3 Ways to Keep Calm when you’re being bullied

  • Do you interact regularly with someone who constantly puts you down and belittles what you say?
  • What about someone who generally throws their weight around and leaves you feeling intimidated?
  • Do you get nasty personal remarks from your boss rather than constructive feedback?

Everyone makes mistakes, lashes out in the moment, and can be rude or insensitive, but when behaviour like this happens repeatedly, no matter how “grown up” you are, you can be left feeling belittled, marginalised or insignificant and you need to do something about it. There are many different approaches to dealing with bullies and this short article focuses on just one – how to keep calm using imagery. The tools are particularly useful for “in the moment” relaxation when you can’t avoid the person or the situation.

a)      Protective screen. In your mind’s eye create a screen or wall that protects you from what the other person says or does. It can be impenetrable to keep you safe or it can block the insults while letting through the useful information. It can even come with volume and brightness controls that you adjust at will. Whatever suits you best. My son, uses the same special power as the daughter in the film “The Incredibles” and, in a flash, imagines a clear, protective dome around him and sees words bouncing off it. He even makes a “boing” noise in his head to make it even more effective.

b)      Catch it, bin it, kill it. Remember the Swine Flu Advert we had here in the UK which told us to catch it, bin it, kill it? Imagine catching the comment in your outstretched hand. Holding it there and examining it. Be curious and look to see if there’s anything in what the other person is saying. Keep what might be useful learning and toss the rest in an imaginary bin.

c)      Thought switching. It’s hard to hold two conflicting thoughts in your mind at the same time.

Thought-switching is another way to bring instant calm using imagery. Keep a mental list of relaxing places, events or people in your mind that you can call on whenever you need to feel calmer. It might be a favourite or peaceful place, a fun event, a special achievement or a calming or supportive friend. Switch your unhelpful or stressful thoughts and replace them with these images. If you struggle to remember your list, then keep a photo or some other physical reminder to help your recall.

The more you practice these three tools, the easier, quicker and more effective they’ll become.

What works for you in stressful situations that you can’t avoid?

11 Responses to 3 Ways to Keep Calm when you’re being bullied

  • Good techniques, I wished have read this post 2 days ago…

    Attempts to use reasoning or to establish some sort of emotional connection with a bully are a total waste of time and effort. Much better focusing on protecting ourselves and keeping calm, at least it will keep our heads clear and the stress to a healthy level.


  • Any boss who screams at employees, is not only hurting that employee but the morale of the entire department. I have been on the receiving end of a screaming bosse’s tirades, and I refused to let it get to me. Finally the screaming boss could no longer stand the fact that his screaming at me had no effect, so I was “layed off”. Best thing that could have happened, I am now starting up my own compliance consulting firm. Never let a screaming boss belittle you, if you cannot cope, then move on. There is something better out there, and someone who will appreciate your skills and contributions.

  • Magnificent goods from you, man. I’ve understand your stuff previous to and you’re just too magnificent.

  • I bear in mind that the bully is probably trying to wind me up, and I refuse to respond to the bait. My former boss used to scream at me (and others) in the hope that I would scream back or say something I might regret, which she could then discipline me for. Part of me used to enjoy watching in silence as she screamed herself silly, literally. I knew I had done nothing to provoke it.

    However the situation was pretty stressful and a hypnotherapist friend suggested that if I was to go into a meeting with my bosses I should imagine that I was accompanied by someone very important, such as Barack Obama. This visualisation worked surprisingly well.

    • Thanks for the addition of another visualisation Natalie. I like the idea of taking someone in with you who is important, or perhaps very resourceful or inspirational. Whatever works for each of us.

  • I use a protective screen by surrounding myself with a circle of beautiful roses WITH THORNS or a big bellglass.
    I also use the Munay-Ki second initiation,the Bands of Power,great protection!

  • Well, with customers and phone bullies, the one that works for me is to get in first with the phone call. It’s like having the advantage by being first on the draw like in a Western. The bully/ irate person has not had the time to wind themselves up and you look efficient and helpful by being prompt. In the workplace? Being chivalrous and honourable, like a knight facing a dragon works for me. Even if the adrenalin is firing away, keep going, keep talking or nothing will get done. I learnt by watching people being interviewed by Jeremy Paxman that some interviewees reactions such as continuing to be reasonable and honest despite his verbal battering rather than getting wound up seem to put Jeremy in a less positive light with the audience. It is sad that bullies continue to survive in the workplace like trolls even in 2011 though.

    • Thanks for your contribution Angels. From the pictures you paint with your words I am pretty sure that using imagery to keep calm works / would work really well for you.

  • With the thought-switching technique, it’s going to work best if the thoughts you switch to carry a powerful positive emotional charge. Some people may find that a peaceful place has too low an ‘energy level’ to compete with the anger or fear that bullying aims to evoke.

    Two tips for this – choose events which carry a powerful charge of excitement or achievement in themselves, or ‘supercharge’ whatever positive experience you are thinking about by making your image of it bigger and brighter, or by making your internal dialogue about it louder, more energetic, or in a more compelling tone.

    Everyone’s experience is different (which is why it’s great that Julie has suggested a range of possible experiences of different kinds) so play around and experiment until you find what works for you.

    • Thanks for adding your expertise Andy. Really good tips for getting more impact by turning up the energy level. Plus a good reminder to play with different approaches and find what works best for you.

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