Spotting and Dealing with a Bully


Remember those bullies from school? They seemed oh so powerful and strong . . . no one had the guts to stand up to them.

Abusers are bullies in disguise. In the beginning they look like lambs when they are really wolves, or dolphins when they are really sharks. Those of us who were raised to be kind and helpful are prime targets for these sharks. I will give some examples* of how an abuser chooses and manipulates his** prey.

He looks for someone who will answer statements disguised as questions: “I’m wondering why you think that.” When someone says something like this in your hearing, do you answer him as if he’s asked you a question? or “I can’t find the report.” Do you jump up and look for the report for this person? These would be my natural responses, but let’s really look at what he’s just done. He has made a statement disguised as a question. If you jump to answer/help him, he knows you are someone easy to manipulate.

He flatters you by appearing interested in your thoughts and talents: “You seem good at this, I’m wondering if you know,” or “I’d like your opinion,” or “Maybe you could help me.” The abuser appears deferential, submissive and non-threatening at first. He freely gives his assistance, talents and labor. By observing your reactions, he can figure out your likes and dislikes, and weak spots in your boundaries.

He uses the “Royal We”: “If we could,” “We were hoping,” “We should.” That “we” means YOU are being targeted. If things go well, he will take the credit, if not, he will blame you.

FOG = Fear, Obligation and Guilt: “Don’t you care if,” “If you loved me, you would,” “We were counting on you,” “Wouldn’t it be better if.” These statements hide emotional blackmail.

He shifts the balance of power: “Why do you always,” “I thought we agreed,” “I thought we were going to.” With these statements, the abuser is moving himself into the dominant controller’s role. You are subtly being moved into the servant’s role, and soon you will be walking on eggshells.

He assumes you will comply: “Do you want the red or blue one,” (when you want neither), “I was sure you’d want to.” These are common tactics of “snake oil salesmen.” He assumes you will go along with his sales pitch, hoping you will feel uncomfortable confronting him.

He uses the silent treatment: He waits, looking for a way to trap you, or pretends you don’t exist.

After you have said no, or stood up to him, or stopped a relationship with him:

He might contact you out of the blue and target your “nice” side: “I’ve been thinking about you and wondering how you are. Why won’t you talk to me?” He seems friendly, but then accuses you of something. If you aren’t careful, you will be tempted to engage in conversation with him.

He might try to wear you down: After you’ve said “no,” he will come at you with a new tactic to re-engage and manipulate you.

How can you protect yourself from these tactics? One way is to be aware of them. Another is to not be afraid to confront or ignore a person like this. We don’t have to be “nice” to every bully on the planet. Tweet This

Here are some specific things you can do so you won’t be sucked in or manipulated by one of these wolves:

He looks for someone who will answer statements disguised as questions: He didn’t even have to ask. He knows you are a “people pleaser.” Don’t answer statements. Train your ear to recognize them. If you help without being asked, you have sent out a huge red flag that you can be targeted.

He flatters you by appearing interested in your thoughts and talents: Be suspicious of flattery. Develop a healthy suspicion of people’s motives.

He uses the “Royal We”: Make a fast exit when you hear the “we” word. Watch out for “us” and “our” as well.

FOG = Fear, Obligation and Guilt: Know your vulnerabilities to “FOG.” Don’t take his bait. Expect him to howl – let him.

He shifts the balance of power: Watch out for his little “helpful suggestions.” Be aware of words that make you feel you must defend yourself.

He assumes you will comply: Don’t be afraid to confront him or say “no”. Learn to spot the way he squeezes out of work, paying bills, or replaying loans.

He uses the silent treatment: Say, “Let me know when you feel like talking,” then say nothing else. Act like his silence is no big deal, and put a smile on your face. Realize this is a tactic of the mentally disordered.

He might contact you out of the blue and target your “nice” side: Give yourself permission to hang up on a manipulator – totally ignore him.

He might try to wear you down: Be prepared for a manipulator to continue trying to get you. Don’t even think about being nice to him.


You need to develop good personal boundaries to protect yourself from a bully. I will talk more about this in my next blog.

Question: Have you come in contact with a bully? Did he use some of these tactics to manipulate you? If so, which ones?

Jesus calls us to be meek, but not to be doormats. When he was here on earth, he stood up to the Pharisees and others who bullied the people. In Joshua 1:9 God says,

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

May you feel God’s presence as you stand up to those who manipulate others. Blessings friends!



*I was given this information by a friend. I was unable to find the source document. If you are aware of the author, please contact me so I can credit her/him.

**Note: In this blog, I portray the abuser as male. Be aware abusers and their victims can be either male or female.


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