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The Other Inconspicuous Form of Bullying – Emotional Bullying


Emotional Bullying


We’ve all heard stories about bullying, It happens in homes, schools, and on the internet. But what about a form of bullying in our every day lives we may be experiencing ? Often these symptoms aren’t recognized or more often, not even considered a form of bullying.


This often deceptive hidden form of bullying can occur through the way some people interact with friends or loved ones. When people talk down to others, making them feel insignificant, threatened or forced to abide by what is being directed at them, that is bullying.


Is there anyone in your life that responds to a heartfelt request from you with assertion or aggression demanding their way is better and all negotiations are off the table? Do you have someone in your circles who calls all the shots when it comes to making plans and out of a sense of not wanting to stir conflict you pacify their demands just to keep the peace? That’s bullying too. Why do we continue to remain in the circles of these confrontational, demanding people? Is it because we’re intimidated by them, don’t want to create waves in our relationships with them or are we just accustomed to the relationship as it is?


I can certainly attest to having being a subject of some of these somewhat toxic relationships in my own life. The people who make the plans, not wanting feedback but expecting everyone in the group to comply is a common factor in many relationships. There always seems be one of those leader types who wants to lead the pack by their decisions without debate. It’s easy to fall prey to these people especially if we are compassionate or sensitive souls who don’t wish to challenge directives with countering suggestions of our own. These types of relationships are not healthy. Whether we are easily intimidated or just wishing to keep the peace, we have to discover methods which allow us to stand up for our own thoughts or at the very least make changes to slowly distance ourselves from these dominating personality types.


So how do we handle these dominating people in our lives? First, it’s important to stand up and feel confident about what we would like to request. It’s perfectly okay to state our opinions and make alternate suggestions if we disagree or feel we have something better to suggest. If our ideas are shot down, we need to ask why. Perhaps we’ll discover that our suggestion may not have been the best idea, but with posing the question and stimulating a discussion we at least get to weigh out options. On the other hand, if the person we’re trying to have this discussion with is adamant that her decision is final and there’s nothing to discuss and this is the ongoing pattern with her then it’s time to re-evaluate the relationship.


In healthy friendships and relationships, we should be able to have a good two-way conversation with each other. But if we find we are constantly being shot down for our ideas and what we say never seems to be taken into consideration by these people then these aren’t the people we need to have in our circles. Granted, when it comes to family relations it is more difficult to sever ties sometimes, but that doesn’t mean we have to socialize with these people. And in the event we are forced to congregate at a family function, it may be best to just keep our opinions zipped if it’s going to cause chaos within the family unless of course, we’ve had our fill of ongoing confrontations, then it may be time to exit.


But when it comes to friendships and acquaintances, we do have a choice. We don’t have to be rude, but we can state our opinions, explain why we feel a certain way and try to open up a dialogue to make our points. If the person we are conversing with isn’t open to opinions on a constant basis, it may be time to take that exit walk. This also applies to those energy suckers we tend to collect in our lives. These are the people who have nothing to give of themselves – a compliment, an ear to listen or any interest in how we are feeling. We can’t always change people but we have the power to change ourselves and realize when people around us aren’t offering anything positive to our lives we need to shed them.


We all have the freedom of speech. But that doesn’t give people rights to dominate other people’s thoughts or lives. Respect is essential in all relationships in order for them to be healthy ones. Knocking people’s ideas and thoughts and making them feel inferior is just one more form of emotional bullying. If we treat people and their opinions with respect, we should expect it in return. And if we’re not getting it after discussing the issue with them it’s a good indicator that it’s time to move on.


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D.G. Kaye is a nonfiction/memoir writer, who writes from her own life experiences and self-medicates with a daily dose of humor.


    • dgkaye

      You don’t strike me as the type who would put up with it Stevie. Has she mellowed with age or perhaps realized it was time to stop tangling with you? 😉

      • Stevie Turner

        She’s mellowed with age into a frail old lady. When I had my first baby she said to me “It’s a good thing I don’t live nearer, as I’d be round every day to interfere.” She meant it as well. Thank goodness she lived 80 miles away or war would have broken out!

