We hear a lot about bullying these days. For one thing, folks seem more willing to call out this disturbing behavior. And for another, we’re learning more about bullies. Thanks to some good research, we’re learning what they’re really like. We’re also learning what actually motivates them. In the process, we’ve debunked many older notions about bullies and their behavior.
Some Common Misconceptions
For many years we believed some things about bullies that simply aren’t true. Unfortunately, many of these erroneous beliefs were actually promoted by well-meaning social scientists. Some of the more common misconceptions about bullies include:
- Bullies are really cowards underneath. They pick on the vulnerable and powerless because they don’t have the guts to pick on a more formidable opponent.
- Bullies suffer from low self-esteem. They try to build themselves up by making others look weak or inferior.
- Bullies have likely been bullied themselves. Or, they necessarily come from a deprived, neglected, or abused place. They have lots of pain and pent-up rage. So, they take it out on those who won’t strike back.
- Bullies are really just starved for love and attention. They want to feel important and powerful because inwardly they feel no one really cares about them.
Truth be told, bullies are a special brand of narcissist. Moreover, they act out of very different motives than the ones outlined above. We know this now. Too bad that for so long we perpetuated so many harmful ideas.
Why They Really Do It
Bullies are grandiose narcissists. (See also: Grandiose Narcissists.) And grandiose narcissists act out of a sense of entitlement. They see themselves as special, above the rules. And they view others as inferior. Grandiose narcissists also lack empathy. Moreover, just how empathy-impaired they are determines how malignant their narcissism is. Such folks have no shame or compunction about hurting others.
To sum things up, narcissistic bullies do what they do because they:
- Feel it’s their prerogative
- Don’t care who they hurt
- Disdain those they perceive as weak or inferior
- Enjoy lording power over others
Dealing with Bullying
Dealing effectively with narcissistic bullies can be quite challenging. Just standing up to them might lead to further trouble. You see, it’s all about the power imbalance in the first place. And while you do have to “out” their behavior, reporting can carry its own risks. How supportive your environment is makes all the difference. For example, your workplace must make it clear that such behavior is completely unacceptable. And those in charge mustn’t shy from imposing clear and firm consequences. Sadly, a culture of narcissism has been with us for a long time now. As a result, many environments aren’t anywhere as supportive as they could be.
There’s strength in numbers. So, the more folks who refuse to condone their behavior, the less room narcissistic bullies have to operate in. And the more places that impose firm boundaries and consequences, the less free some narcissists will feel to bully.
Folks can bully in relationships in some really subtle ways. And I’ll have more to say about that in upcoming posts.
Character Matters Update
I’ve been exploring several possible new venues for Character Matters. Podcasts are available on UCY.TV’s YouTube channel. Fortunately, one possibility appears particularly promising. I’ll be updating on this within the next few weeks.
As always, many thanks for referring my books and this blog to others.