Dealing With A Bully
Dear Dr. LeCrone:
For the most part, my interactions with other people are productive, rewarding and enjoyable. There is one circumstance, however, that occurs with enough frequency that it causes me problems, and, for this situation, I need help.
Several times a year I encounter a certain male, usually in social situations, who has a very domineering manner and enjoys putting other men down with his digs and needling.
I’m convinced that he is intent on humiliating other males he comes in contact with in order to boost his own ego. His wife is a lovely person, and many people put up with him so that she can be included in the social affair. He gets under my skin so bad that I actually dread being in the same room with him.
Part of my concern may come from the fact that if I ever lose my temper and tell him off, I afraid that I would completely blow my top and embarrass both my spouse and me.
I guess that if I thought I could change him, I would talk one on one with him in private. At this point, I think I would be happy with a way to handle things without any confrontation since I see him only occasionally.
-A reader in Maine
Let me preface my remarks by giving you a few assumptions that I am making from your scenario. First, this man has no position of influence or control over you either in work, family or social standing. Second, this is a unique and isolated experience not occurring in interactions with other men.
With these two assumptions being satisfied, I would suggest that you not try to confront and change this jerk. The odds would really be against your changing him, and trying to do so could only make things messier for future encounters.
Try disarming him by approaching him first in the encounter rather than waiting for him to approach you. Shake his hand firmly while smiling; make good eye contact, and say a brief comment, such as: “Hello ----. You are looking good and I am glad to see you.” Then break the hand shake and eye contact and move on to speak to someone else.
In this manner you are taking charge of the situation and letting him use his one- upmanship on someone else.
Hope this helps. Sure beats missing a good party.
Harold H. Lecrone, Jr., Ph. D Copyright © 2008