How to Deal with Bullies as an Adult

In my 23 years on the planet, most of them have been drama-free. This is a quiet badge of honor; I don’t advertise it, or really talk about it much, but I lead the life of the peace-keeper.

I credit this to some of my favorite traits: I’m empathetic, compassionate, sensitive, and kind-hearted. Some of my not-so-good qualities contribute too; I also avoid conflict like the plague, I’m insecure about drawing attention to my feelings, anxiety runs rampant through my veins, and my default aggression is passive.

Many of my goals also align with this non-drama mantra. I aim to please, go with the flow, and stimulate positive energy. I tend to believe that people are inherently good, and that bad days don’t make for a bad person. (This often drives my husband crazy when we’re watching a show on Netflix and I can never admit when a character is all bad.) And with this firm belief, I do try to stay away from situations—and people—that are toxic and unhealthy.

Sometimes, though, they just can’t be avoided.

I think there’s a common belief that adolescence is the main place where bullies exist, especially for girls. We buy into this story that there are mean people, but they’ll outgrow their pitfalls as they get older. We collectively assume that with age comes empathy.

High school mean girls are the worst, we say, as if that’s the end of that chapter.

In my experiences, this is not the case.

Bullies, regardless of gender, often times do not just go away. I’m sorry to report that usually they age, but they do not necessarily outgrow their spirit or habits.

Most of the drama I’ve encountered in my lifetime has occurred within the past five years of my life—strictly as an adult. There have been workplace struggles and failed friendships and, sadly, interactions with bullies that simply can’t be avoided.

Some drama is fresh, still settling. I’m 23 and having to deal with things I never thought I’d see outside of Gunnison High School, involving everything from rumors to social media posts. Yikes.

Part of me is relieved. I’m thankful that I am going through these struggles now, when I have more resources and tools at my disposal, rather than when I was a teenager. These days, I am educated, emotionally stable, have developed tried and true coping mechanisms, and can rely on support from a spouse in addition to my parents.

And yet…It can still feel so overwhelming and degrading that dealing with bullies is not a thing of the past.

I’m going to be honest. Though I have more tools than an average teenager, I still don’t feel equipped to deal with drama and bullies. My low-key, non-confrontational, hippie-zen mantra has not prepared me for the realities of adulthood, especially one slap in the face: some people are going to be mean, and aren’t going to feel bad about it.

We are all the protagonists of our own story.

Consider that for a moment: the person that is trying to poison your friends against you is the hero in their version of the narrative. They are doing what they believe is the right move. What you see as an unfair character assassination is what they’d call warning the people in their lives.

Or, when they spread non-truths about an interaction, they are simply venting to their loved ones. Hard to argue with that, right?

So what does that mean? I don’t know. People are complex? Not all good and all bad? Sure. Yes. But does that help, in the moment, when dealing with people that seem to do nothing more than bring you down? Especially when there are lies and fabrications coming into play? No, not at all.

Right now, my husband and I are going through a falling out with one of our friends. He’d been in the picture since childhood, and played a large role in our college and adult lives.

It’s been tough. There’s been back and forth, a lot of miscommunications and build up and loose ends with no real solution in sight. We’ve had to let go.

There are other players involved too: a disgruntled ex-partner, other friends caught in the middle, though we desperately try to keep them out of it. Every time we start to heal and forget, another qualm pops up. Me, the peace-keeper, keeps finding ripples in the tranquil waters.

Sometimes weeks pass, and we think everything is fine. It’s been x days since we thought of our failed relationship, a record. Then—boom, pow. It’s been zero days since the last incident, and the wound is reopened yet again.

So, here it is. Here’s my advice.

From one non-drama non-mama to another, here’s what I can offer. For the sake of sanity, this is what I suggest for dealing with adult drama as cleanly as possible:

  • Follow Michelle Obama’s signature words: “When they go low, we go high.” Seriously. Love them, memorize them, act by them.


  • Here’s another quote to live by: “If you ever get the chance to treat them how they treated you, I hope you choose to walk away.” Remember, tearing someone else down will not lift you up. If you are hurting, your natural response might be to retaliate, to make them feel like you do. This is not worth it. You will not heal this way.


  • Take the space you need. Honestly, I am a person that gets super angry immediately, and have the power to deliver my wrath through furiously typing fingers. Just ask my husband. BUT. Hear me out: sometimes it’s better to take a step away, and cool off. Here’s what I’ve done recently: I have typed out my furious reply, then took a walk before coming back and trimming down (and modifying the tone) of my response. Write angry, edit calm. This could save a relationship if you too have a biting war cry.


  • Think big picture: are these people worth your time, effort, and emotional investment? If not, don’t feel guilty about letting go. It’s okay to sever ties with people that cause more harm than good. While, yes, it can be considered self care, it’s also just part of adulthood.


  • Find the time to love yourself. You are taking an emotional beating, so take some extra time to show yourself some unconditional attention and care. You deserve it.


Sending you lots of love, especially through unexpected trials of adulthood.




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15 thoughts on “How to Deal with Bullies as an Adult

  1. The mantra I have to remind myself of all the time is “Do not write emails when you’re angry.”

    I’ve also mostly stopped taking part in political discussions on Facebook. I’m not going to convince anybody, and it’s murder on my blood pressure!

    In other words, I’m twice your age, and the concept of “walking away” is actually starting to take hold! LOL

    1. It’s so hard for me to walk away. Writing is the easiest way for me to express myself, and when I’m hot headed it takes everything in my power not to send a scathing reply. It’s a serious test of self control!

      Good on you for Facebook. It’s so hard not to engage with a constant stream of shared news and opinions, especially when some of them are so disheartening or completely untrue.

      Thanks for reading!

  2. Honestly loved this, it’s so refreshingly honest and a lot of people would be ashamed to admit getting bullied well into and after their teens. For real though you have such a great balance between chatty & engageable and informative… so glad I found your blog!

    1. Thank you so much! That is a huge compliment. And while I wasn’t bullied the same way a high schooler would be, or even aggressively, I think it’s important to realize that people can harass others and make them feel small at any age, whether it’s a former friend or a colleague. Thanks for reading!

  3. A great post I feel it’s sad as we get older that we can’t learn to deal with these sorts of issues better – however like you said sometimes it’s just good to step back! x

    1. It’s pretty interesting—sometimes people don’t know how to deal with conflict because for so long they avoided confrontation. That can lead to dealing with it incorrectly, or maybe even being the aggressor when they do have issues with someone. It’s never black and white, even though it feels that way.

      Thanks for reading!

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