The Bullies ver. 2.0.2
The Top Gun National Crises Troubleshooter, Retired
Bullies come in different shapes and sizes and from different families of origin, with and without siblings. There are three basic types of bullies: physical bullies, verbal bullies and in-your-face bullies. There are several well-known tactics to deal with these bullies. These bullies think that their behavior is normal, as many have no doubt learned to be a bully by the time they were six years old. [i]
Physical bullies are those children or young adults you meet on the way to school. This was prevalent at least during the days when we allowed our children to walk to school – a rare occasion in today’s world – as some of these physical bullies were allowed to grow up without correction or, in other circumstances, in unsupervised areas or even from supervision itself! The standard format to take care of these young bullies was to show them that you would not be bullied.
Case Study I
This writer was serving our country in support of LBJ’s War in Vietnam, and was living in a barracks known as “chicken coops,” as the barracks were screened in from top to bottom, with a wall in between. They remained this way all year round. Between two chicken coops was the latrine with showers. One evening I was walking from the latrine dressed only in my shorts and wearing thongs. Two young men approached me at the entrance. One of them said to the other, “Watch this for how to start a fight.” I was standing as in parade rest with my hands free. I have seen this approach before in a scene from the film, “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” where Butch Cassidy, played by Paul Newman, approached one of his underlings who was challenging his authority. Butch let him have it with a kick to his manhood. As this young man came at me intending to do the same, unaware of my fast reflexes, I sidestepped his kick and got my right arm under his right arm, thrust it upwards and came down with an elbow to his kidney zone. He ended up sprawled out next to the water cooler. I kicked off my thongs and took up the karate ready-to-fight position. His buddy said something to him to call him off and he said, “We’re done.” I put my thongs back on and returned to my bunk never to see this young man again.
Case Study II
My son reported that a physical bully was making it difficult for him to get to his grade school, which was no more than a walk of four blocks. At this time, I had physical custody of my son and also had two roommates who were brothers. Both of these brothers held black belts in karate. I asked one of these brothers to teach my son enough karate to take care of this bully that was making it difficult for him to walk to school. After several sessions with this black belt karate instructor, my son made his karate knowledge known to this physical bully. He never had a problem walking to school after this one exhibition.
Case Study III
In high school a lastborn in his family (another birth-order to find bullies) would see me coming down the hallway carrying a stack of books in front of me. He took advantage of this situation and slapped the books out of my hands to the floor! On another occasion when we were taking an unsupervised exam, I passed in front of him with my paper in my hand. He again slapped my paper to the floor. I reached down with my left hand and picked up the paper. With my right hand I backhanded him and knocked him to the floor. He got up and attacked me with both his fists flying. Having performed research into boxing myself, I deflected all of his attempts to land a punch until we hear the supervising teacher returning. Later when I was in the gym putting on my basketball shoes, he approached me and apologized for his behavior.
Although the Representative of the Creator, a.k.a. Jesus, taught us to turn the other cheek when hit, he was encompassed in an authoritarian society and to return a punch would certainly result in death. In this situation it is better to turn the other cheek and show them that you can take their bullying.
There are four categories of verbal bullies. The first category includes those that grow up with a same-sex sibling within a couple of years of their age. If they grew up bullying this younger sibling, then that personality trait would likely have become dominate by the time they were six years old. [ii] If they had grown up with more knowledgeable parents, (authoritative rather than authoritarian)[iii] they may have grown up looking after their younger sibling. But in any case, they certainly would have been more assertive than their younger sibling. In the workforce these will be the “take charge” people and they will want the work done “their way.” The second category includes those that grow up being mostly exposed to older adults such as the only child or a distant lastborn child. There are two categories of only children: the pure only child and the functional only child. Functional only children grew up as only children for various reasons (e.g. separation of family of origin, death of a sibling, more than six years between them and the next same sex sibling).[iv] Several of our U.S. presidents fall into the category of functional only children (Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Herbert Hoover, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Gerald R. Ford, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama). [v] Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, the Russian president, is an example of a true only child. Even the little prince or princess that gets treated as special can develop this “only child syndrome.” For example, Joseph in the Old Testament was treated as special and even given a special coat to wear; he was sold off as a slave by his siblings but ended up the second in command in Egypt. 3) The third category includes those that demonstrate verbal attacking rants (VARs) often right in your face. The origin of this behavior is varied; sometimes it is an inherited trait or it could be the result of a medical surgery procedure. 4) The fourth category is the highly educated bully (I know more than you bully). These are probably the most difficult bullies to deal with as they are probably also either a firstborn or only child or a younger sibling following their role model older sibling.