  • marianbeaman

    I try to stay far, far away from bullies. When one gets into my orbit, I usually confront that person (kindly but firmly) and then try to let it go. As Dr. Phil says, ” We teach people how to treat us.”

    • dgkaye

      I’m so glad you are one who confronts these types Marianne, Too many tend to hide behind the intimidation. And Dr. Phil is right, we absolutely do teach people how to treat us and if we taught them right and they persist to bully, it’s time to let go. 🙂

  • Terri Webster Schrandt

    I have found in dealing with emotional bullies that their issues come from their own insecurities. In my case, I spent a few years in a relationship with a very insecure man who was jealous on top of it. He didn’t feel good enough around me (his problem), and thank goodness I finally got the courage to end it. Verbal and emotional bullying is wrong. At work, two of my own staff, who lacked degrees, seemed insecure around me and acted out like children at work. Other people at work, when faced with a strong woman boss, due to their own issues, simply can’t handle it and make life miserable. I put up with it at work because I had no choice and no infrastructure to deal with sh*tty employees who did just enough to get by. Sadly the world is full of these folks. They can wallow in their own misery for all I care. Don’t give them the time of day anymore.

    • dgkaye

      Thanks so much Terri for sharing your own spin and experience. Unfortunately, these people are in most of our lives, and you are correct to say that most people who bully do so because of their own insecurities and somehow bullying gives them a delusional sense of feeling grand. We most likely aren’t going to be the ones to change these people, so we have to learn how to shield them from ourselves. It seems like you’ve already learned this. 🙂 x

  • lisa thomson-The Great Escape...

    This is such an important topic, Debby. It happens throughout life and it’s up to us to have the self respect and confidence to say no to these types of people, even if they’re family. I was surrounded by these types when I was married. This is also typical behavior in my family. I’ve learned to set boundaries and go no contact with emotional abusers. Thanks for writing this and raising awareness.

    • dgkaye

      Thanks for sharing your own experience Lisa. As you know, both you and I have also lived with such people, I think that was our initial connection. <3

  • D. Wallace Peach

    As I’ve gotten older, Debby, I’m much better at avoiding toxic relationships. And perhaps, my skin is a little thicker too.Years ago, I read a great book called The Four Agreements and it really changed the way I look at this kind of bullying. Basically, it said that everyone is responsible for their words and behavior. It’s their stuff and their issues that they’re spewing and we need to let them own it and not take it personally. Though directed at us, it’s not about us and there’s no need to let it in. Easier said than done, I know, but I found the perspective helpful. <3

    • dgkaye

      Thank you for sharing that Diana. It’ all true what you say. I’ve encountered it myself many times. You’re right, if we can grow a thick skin and learn to walk away we’re the better for it. <3

  • Tina Frisco

    Bullies are the most insecure people; and the louder, the more insecure. When confronted they usually cave. But if we don’t know this, it’s easy to fall prey to their threats. One of my favorite quotes is by Eleanor Roosevelt: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” It takes some insight and a little courage to stand up to a bully; but once we experience doing this, self-esteem gets a boost and it’s easier to do in the future. Watching how people in the U.S. are standing up to the bully in the White House is heartening. This is a very timely post, Deb, and much appreciated ?

    • dgkaye

      Thanks for adding your wise thoughts Tina. You’ve hit the point exactly that bullies are the most insecure and only feel gratified when they can make someone feel smaller themselves. It is tough to take a stand, as many of us know, but as you said, it makes us stronger and less susceptible to further bullying. Love the Eleanor quote and you know my feelings about the current state of politics. <3

  • Christy B

    Such an important topic here, Debby. I was recently emotionally bullied and advice from Madelyn helped me through it. I think we need to be strong when bullied but it’s so tough to be as we take it to heart and everyone in their core wants to be liked.. but bullies aren’t ones we want in our lives.. Thanks for this post xx

