Q&A Today: Standing Up to an Adult Bully

By Eileen S. Lenson, MSW, ACSW, BCC 

Welcome to Q&A Today, a column designed to answer your questions regarding challenges and concerns in everyday life, from family to coping with current events. A popular topic today revolves around the coronavirus. All questions are fair game. Just send me an email with your questions or concerns, and watch for the answer in upcoming editions of the Tasmanian Times. Q&A Today is published on the first and third Sundays of the month. If your question is printed, only your first name will appear in this column. Email me at: tas@LensonLifeCoaching.com.

Q: Q: I’m 22 years old, and have been best friends with Camille (not her real name) since 3rd year. We always used to have fun together. In the last two years sometimes just she and I will hang out, and other times we include our boyfriends. But since she broke up with her boyfriend, I’ve noticed a change in her.

Whenever we’re together for an evening of fun it starts off great, but then it deteriorates as the evening progresses. Sometimes she embarrasses me around others by bringing up mistakes I’ve made in the past. Sometimes I find Camille making sarcastic remarks and insulting me by saying my comments are ‘stupid’. Most recently, and perhaps the most hurtful, she emailed my boyfriend to say that I was flirting with the waiter when she and I were at dinner.

I’ve confronted her on this behaviour and she responds that I’m thin-skinned. She says if she can’t joke around with her lifelong friend, then with whom can she joke? Last week, when she cancelled plans to go hiking at the last minute, I complained. She rolled her eyes and told me to get over it.

I hope it’s just a phase Camille’s going through. But I’m irritated, wondering what I did to cause her to become so mean to me. Jenny

A: Hi Jenny,

I’d say that your childhood friend has grown up to become a full-fledged adult bully. Adult bullying looks different to that demonstrated by children. It’s more subtle. They’re less likely to push, kick or hit you. Or try to stuff you in your school locker. Adult bullying is more sophisticated, and is often masked with a smile and denial of intent. But the goal is the same: to control, shame and criticise the other person.

Bullies don’t just happen. They have a past, being a victim of bullying or having learned to treat others with disrespect. As a result, bullies don’t make good friends, because their intent is to diminish another person. Friendship is about trust. It’s about being comfortable with one another. Friends build us up when we’re unsure of ourselves, rejoice in our happiness and comfort us when we’re sad. They listen to our concerns and validate our feelings. We feel good about ourselves when we’re with true friends.


Do your best to avoid getting angry.

Camille may think that she’s your friend, but her changed behaviour says otherwise. Good friends know our vulnerabilities and will loyally protect us, rather than weaponise them against us. She tries to poke fun at you and humiliate you in front of others. Being disrespectful of plans she made with you and then rolling her eyes is a manipulative effort – with both words and behaviours – designed to position herself in a place of power. It even appears she has begun to cyber bully you.

While I do not know the reason for her hurtful conduct, it’s important that you not feel responsible or guilty for her behaviour. Bullying is always about the other person, not you. She clearly feels inadequate about herself and the only way she knows to feel better is to pick on someone else, and in this case, it is you, her longtime friend.

What you must do, starting now, is to begin establishing boundaries. Start by deciding that you are not going to allow yourself to be a victim of her intimidating behaviour.

Don’t bully back by being angry, sarcastic or threatening. You will accomplish nothing. You’ll just be joining Camille at her level and she’ll likely out-bully you. Rather, you can learn to view her with pity, instead of anger. This is not to excuse the behaviour but it does reduce the power the bully is attempting to exert.

Assertively let Camille know that when she engages in a hurtful comment or behaviour towards you that it is not acceptable, you will point it out to her, and that you expect her to not repeat it again. Bullies will typically respond well when they learn that they will suffer consequences if their behaviour continues. In Camille’s case, the consequence will involve you exiting the relationship.

By remaining cool, you’ll be better able to respond to her bullying behaviour.

If you should start to feel yourself becoming angry, remember that bullies feel more powerful when they sense the other person’s self-control is compromised.

Bullies want the other person to be reactive. And besides, I really don’t think you want to compromise your own integrity and become someone like Camille, who verbally inflicts hurt on others.