The older sibling, with a near younger same-sex sibling, that turned out to be a bully will have a communication style of “I win, you lose.” The only child often possesses a communication style of “in your face” or “I want this” or I want that.” The “I” word will come up often, as in “look what I have accomplished,” “Look what I did,” etc. A functional only child may even be made to feel more important if they experienced the death of a sibling that was close in age to them, as they may now have been treated as extra special by their parents and were given anything they wanted and more. A characterization of the only child syndrome by my late sister with an only child son-in-law was, “They are good people, and they just need to be mellowed a bit.” This was also characterized by my niece as, “It’s my way or the highway.” According to Dr. Kevin Leman, “They know they are right, even when they are not.” [vi] And in Dr. Leman’s “The Birth Order Book,” he writes, “Show me a young person that prefers to be around older people than people their own age, and I will show you an only child.”[vii]
Case Study IV
A few decades ago, I was being introduced to my new research partner; she was being introduced to me by the lead program manager in my laboratory. She was going to design the experiments and I was going to perform the experiments. The first words from her were, “I want this over there and I want that over here.” She gave these orders in such a strong manner that she blew me off my chair! I picked myself up and stated, “I don’t want that over there and I don’t want this over here. I want that over there and I want this over here!” She looked at the program manager with an open mouth. The program manager stated, “See, he can do that too.”
This was not an unusual confrontation at this national employer, as there was a filter on the front door that only allowed “The Best of the Best” to enter though these doors. With that type of filter on the front door in an academically-minded institution, the ones who meet these qualities will most likely be the firstborn in their family of origin or an only child, as these are the typical academic achievers. [viii] Therefore, this institution had continuous contracts with professional communication instructors, and when it was needed, we got sent to rehabilitation to produce teamwork communication, a.k.a., assertive win-win communication skills.
This young lady, who graduated at the top of her class at MIT and was the only child of two PhD’s, certainly met the requirements to be the best of the best to enter through the front door. I myself had been pulled aside by my manager of the time and told to “lighten up.” I received my invitation to attend these special teamwork communication classes. I, too, had graduated at the top of my college graduating class and both of my parents were college graduates and my father was a doctor of veterinary medicine. For my generation, I represented less than three percent of the US population in the families of origin.
Although I was the youngest of eight and my father was fifty-one years old and my mother thirty-nine years old when I was born, I still qualified as a functional only child. Like many first generation middle class parents, they had more children than they could send to college. When I was still on my tricycle, three of my sisters came home from out-of-state college to hear that their college funding was being terminated and that it was more important for males to go to college than females, who in those days’ women went to college to marry a college man. In my last semester in high school, my father died and it was determined by my five sisters that I was too stupid to go to college.
Good things often result from not-so-good circumstances. I ended up in the U.S. Air Force in LBJ’s War in South Vietnam. My sergeant recognized that I had natural troubleshooting abilities as a jet engine mechanic on the flight line, which was something I would never have recognized myself. After my tour of active duty ended, I enrolled in a technical college. My Physical Metallurgy professor employed me to help him with a research project one summer. I brought his project to a successful conclusion; He thought I was the most advanced student to ever come through that college. When brought on staff at this national research institution, I brought several programs that were in trouble across the finish line successfully. When this young lady from MIT and I joined a special task force to troubleshoot a major issue for the Department of Defense, where she was made taskforce leader, and I was the troubleshooter, we worked well as a team. When I got my insight to the cause of the problem and put this insight up to the program leader, another experimental group verified the information and the task-force was disbanded. When this young lady from MIT and now Stanford with a Master’s degree left this institution to do more domestic projects, she identified me as the “nation’s secret weapon,” and I accepted this status as “The Top Gun National Crises Troubleshooter.”