    • dgkaye

      Thanks for sharing Christy. And I’m so glad that Madelyn was able to help you through your own difficult situation. It is tough to be strong sometimes but if we don’t take a stance it can easily become an escalating problem, leaving us to feel that we are easily targeted by those types of people, deflating our sense of self-esteem. There’s a lot of support on these issues in groups and with coaching, and perhaps for those that feel remain feeling intimated by these types of people, these are great avenues to explore, such as you have with Madelyn. Nobody should have to be subjected to bully’s inferior intimidation. <3

  • Jacqui Murray

    This is definitely one of the worst. It’s hard to believe someone suffers from it unless you see it in action. So too often, they suffer in silence. Glad you discussed it here.

    • dgkaye

      Thanks Jacqui. It is awful and unfortunately, there are many who live daily under the reign of these bullies, at work or home. I know it took me years of building up courage to face such people but once you do, it’s so freeing and empowering. 🙂

  • amreade

    There was one person in particular I had in mind while I read this post. It’s someone who has very little control over what happens at work, so when this person is in a situation where he’s given a bit of responsibility over others, he takes it way too far and becomes a task master with no compassion, someone who lords his small amount of power over the other people. As a result, they can’t stand him. But since he’s in charge, there’s not a lot they can do about it. I think this guy could be a collaborative leader, but there’s something in him that loves the power too much.

    • dgkaye

      Hi Amy. Thanks for sharing your story. Doesn’t it seem there’s always one of ‘those’ types of people in the work place? Like you say, the one who feels inferior gets a little bit of authority and throw it around like a tyrant. It is those types of people who become the bullies, the ones who can’t use any power anywhere else suddenly feeling grandiose with their new authority and instead of using it to the good, lord it over others. Yes, it’s difficult when we have those people in the workplace and we’re forced to be around them and take their orders. The best we can do is our job with as least contact as possible. I remember being in one or two of those situations in my previous working life and I confronted one of those supervisors but I waited until I had a new job lined up and made sure I didn’t leave until I left her with a lecture for everyone else to hear before I walked out. A little humiliation was good for her and the justification for me was like losing an albatross off me. 🙂

  • balroop2013

    Emotional bullying is worst than any other kind of mistreatment…it is quite difficult to escape as bullies come into our life as friends, bosses and above all family members. While it is easier to dump friends and avoid bosses, family members who can’t be avoided for various reasons, create toxic atmosphere in the family. I must emphasise that they are incorrigible, they try all possible methods to intimidate, control and throttle you but those who refuse to be cowed down, emerge stronger. It is very challenging and emotionally draining but a great learning experience! 🙂
    Thanks for discussing a very relevant topic Deb.

    • dgkaye

      Thank you Balroop for joining in the conversation. I know we’ve both talked and written about these situations. I agree, the hardest ones to deal with are family because we are forced to have to be in their orbit at gatherings. For those that are incorrigible, there is no getting through to them and that’s when it’s time to walk away. Yes, it’s difficult and uncomfortable, but the benefits far outweigh the constant turmoil of letting them have power of us. 🙂 x

  • Vashti Q

    Hello Debby! I think we’ve all suffered from this type of bullying. I certainly have. A couple of years ago I finally spoke up and it was like a weight lifted off me. Great post.

    • dgkaye

      Hi Vashti. Thank you for sharing. Yes, unfortunately, this form of bullying is all too common. I’m happy to learn that you spoke up! So empowering. 🙂 x

  • Mabel Kwong

    Sorry to hear you’ve had some toxic relationships, Debbie. I’ve come across people like you’ve mentioned – who won’t listen, who want their own way, will talk others down both in my professional and personal life. A lot of the time I find it is not worth arguing with them because the more I do, the more they will put me down and the more I will feel bad about myself. So in these situations I’d rather just walk away – even if others around me might see me as ‘weak’ – which is actually a sign of strength to hold your dignity together.
    Healthy relationships can take us very far. I’d much rather know a few nice people who’ll support me throughout the good and bad times than a million people who are just there for me during the good