I hope for both of your sakes that Camille changes her behaviour towards you. But if, despite your efforts to set limits, Camilla’s abuse doesn’t stop, walk away. This is an unhealthy relationship. To stay is to enable her. She may stop bullying when she sees that she is unsuccessful at controlling you and reducing your sense of self-worth. But remember that bullying is Camille’s coping strategy of feeling good about herself. So you will have to keep a constant vigil on boundary setting otherwise she will likely resume her domineering and aggressive behaviour towards you.

Chinese water torture. Image courtesy prismchan.

I can imagine how conflicted you must feel, being encouraged to potentially pull away from your lifelong friend. But removing yourself from an unhealthy relationship is an act of self-kindness as bullying can, in time, negatively impact on your physical and mental health. Like the water torture technique used centuries ago; continued bullying comes drip by drip by drip, slowly wearing us down. By being the recipient of constant bullying, you may find yourself suffering over time from a loss of confidence and sleep, high blood pressure, headaches and stomach aches.

I recommend that you not only stop from allowing Camille to make you unhappy, but do everything you can to develop a broad supportive social network for yourself. You can achieve this by engaging in activities and relationships that enhance your self-confidence, self-esteem and overall happiness.

Wishing you well,


DISCLAIMER: By submitting a problem to Q&A Today you grant Tasmanian Times permission to publish it on our website and social media pages. Your full name and contact details will never be included or distributed. The advice columnist acting on behalf of Tasmanian Times is expressing personal opinions and views and the advice offered is intended for informational purposes only. Use of this column is not intended to replace or substitute for any professional, financial, medical, legal or other professional advice.

If you have specific concerns or a situation in which you require professional, psychological or medical help, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified specialist. The opinions or views expressed in this column are not intended to treat or diagnose; nor are they meant to replace the treatment and care that you may be receiving from a licensed professional, physician or mental health professional.

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Nathan Buckley ‘should consider standing down from coaching’

Respected AFL journalist Damian Barrett has applied the blowtorch to Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley following his protocol breach on Friday.

Buckley and assistant coach Brenton Sanderson played tennis with two people from outside of Collingwood’s bubble, one being former tennis star Alicia Molik.

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The club self-reported the breach which resulted in a $50,000 fine being handed down by the AFL, with $25,000 suspended. It became the fifth breach by a Victorian club.

Buckley came under fire on Sunday morning when his breach and the subsequent club fine was brought up on Channel 9’s Sunday Footy Show.

“I wasn’t surprised when those other fines came up, but I’ve got to say I was absolutely gobsmacked when I found out that Nathan Buckley had transgressed,” Tony Jones said.

“Nathan Buckley, I’m not going to say puts himself on a pedestal of social consciousness or social commentary, but if you go back to January when he sort of put the Prime Minister on notice during the bushfires.

“Now those words ring true in a lot of ways because he has put his hand up and accepting the hurt and all the rest of it, but if you’re going to pontificate then you’ve got to stay within the rules yourself, don’t you. And that’s why I’m so surprised that Nathan Buckley of all people has transgressed.”

Barrett however believes the right thing for Buckley to do following the breach would be to step aside for Sunday’s game against Fremantle.

“I honestly believe he should consider standing down from coaching his team tonight against the Dockers in Perth,” Barrett said.

“He’s been quarantined away from the football club anyway while he’s dealing with a test that had to be taken because he played with someone outside of the confines of his football club.

“You line up the transgression with what his own president Eddie McGuire said, basically on the day of the infringement when it came to Buckley and Sanderson playing tennis. This is Eddie McGuire on Fox Footy Friday night, having a view on what should happen to people within the AFL system who transgress in such a manner.”

“I think the people who breach the protocols should be fined personally, to be honest.

“You can get to the clubs in due course, I think the AFL’s set it out, but I think it’s got to be a personal fine.

“I think the point Gill McLachlan made during the week is 100 per cent right — we make a rule to keep the game going. From here until the Grand Final, there’s still about $250 million worth to be left on the table if this ends. It’d be a disaster, imagine if we don’t get to finish off the finals series now.