The Importance of having Professional Communicators on Contract
This case study is presented to show how valuable professional interpersonal communication instructors are to an organization. This writer has noticed that some interpersonal communication seminars in churches tend to lean on theology or philosophy to teach interpersonal communications. Some colleges teach communications classes as a class in human resources, where the focus is on “The Myers–Briggs Type Indicator,” (MBTI) where one can find out their strengths to succeed in a profession and what personalities make up an effective team. In fact, MBTI was first formulated to place women in the workforce effectively during World War II. It now finds wide use in many areas. Dr. Kevin Leman is internationally known as the guru of Adlerian Psychology that focuses on birth order in the family of origin and the skill packages that are developed from this learned environmental knowledge. Instructors like Manuel J. Smith, Ph.D. promote hands-on techniques to be used during a conversation. He states, “It is not how you became what you are that’s important, but what works.” His techniques of what works with bullies and manipulators include: “Broken Record,” “Fogging,” “Free Information,” “Negative Assertion,” “Negative Inquiry,” “Self-Disclosure,” and “Workable Compromise.”[ix]
Interpersonal Communication Techniques Explained [x]
Broken Record: A skill, by calm repetition – saying what you want over and over again – teaches persistence without you having to rehearse arguments or angry feelings beforehand, in order to be ‘up’ for dealing with others.
Effect: Allows you to feel comfortable in ignoring manipulative verbal side traps, argumentative baiting, irrelevant logic, while sticking to your desired point.
Fogging: A skill that teaches acceptance of manipulative criticism by calmly acknowledging to your critic the probability that there may be some truth in what he says, yet allows you to remain your own judge of what you do.
Example: “That’s true. I …”
Effect: Allows you to receive criticism comfortably without becoming anxious or defensive, while giving no reward to those using manipulative criticism.
Free Information: A skill that teaches the recognition of simple cues given by a social partner in everyday conversation to indicate what is interesting or important to that person.
Effect: Allows you to feel less shy in entering into conversation while at the same time prompting social partners to talk more easily about themselves.
Negative Assertion: A skill that teaches acceptance of your errors and faults (without having to apologize) by strongly and sympathetically agreeing with hostile or constructive criticism of your negative qualities.
Effect: Allows you to look more comfortably at negatives in your own behavior or personality without feeling defensive and anxious, resorting to denial of real error, while at the same time reducing our critic’s anger or hostility.
Example: “You didn’t do too well in (criticism).” “You’re right. I wasn’t too smart in the way I handled that, was I?” “That was a dumb thing for me to do.” Use this technique in non-legal matters ONLY!
Negative Inquiry: A skill that teaches the active prompting of criticism in order to use the information (if helpful) or exhaust it (if manipulative), while prompting your critic to be more assertive and less dependent on manipulative ploys.
Effect: Allows you more comfortably to seek out criticism about yourself in close relationships while prompting the other person to express honest negative feelings and improve communication.
Example: “What was it about … that is wrong?” “What was it that I … that was wrong?”
Self-Disclosure: A skill that teaches the acceptance and initiation of discussion of both the positive and negative aspects of your personality, behavior, lifestyle intelligence, to enhance social communication and reduce manipulation.
Effect: Allows you comfortably to disclose aspects of yourself and your life that previously caused feelings of ignorance, anxiety, or guilt.”
Example: “I like …” or “I don’t like …”, etc.
Workable compromise: In using your verbal assertive skills, it is practical, whenever you feel that your self-respect is not in question, to offer a workable compromise to the other person. You can always bargain for your material goals unless the compromise affects your personal feelings of self-respect. If the end goal involves a matter of your self-worth, however, there can be no compromise.
The Bully Solution
The solution to the physical bully has not changed over the centuries, although the Representative of the Creator of the Universe, a.k.a. Jesus, said to turn the other cheek. The standard action for a physical bully is to let them know that you are not going to be bullied (an option more applicable in a “Free Society”). The bully probably does not even know that they are a bully as they have been this way all of their lives. For them, this is normal; they just need a notification of being a bully.
There are a few solutions to a verbal bully. If it is attacking criticism or rebuttal, this can be neutralized and made beneficial by a technique call “fogging.” [xi] Fogging is built on the metaphor that receiving criticism is like a stone that is thrown at a brick wall. The stone will rebound and the criticizer can pick the stone up again and throw it at the target. However, if the target acts like a fog bank, the stone disappears harmlessly into the fog and defenses are mitigated.
The assertive stance is a way of allowing their rant to continue unhindered. This technique is useful for the in-your-face rants. The assertive stance is feet spread at shoulder width, hands clasped behind the back and head and eyes straight ahead (the “Parade Rest” position). This allows the target of the rant to avoid getting involved with the rant. For those who have formed a habit of rants, especially if it is over a phone, a more active tactic is required in response. In this case, the target simply addresses the rants at the same time as they are coming until the rant ceases. Then a question can be put forward such as “Now what did you want to talk about?”
