How to Spot an Emotional Bully 

Written by Dr. Perry, PhD


“Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me.” ~Anonymous

I wish the above quote was true. The reality is that, unless you are machine or lack basic human emotions, negative words and behaviors do have a profound effect on the way you feel about yourself. Fortunately, in our current society, we have become vigilant and sensitive to all forms of bullying.  As a result, we are quick to notice this taboo behavior in others and ready to condemn it.

While we readily see this behavior when it is committed by others,  many of us fail to see the same actions in ourselves. It is important to take off our blinders and realize that we may be exhibiting the same behaviors that we condemn.

Below are some behaviors exhibited by an emotional bully. You may recognize this behavior in others or in yourself. By gaining the self-awareness that you may be acting as an emotional bully you can choose to change the behavior. Self-awareness may lead to personal growth if you choose to change negative behavior to positive.  Through positive evolution, you can become happier and as a result, have healthier relationships with others.

Here are some signs of an emotional bully:

1. Constantly interrupts and forces opinions on others
Having a conversation with an emotional bully will leave you feeling unheard and intimidated. In a conversation or discussion, they need to be the one doing all talking. They believe their opinions are the only ones that matter. They do not listen when others are talking. They will wait for a pause or break in the conversation and jump in and state their opinions and thoughts without taking the other person’s point of view.

2. Will Throw a tantrum in order to control an argument
An emotional bully will use emotional outbursts to control a discussion. If they are involved in an argument or discussion that is not going their way they may act out in a childishly and throw a tantrum. They may storm off to another room in order to end a discussion or even resort to jumping up and down in an attempt to physically get the attention back to their point. In many ways, the emotional bully will behave like a toddler trying to get their way by throwing a tantrum. They may yell, scream or cry in order to get the other person to give in to their point of view.

3. Will Accuse and blame
An emotional bully will blame others around them when events in their life are not going as planned. They may accuse others of direct wrongdoing that has led to their shortcomings in life. They may also blame loved ones for their misfortune and will fail to grasp that they may be in their current situation because of their own behavior.

4. Cries as a way to manipulate
An emotional bully has learned to weaponize emotions. When words fail to get them what they want they may resort to crying in order to manipulate the other person.  Crying will usually elicit benevolent emotions from the other person and this will allow the emotional bully to control the situation.

5. Uses profanity 
An emotional bully will use profanity in an aggressive way to intimidate others in order to get their way.

6. Throws objects when upset
When upset, an emotional bully may throw objects around the room so that those around them know they are upset. They may also throw objects in order to intimidate the other person.

7. Emotional hostage
When upset, they let everyone around them aware of their foul mood. They will hold others as emotional hostages. They are held as hostages to the emotional bully’s emotions. Others may feel the need to kowtow around them in order to avoid further drama and will do anything to appease them in order not to upset them.

8. Exhibits passive-aggressive behavior
If an emotional bully does not get their way they will act out their hostilities in an indirect manner. For example, if you choose where to have dinner over the place they suggested then they may become ill during or after they eat.

9. Uses Threats
An emotional bully will threaten certain negative outcomes or negative behaviors in the future if they do not get their way.

10. Seeks revenge
If an emotional bully feels slighted or wronged they will make it a mission to get back at you over the perceived slight.

11. Always needs to have the last word
In an argument or discussion, they always need to have the last word. Even if someone is trying to disengage from the argument the emotional bully will continue to argue until they feel they have made their point.

Thank you for reading. I would love to hear your experience with emotional bullying and how you responded.

The thoughts expressed in this blog post are my own and are not meant to create a therapeutic relationship with the reader. This blog does not replace or substitute the help of a mental health professional. Please note, I am unable to answer your specific mental health questions as I am not fully aware of all of the circumstances.

Kindly,
Dr. Perry


CREDENTIALS
Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology
M.A. in Clinical Psychology
B.A. in Psychology


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86 responses to How to Spot an Emotional Bully 

  1. Tay_Breezy says:

    Such an insightful post. I love that you encourage us to self evaluate first. I truelly believe the world would be a better place if we take this approach and apply in the many other aspects of our lives

    Liked by 11 people

  2. Hmmm great words of reality and yes there are many people who we meet in our pathway and sometimes they put us down and oh it sure is bad but there are beautiful ways that you have described that can be used to tackle them in a diplomatically manner.

    Liked by 5 people

  3. geminilvr says:

    Great post Eric – whenever I encounter someone like this in my life I just remind myself that it is me and not them. It doesn’t always take the sting away of hurtful words but it sure puts it all into perspective.

