, or at least not worse.” – author Anna Quindlen, Black and Blue

  • Keep this hand-out handy so it supports your SHIFT in dealing with bullies.  Please understand things will not go away and will not get better until you reverse the risk-reward ration and hold bullies accountable for their inappropriate behavior.
  • Want more ways to deal with difficult people, without becoming one yourself? Check out Sam’s books Tongue Fu!,  Take the Bully by the Horns and her NEW book Never Be Bullied Again (available Sept. 1) on Amazon.
  • Want to share these techniques with your association/company? Contact us to a) inquire about our certification program, to b) arrange for Sam to speak on this topic at you conference, or to c) explore how Sam can help your organization set up a bully awareness-prevention program.