“You don’t stop a bully by silencing to their abuse, shrinking to their harshness, or placating to their demands. That’s how you embolden them.” ~LMB
The first thing you need to know about bullying behaviors is that you don’t cause them. Ever. Bullies bully. Period. They will bully you, their co-workers, their family, and anyone else who disagrees with or upsets them in some way. The same is true for those people who have a quick temper or get easily reactive. Their reactivity is what they do, not what you cause. Take this in. You are NOT responsible for the anger, rage, or reactivity of another person. Ever.
The worst thing you can do with someone who snaps at, talks down to, bullies, or shames you, is to blame their actions on yourself. Once you start blaming yourself for their behaviors, you start walking on eggshells to not “set them off.” There are not enough eggshells in the world to avoid them being “set off.” They set themselves off. Your attempts to keep them happy and calm only intensifies the bullying and anger. You teach them that their anger works—it shuts you up and gets you off their back. Don’t ever teach that lesson.
Rather than worrying about how s/he will respond, your focus has to be whether or not you are OK with the behavior. If you’re not OK with them speaking down to you, then set a limit don’t shut down. Raging, shaming, name-calling and the like is emotional abuse. Don’t ever accept emotional abuse. Stand up for yourself and state clearly, “You’re yelling at me. If you want to have this conversation, you need to lower your volume and speak respectfully, or I’m going to walk away until you can be respectful.” If they refuse to lower their volume, then walk away and tell them they can try again when they’re calm. When things are quiet, inform them that you will be doing that every time their temper escalates. Follow through then every time.
Many people use anger and intensity to get away with a lot of hurtful behaviors. Their rage and reactivity then leave those around them feeling imprisoned in their own homes. Don’t ever give someone that power. Their anger and reactivity is something they need to work on and get under control. It is not your plight that you need to suffer through–particularly true in your own home. Your loved ones should be the safest people in your life, not the scariest. It’s your job to ensure that this is so–even if that means putting the relationship on the line until they can become safe.
Challenge: Do not misplace blame regarding anger and intimidation. Be clear about what is and is not acceptable to you and stand behind that with your words and actions. Don’t normalize emotional abuse; set limits on it. (Note: If there is physical abuse going on, do not use the technique above. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233.