Case Study V
It has been observed in females younger than middle aged that may have had the major female surgery to remove their reproductive system tend to exhibit this in-your-face rant (rights to privacy prevent confirming this data). I first noticed this rant behavior within a week of my wife’s major surgery. Not only face to face or nose to nose, but over the telephone as well. I once received one of these calls while in the kitchen with two of my housemates. I held the phone out at arm’s length. Both of my housemates agreed that no one should have to listen to this. After about ten years of these phone calls, I received one while in my lab at work. One of my coworkers suggested, after a similar incident involving a “Type A” project leader (people who are known to “unload on someone”), to give it back to them as it is being dished out. On this occasion I tried out this suggestion with my now ex-wife and fed information back as fast as I was receiving this attacking rant. She finally stopped the rant and I asked, “What was it that you wanted to talk about?” I took the position that one cannot go out and find a new mother for their children, and the situation had to be handled the best that it could be handled.
On the wife’s first exploratory visit to the surgeon, he told her that a number of women who had this operation ended up divorced. When she brought this information home we both agreed that divorce was not an issue about which we needed to be concerned. Within six months of this major surgery, she filed for a divorce. Now, decades later, our son is functioning as her significant other, as it seems that this is the only relationship she is able to maintain with her tendency to go into the attacking rant mode. I have also met some young, middle aged, sons who seem to be functioning as their mother’s significant other. How wide spread is this phenomenon?
Case Study VI
I was on a troubleshooting assignment at a manufacturing plant on the east coast, trying to solve the production problems with a state-of-the-art high field superconductor. This was not a large facility and the offices were adjacent to the production line. They had what they called their “meter-high quality control officer.” She actually was about a meter (three feet) tall. It didn’t seem to matter what one said to her to put her into attacking rant mode. My office was nearest the production line and I could hear the general manager trying to calm her down in a distant closed office. He was receiving what can only be considered as extreme abuse from this meter-high QC officer. It took about a year and a half to solve the production problems and bring this project to a successful conclusion. On returning back to the west coast, this general manager, who was a personal friend of our program manager (both were Englishmen in the same vocation), visited us in California. He had been dismissed as the general manager and he had come to realize that his brain had been significantly abused and that he was no longer able to make good executive decisions, bringing to the point that one must either control these verbal abusers or face serious brain damage from their attacking rants.
Sexual Assault by a Bully
In the present age, we are seeing more reports of sexual misconduct by bullies. It is not surprising to see some of these men, who have employment power over women and are not physically or mentally attractive to women, ending up using their employment power to sexually abuse their subordinates. This abuse may have its origin in an over-controlled society. Brothels have been in use for centuries to meet the needs of men and women who otherwise could not find a sexual partner. Brothels that are well-regulated by health authorities are still functioning in parts of the U.S. Regulated brothels would reduce or eliminate underage prostitution, rape, assaults against women and human trafficking. Brothels offered up as a career option instead of a vice would certainly be going against the grain in a religiously controlled society. Both options of career or vice have their positives and negatives.
Reflective or Active Listening
Reflective or active listening serves a couple of purposes. 1) The target summarizes or paraphrases what the verbal bully is saying and confirms their complaint or position. 2) The target is given time to think of their response. This technique is something like counting to ten before returning the punch! 3) If the verbal bully is attacking with a question, repeat or rephrase the question, and then answer the question. This technique also allows the target time to think before responding. This technique is sometimes used by politicians, only they may even go so far as to change the question to one they can answer! Q.E.D.
[iii] Diana Baumrind, http://persweb.wabash.edu/facstaff/hortonr/articles%20for%20class/baumrind.pdf, EBSCO Pub. 2003, PP 890-91
[iv] Ibid (i)
[vi] Dr. Kevin Leman, “The First Born Advantage”, pub. Revell, 2008, p69
[vii] Dr. Kevin Leman, “The Birth Order Book”, pub. Revell, 2015, pp131-148
[viii] Ibid (i)
[ix] Manuel J. Smith, PhD., “When I say no, I feel guilty”, Bantam Books, 1975, pp 323-324
[xi] Ibid p323, pp 104-115