    • dgkaye

      Hi Mabel. You’re doing the right thing. When you’ve realized you can’t change those people, just walk away. You must discard them from your circles. And yes, you a the bigger person for doing so. 🙂 I’m glad to hear you realize the importance of hanging with supportive people who lift us up and stand by us through the leaner times as well. 🙂

      • Mabel Kwong

        Walking away is hard but it is a choice as you said in your post. We’re always stronger for choosing what matters to us 🙂 Thank you for such an inspiring post and for lifting all of us up. Sometimes hard times are motivational times 🙂

  • Kate Johnston

    Emotional bullying is so covert that many people don’t realize it’s happening until it’s too late and it’s rooted. Just the other day, I was talking to my daughter about her ex-boyfriend who wasn’t a bullier exactly, but a “player.”

    I talked to her about red flags and how one big red flag is when we start justifying behavior for other people rather than calling them out. It is sooo hard to be honest with ourselves when we’re in relationships that dazzle us in some way. I think it takes practice to see these types of people, and support from loved ones is always helpful!

    • dgkaye

      HI Kate. Thanks for chiming in. What you say is so true. People tend to fall into these bullying types sometimes because there are many types of these bullying predators around. There are many who make themselves seem grandiose and charming to lure the vulnerable into their webs. It’s no different to people who stay in relationships that are toxic because they are trapped in by the bait of the highs they get from those people and become brainwashed enough and sometimes almost feel they deserve the emotional abuse that comes along with it. Such a complex topic as there are many forms of this type of abuse. These victims need lots of support and awakening. Some are lucky to escape but others never see the light. 🙂

  • jjspina

    Oh, I know people like that. Unfortunately, they are too close for comfort to avoid at times. Sometimes it’s difficult when in couples the women get along but the men don’t or vice versa. When you find a couple who are both nice you have to treasure them.
    In cyber bullying parents have to take a stand and watch closely over their kids. It can be a frightening thing what people can do over the internet. Thanks for this great post, Debby! ?

    • dgkaye

      HI Janice. Thanks so much for adding your thoughts here. Sadly, we all know people like this. And I know exactly what you mean about being friends with couples and sometimes barely having to tolerate one of the couple because we may have been friends with the other beforehand and we put up with them. Unfortunately. cyber bullying has become a brave front for those inferior, damaged souls who are usually the ones who become bullies, lashing out at others to make themselves feel bigger, and not just children are susceptible to falling prey to these people. It is up to parents to oversee what their children are doing on the net, as well as adults to be diligent in doing a little background checking when letting strangers into their circles. Often it’s the weak and the lonely that become victims of prey. So scary. <3

  • shehannemoore

    Dearest Debby, us helpless, little dudes know all about bullying. We are always getting bullied but your post will help us deal with big bullying Shey
    Love from
    Silv and the other poor little hamstah dudes xxxxxxxxx

    • dgkaye

      Aw, hi sweet little dudes. I’m so glad you found my post helpful. I know you sometimes feel a little left out or slighted but please don’t say Shey is a bully, she is a good person who just tries to enforce discipline. Thanks for coming over Silv and sharing your feelings. I think Shey will see this and perhaps go a little easier on your guys. Big hugs xoxoxo 🙂 🙂

  • hilarymb

    Hi Debby – yes .. just had a bully as an agent for the flat I rent – thankfully the block has been bought out and so challenge resolved. Won’t go into the details … just a nuisance to have one’s life ‘taken away’ for a year … still now I can get on! But I so understand …Hilary

    • dgkaye

      Hi Hilary. Oh crap, I’m so sorry to hear about your encounter with one of these sorts of people. I’m happy to hear that you no longer have to deal with that person. It’s unfortunate that there are too many of these sorts among us. It’s difficult when we have nasty people in our orbit and our hands are tied because of circumstances such as yours. But in our every day lives and encounters, remember: we don’t have to put up with those sorts of people. We must stand up for ourselves and then walk away. Life can be hard enough without keeping negative people in our circles. Thanks for sharing here. <3 Do you have a blog Hilary?