    Liked by 5 people

  4. I’d like for you to write on how to deal with a bully too. This article was very helpful. I am a recovering co-dependent people pleaser and have had a lot of angst in my life trying to please manipulative and overbearing bullies.

    Thanks for your helpful article.

    Liked by 13 people

    • MakeItUltra™ says:

      I am happy this was helpful. When time permits I will look into it. Thank you for your comment! ✨

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Helpful! I could relate to quite a few points like ‘Always needs to have the last word’, ‘Evokes the past’ and the worst ‘Seeks revenge’. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 5 people

  6. Nicolle says:

    Thanks for the informational post as always, Eric! I agree that words and actions have a profound way of getting to us. I’m a bit on the sensitive side too, so I try to be aware of my words and action. 🙂

    I’m glad to say I don’t know anyone who is an emotional bully (or maybe they’re just not showing their true colours to me), but I’ve seen quite a few advice column questions where the letter writer is faced with someone like that (mother-in-law, friend, etc). It always makes me wonder; isn’t it a tiring way to live, both as the bully and the recipient? 🙁

    Liked by 7 people

  7. Leentjes2709 says:

    Hi Eric,
    Thanks for bringing this subject in the spotlight. I was emotionally abused as a child by my mother and it has been a very long and difficult road to recovery. Since this is an invisible form of abuse it is also a difficult one to explain to others. It is good to repeat that words can hurt, more than most people are aware.

    Liked by 7 people

  8. JoAnna says:

    The damage from sticks and stones often heals faster than damage from emotional bullying which makes people sick from the inside out. None of these are acceptable. Thanks for writing this.

    Liked by 5 people

    • This is why I have always hated the phrase “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”. Words are the most powerful weapons on Earth!

      Liked by 3 people

  9. WOW! You know I never thought of myself as a bully but when I was younger like in my 20’s and a single mother without family I had circle of friends that I was close to…… One day they told me I was very “bossy”. This made me look into myself and also look at my daugher as well who seemed bossy too. I worked on this alot in my late 30’s I think I was able to kick the bossy habit. Thinking back I did not think of myself as bossy but always trying to prove my worth to others because everyone thought of me as young and not serious.
    Now hitting 50

    Liked by 6 people

    • lisasworld68 says:

      Thank you for posting. It hit home on many levels. It has always stemmed from those i cared about, which made it equally confusing and painful. I’ve only recently over the past few years gained control…where i no longer tolerate any type of disrespect. I had to learn that you can’t fix people. It’s hard enough fixing ourselves. I have to say i am happier than i have ever been, it is quite liberating when you say “enough is enough”

      Liked by 4 people

  10. Yes, sad that there are people like this. I was married for 39 years to someone who covered all those traits except for the crying. I did the crying. No more! The only way to deal with that person is to escape. Thanks for the insight, reinforcing my decision.

    Liked by 7 people

  11. Sherry says:

    I grew up with a bully, my stepfather, and seemed to have married bullies. I don’t understand that need for control or hurting other’s. I believe kindness matters and thank you for a great post!

    Liked by 5 people

  12. Barb says:

    A very interesting post. When listed it is pretty scary but I think what’s worse is that most of us will exhibit some of these reactions and not be aware of it and the why of it. If we all just took the time to really talk to each other and just listen then this world would be so much better.

    Liked by 5 people

  13. Jen says:

    Oh, wow. I wish I had read this years ago.
    I am not saying I am innocent. I have been the abuser a time or two. Thank the powers that be, I have been working on me.
    Now, to make sure I see signs before I invest myself.

    Liked by 5 people

  14. I’ve known quite a few people who exhibit some of these behaviors, myself included. I’ve been trying hard to work on not being like this, especially on the crying end. I’m very emotional and will cry at almost anything, which doesn’t help. But you are very right. Self-evaluation is just as, if not more, important as calling others out on this action. Otherwise we as humans will not go anywhere. Thank you for your insight on an amazing topic!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I love the term emotional bully. This is great information to put it perspective. Since I own a business I deal with emotional bullies quite often. Dealing with them can be hard, but sticking to facts and not letting them get their way is key. Thank you for your insights!

    Liked by 5 people

  16. I find this enlightening as there are many behaviours on your list I wouldn’t have readily associated with bullying. We all too often think of the physical or hurtful words, but other actions such as crying, throwing fits and having the last word, fit. Never thought of those before in this category, yes as emotionally controlling, but seriously never thought of it as bullying. Thank you, enjoyed this.