“That rule book is not how do we get around every rule, that’s the rule book you live by. And if you don’t like it, we’ll arrange for you to go home. I think that’s fair and reasonable.”

“So you just insert Nathan Buckley and Brenton Sanderson into what Eddie said there and we’re clear now on what Eddie thinks should happen to such a situation,” Barrett added.

“The apologies are fine and look Nathan Buckley is a really good person and his apology was genuine don’t get me wrong, but the messaging isn’t getting through. That’s the fifth club that’s done something in the past week which is putting in jeopardy the entire AFL season.

“I think sending the strongest message would come in the form of consideration at least to not coaching tonight.”

As the panel continued to discuss the pressure Buckley would be feeling following the breach, a heated exchange unfolded between Tony Jones and Billy Brownless.

Billy Brownless: “They’ll get around him, the players will get around him. They love Bucks, they’ll get around him”.

Tony Jones: “But Billy that’s fine mate, but he stuffed up.”

B.B: “He did and he’s put his hand up. We all stuff up.”

T.J: “You could be the best bloke in the world mate but you’ve stuffed up and you’ve just cost your club a lot of money.”

B.B: “We’re all allowed one chance in life mate.”

T.J: “You’re what?”

B.B: “We’re allowed one chance in life.”

T.J: “Not when the competition is hanging by a thread.”

B.B: “He’s put his hand up, he’s going to pay the fine himself. The great thing with footy clubs is you get around and you support each other.”

T.J: “Bill you can’t play the good bloke card every time all right.”

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Why Maguire is standing by Brooks as long-term Tigers halfback

“I’m seeing Brooksy do exactly what you need to do through a period like this in your career.

“This year he’s been more consistent with his defence, he had a tough day out against Souths but prior to that he was strong. He just needs to be more consistent around that space.

Luke Brooks will spend a thirs straight week on the bench.

Luke Brooks will spend a thirs straight week on the bench.Credit:Getty Images

“And with the ball he just needs to keep developing his game.”

Brooks was sensationally axed in favour of Billy Walters and Benji Marshall leading up to the blowout win over the Broncos. The pair were retained for last weekend’s gritty Eels loss and will again start Friday’s clash at the SCG. The hallowed Moore Park turf is where Brooks made his debut in 2013 and was immediately – and unfairly – compared to Andrew Johns.

Should the Tigers triumph against the Warriors, it would be hard to imagine Brooks, the club’s two-time Kelly Barnes winner, forcing his way back into the starting side for next week’s clash against Newcastle.

Luke Brooks gets past Brisbane's Brodie Croft.

Luke Brooks gets past Brisbane’s Brodie Croft.Credit:Getty Images

Fans have always loved Brooks for being a junior and the only one to stay put when his good mates James Tedesco, Aaron Woods and Mitch Moses departed in 2017.

Maguire said Walters had been solid and ”he plays a nice direct straight game, and I like how hard he works in the defensive line”.

It remains to be seen whether Marshall plays on beyond this year.

Maguire said the club pin-up had been brilliant since his own spell on the sidelines, and Marshall himself spoke about how he had never felt so confident about his own game upon his return.

Shawn Blore was impressive on debut for the Wests Tigers.

Shawn Blore was impressive on debut for the Wests Tigers.Credit:NRL Photos/Gregg Porteous

As Brooks wears the No. 16 jersey, joining him on the bench will be Shawn Blore who more than impressed Maguire on debut to keep his spot.

“I’ve chatted with Shawn for some time, he’s a great character and I like his attitude towards what he wants to achieve and how he wants to be seen as a player,” he said.

“He played a strong first game, but you’re always remember by what you do next.


“I just like his confidence to take on the game. He’s a young man who backs his ability.”

Blore is eligible for New Zealand – something not lost on Maguire – while the coach added he planned to speak with Sonny Bill Williams again about pulling on the New Zealand jersey again, especially now he is back in the NRL with the Sydney Roosters.

In what could be a fairytale farewell for Williams at next year’s World Cup, Maguire said: “I spoke to Sonny some time ago, but it was about him just getting back into rugby league.