  • Carol ("Mimi")

    Thanks for bringing this sometimes hidden relationship problem out into the light. Thank you for linking up at The Blogger’s Pit Stop Link Party. I’m sharing your link on social media.
    Carol (“Mimi”) from Home with Mimi

  • blondieaka

    A topic which most can relate to Debbie and thank you for bringing it to the forefont…I believe most home and workplace have these bullies it is very hard sometimes to acknowledge or realise it is happening and then taking action. I had such an instance with a staff member who had worked in a few different departments and no one had challenged him just moved him on and then he met me….It took me a while to realise and for the situation to come to a head but with the support of my manager we took him to task through the proper channels. But the scary thing is they actually or he didn’t think he was wrong and expressed much indignation that we could think that of him..Another tactic I suppose. Thank you for this post Debbie I am sure it will benefit many 🙂 The mother in law we won’t discuss…lol

    • dgkaye

      Hi Carol. Thanks for sharing. Yes, sadly, so many have these encounters. But so glad to hear you took the bull by the horns, so to speak. That’s how these types must be handled, confronting their actions. Typically, these types of people don’t think they’re doing anything wrong because they’ve built their fortress within often feeling their superiority is invincible. Oh, and you aren’t the only one I’ve heard about those ‘mother-in-law’ issues. Stay strong! 🙂 xx

  • Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC

    Great post, Deb, on an important (and pervasive) behavior. I’m fairly effective person to person but, earlier in my career, I served on a few committees with “mean girl” dynamics – and it is SO hard to be heard at all in those environments. They tend to gang up to shut out dissenting opinions, no matter how respectfully presented.

    Female clients required to work on teams report the problem with some of the men on the team too. Naming the behavior sometimes stops it in the moment – but often intensifies it in the long run. Quite the problem, actually.

    I’ll be linking here from my next Boundary article — posting Friday, I believe.
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
    ADD/EFD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
    “It takes a village to transform a world!”

  • Mary Smith

    This is clearly a topic which resonates with many people, Debby. I finally walked away from a friendship whcih had become toxic. Anything I did or achieved she’d already done and achieved so much more so I was constantly feeling belittled. She didn’t seem to be like it with others in our social group. I would come home from an evening in her company and be unable to sleep because I kept replaying everything she’d said. The more I achieved with my writing the worse it became. I finally walked away and felt a huge sense of relief.

    • dgkaye

      Mary, I’m so glad to learn that you walked away from that person. Those types of people thrive on feeling superior to others. They lord their accomplishments on to people who haven’t quite achieved what they have, and when you do, they feel threatened and the belittling grows more to battle their inferiority. 🙂

  • Norah

    Great advice, Debby. Making the choice to shed those negative relationships can be difficult, but for one’s own happiness, it is important. I’ve had to make a few of those in my life, and probably will again. I try hard to not be the one that others feel they need to shed. 🙂

  • vanbytheriver

    Hi Deb. I read this post earlier and didn’t know how to comment. It seems I have cut those energy sucking folks from my life, all except for family. That’s a tough one. I know you had to deal with the issue, and have come to a place of peace. I can not. I can’t seem to give up the idea that there could be reconciliation. I recently wrote to an estranged family member, who was abusive to me since childhood. Of course, there was no response. I keep going back to a well without water. The thirst continues. Thanks for your post, and to Sally for the reblog.

    • dgkaye

      Hi Van. Thanks for sharing some of your own struggles on this topic. I will tell you that this force is much more difficult with family than with friends. You are halfway there because you recognize these toxic people, but you are still at the stage where you hope there is still a chance to work with those people. You mention this person has treated you abusively since childhood, yet you still keep going back. There comes a time to stop beating the dead horse and reconciling with yourself that you gave it your best efforts. Stop beating yourself up too. 🙂

  • Judy E Martin

    I am only just learning to stand up to this type of bullying Debby. After years of wanting the quiet life and trying to avoid confrontation, I have often gone along with others, just for the sake of peace and quiet. Not any more though!!

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