    Liked by 5 people

  17. What a great piece. I really appreciate your listing the ways an emotional bully can behave. I recently removed an emotional bully from my life and I feel a sense of lightness and sense of ease.

    Liked by 5 people

  18. Sadly, this was my world being raised by a narcissistic parent. I cut off all contact about three years ago. It’s hard, because I still love this parent, but I can’t have them and their toxicity in my life.

    Liked by 4 people

  19. Fantastic post so good to see that the ideas I had about a particular person were the same as yours, at times these bullies can have you think there way is the rite way

    Liked by 4 people

  20. Thank you, Eric. I really appreciate this. My intention is to communicate with more kindness, caring, honesty and loving. I am so happy to know you on wordpress!
    Blessings, Debbie 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  21. MacThule says:

    Very well written & presented. An appropriate addition to the contemporary social dialectic. I know that I grew up around many of these controlling habits and have had a right job of weeding my own garden as a result. Thank you for sharing this reminder!

    Liked by 2 people

  22. Delilah says:

    Talking about words having the power to hurt… even if your words were never intended to hurt, your discussions (over and above your actual choice of words) might convey a sometimes mistaken impression of you and your intent. This might happen if the other person is too self-focused in some way (doesn’t wish you to disagree with them) and so takes offence when you thought you were just having an interesting discussion. Explaining your views can be a dangerous practice. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  23. Illumine** says:

    I find such people most annoying… Only kind people i simply cannot bear… Though I do lol. Anyways, informative post!☺☺

    Liked by 2 people

  24. Christina Paster says:

    I love this article. It’s a helpful reminder to be more self aware. I am totally guilty of number 6 and 8 at times. Thank-you!

    Liked by 2 people

  25. Oh yes. Having to have the last word? I deal with someone who will argue endlessly with a child to claim they are right. A grown adult. Age is not a sign of maturity.

    Liked by 2 people

  26. Kim says:

    Wonderful post Dr. Perry. You take such care in the posts you write. I appreciate it. It’s like free therapy! Thank you!!

    Liked by 2 people

  27. sarcasticallycynical says:

    Emailing, texting, sending a recorded version, and mailing this to my sister. Oh wait…
    Would that count as bullying? Kidding. Thank you for your insight. I feel most of us fail to recognize one or two of these in ourselves. Food for thought.

    Liked by 2 people

  28. Ahmed Jabai says:

    I think the biggest sign of emotional bullying is a feeling of inability to express oneself. Regardless of the reason, being able to express oneself is the highest form of emotional expression.

    Liked by 2 people

  29. Raney Simmon says:

    I definitely think with things like this self evaluation is really important. I definitely know there are some of these things I feel like I do without meaning to so that’s something on my end I’ll definitely have to work on so that I’m not bullying others even if it’s unintentional. I think that’s the one thing that self evaluation makes hard is when you reflect and notice bad habits in yourself that you didn’t notice before and having to make those changes so you don’t continue that bad behavior. Thanks for the insightful post.

    Liked by 2 people

  30. louis11725 says:

    I’m pretty much dealing with a person in the family, who exhibits some of those traits you mentioned.
    I am trying my best to deal with it. I find that not talking to them helps a lot. It assists with feeding into their behavior. I understand that avoidance is not always the best, yet when this person continues to display their behavior, it sometimes is the only way.
    The family is aware of how this person behaves. It is an ongoing struggle. This is constant work.

    Liked by 4 people

  31. KEMwriting says:

    Such an informative post though it makes me wonder what makes people emotional bullies and the best way to help them change. Thank you for the thought provoking topic too. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  32. soodamittai says:

    thank you for this post doc. it’s amazing as you just put the entire structure of emotional bullies in words. haven’t been able to sum it up until now. amazing job you did for us all.

    emotional bullies are everywhere.
    i feel like it sort of gives them some kind of superiority and they just wont change the habit. to make sure that they are right attitude will never make them change is what i feel . maybe they knew or maybe not, but the thing is they just cant change the traits and habits.

    been dealing with these kinds of people and they just like what they do. they wont even try to change because they will not find anything wrong with their doings.

    sad thing is there are people who support them and say to them that they are right or they wont even take part in any of their drams and just simple nod their heads saying yea it’s correct. the main reason people support them is to avoid those emotional bullies to take a toll on them . these people are way worse than those bullies. emotional bullies make life miserable.

    i’m sorry for all the ranting.
    but doc, thanks for the insight as i can assess myself too. you are wonderful!

    Liked by 2 people

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