“I want that Kiwis jersey to be the pinnacle of rugby league. The guys who have worn it since I’ve been involved have changed the outlook on what the jersey represents.

“Sonny has had some great performances in that jersey and I’m hoping he’d love to do it all again.”

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Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews is standing firm on China amid growing criticism from US, Opposition

To some of Daniel Andrews’ closest supporters, his relationship with China is pragmatic and smart.

But for others, the Victorian Premier is playing a troubling game with the emerging superpower, a totalitarian country they warn, that bullies its way to its objectives.

China is the state’s biggest trading partner and the potential source of major investment for the big projects on Mr Andrews’ election-winning agenda.

Some inside the ranks of Victorian Labor warn there is “confusion and concern” among Caucus and the community about Mr Andrews’ deals with China, especially the decision for Victoria to take the unusual step of signing up to the Belt and Road Initiative.

The framework agreement signed in October is a not legally binding but includes a commitment to working together on infrastructure.

It is a deal criticised by the Morrison Government and analysts for undermining Australian foreign policy.

It once again made China a hot-button issue for Mr Andrews.

Premier Daniel Andrews and Chinese Ambassador to Australia Cheng Jingye in Melbourne who are both holding compendiums.
Mr Andrews said the deal was all about growing jobs.(Supplied: Chinese Embassy)

The decision to slap tariffs on Australian barley exports is the latest flashpoint after Mr Andrews and his Treasurer, Tim Pallas, responded by saying no single country should be “vilified” over coronavirus.

On Sunday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who admitted he had no knowledge of the Victorian deal, weighed in, warning relationships with China came with incredible risks, especially around telecommunications.

Hours later, US ambassador Arthur Culvahouse took the extraordinary step of clarifying Mr Pompeo’s statement on Victoria, saying it had no security concerns about telecommunications.

With some simmering distrust of the Chinese state in the Victorian community, it is a relationship that will need to be managed carefully.

Andrews ‘played for a fool’ by China

When Mr Andrews won office in 2014, he followed a well-worn path of previous Liberal and Labor premiers to travel to China on official visits.

It has continued apace and there is even an edict that every minister must visit the country at least once a term.

Mr Andrews is by no means the first to work with China.

Liberal premier Sir Rupert Hamer set up a sister state relationship in 1979 — the 40th anniversary was celebrated last year.

That does not stop criticism that Mr Andrews is overstepping his role as a state premier.

Peter Jennings, executive director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said Mr Andrews’ decision to sign up was deeply problematic because it undermined Australia’s foreign policy.

Victoria, like other states, also does not have the same security intelligence Canberra does.

“They [China] played Andrews for a bit of a fool,” Mr Jennings said.

“It wasn’t smart. To have Victoria as China’s helper, it can look like an errand boy.”

Former premier Steve Bracks was also a regular visitor to China during his term from 1999-2007.

Like now, the relationship had an economic agenda and he said there was some hysteria around the issue at the moment.

“To put it into context, this is about a focus on jobs, investment and trade,” he said.

Questions likely to continue

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews at Tiananmen Square in China.
Mr Andrews, like other Labor leaders before him, is a regular visitor to China.(Twitter: Lisa Tucker)

The Opposition has grabbed the issue, ramping up the rhetoric, seizing on the fact one of the big construction firms building major projects, John Holland, is Chinese-owned.

Despite criticism of the Belt and Road agreement, Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien will not commit to scrapping the deal, much to the chagrin of some in his party room.

Questions about Victoria’s relationship with Beijing will rightly continue.

It’s a complex issue and comes at amid the backdrop of ongoing tensions between China and the US and what that ultimately means for Australia.

The decision-making and lobbying over China is managed by a tightly guarded circle — criticism and questions about what the deal actually delivers for Victoria will only increase.

But throughout his tenure, Mr Andrews has shown a willingness to stare down his critics, especially if that criticism comes from federal MPs.

And on China, it looks like he’ll continue to take the risk of going his own way.

On Monday afternoon, he told ABC Statewide drive: “I’m not going to apologise for a trade policy that is all about growing Victorian jobs.”

It’s a well-worn line that Victorians can expect to keep hearing.

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