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What is the best way to deal with a bully?

Dealing with bullies can be among the most difficult things we encounter in life. A skilled, persistent bully can make life seem miserable for us, especially if that bully has power over us. Dealing with bullies effectively is therefore a key skill that can dramatically improve your quality of life. What is the best way to deal with a bully? First, you should recognize when someone is bullying you. The key indicator of bullying is when another person tries to use excessive leverage against you. The bully often exaggerates their power over you in an effort to convince you to cave in and do what they want. In order to handle this dynamic, you must understand what leverage the bully truly has over you. If in fact the bully does have a lot of power over you, it is not helpful in the short term to pretend otherwise; at worst, you could endanger yourself by not acknowledging the bully’s true power over you. On the other hand, if the bully does not have as much leverage as they seem to suggest, then you should be aware of that too. After you have evaluated the bully’s actual leverage (i.e., what will happen to you – and to the bully – if you do not agree with what the bully is demanding), you must then determine the most effective way to deal with the bully. If in the short term the bully has a lot of power over you, then you may want to explore longer term ways to improve your leverage, even as you mitigate your risks by largely complying with the bully’s demands in the short term. More often, the bully has overstated their short term leverage. In that case, you should explore how best to “educate” the bully about their miscalculation by communicating or imposing consequences that harm the bully’s critical interests. Finally, where you can satisfy the bully’s legitimate interests without being perceived by the bully as caving in to their unreasonable demands, you should consider doing that. If you do so, be sure to communicate clearly to the bully that you are aware of your own leverage and are satisfying the bully’s interests because doing so also satisfies your interests!

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