Book excerpt

Take the Bully by the Horns

Stop Unethical, Uncooperative, or Unpleasant People from Running and Ruining Your Life

Sam Horn

St. Martin's Press


At the age of four with paper hats and wooden swords
we are all generals--only some of us never grow out of it.


A WOMAN SAID, "WHEN I THINK OF BULLIES, I PICTURE SOMEONE like Bluto out of the Popeye cartoon. You know, a big brute with hairy arms and bulging biceps. Is that what you're talking about?"

Nope, that's not what we're talking about. Bullies don't necessarily wear black hats or have bulging biceps. They come in all shapes, sizes, genders, ages, and professions. Ninety-year-old grannies can be bullies. Ministers can be bullies. Coaches can be bullies.

A bully is someone who knowingly abuses the rights of others to gain control of the situation and the individual(s) involved. Bullies deliberately and persistently use intimidation and manipulation to get their way. The key words here are knowingly, deliberately, and persistently.

All of us are difficult on occasion. Bullies are difficult on purpose. We may be uncooperative or unpleasant in particular situations. Bullies are uncooperative and unpleasant as part of their strategy. Most of us respond to reasonable efforts to get along. Bullies reject reasonable efforts to get along because they don't want a win-win--they want to win.

Bullies Aim Below the Belt

He couldn't see a belt without hitting below it.


The following questionnaire can help you determine whether a challenging individual in your life qualifies as a bona fide bully. The question is, does s/he hit below the ethical belt accidentally or aim below the ethical belt intentionally? If you are dealing with several difficult individuals, take the time to fill this out separately for each one. Answer the questions, rating the frequency of these behaviors from 1 (Rarely) to 3 (Occasionally) to 5 (Often). Go with your instinct. Your first answer is usually the most honest because it comes from the gut, not the intellect.

35 or below: This individual is not a bully. He/she may be unpleasant to deal with once in a while; however, win-win communication on your part will enable the two of you to coexist cooperatively most of the time.

36-55: This person may occasionally exhibit bully behavior. You may need to escalate your response in those situations so s/he understands that that particular behavior is inappropriate. If you keep your cool and communicate constructively, you'll usually be able to resolve what's wrong, repair the relationship, and move forward, not much worse for wear.

56-75: Uh-oh. It looks like you've got a full-blown bully on your hands. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. Get your pen out, sit down, and start taking notes so you can begin planning how to stop this individual from running and ruining your life.

No One Deserves to Be Bullied

Chaos, panic, and disorder--my work here is done.


Do you have someone in your life who scores higher than 35 on this test? You're in the right place because we're going to address how to handle every single one of the behaviors mentioned above. We're not going to dwell on how to deal with ordinary difficult people. There are plenty of books that already do a good job of covering that topic. We're going to focus on how to deal with egregiously difficult people whose goal is to spread chaos, panic, and disorder.

A woman in a seminar asked, "Why do bullies act the way they do? It's hard for me to understand why anyone would deliberately harm another person." Good question. The next chapter explains what's behind bully behavior. Knowing why they do what they do can keep us from being knocked off balance when they try to pull one of their dirty tricks.

Action Plan and Discussion Questions

Think of the most challenging individual in your life. Does s/he qualify as a bully? Why or why not?_____________________________________________

Does this individual exhibit other destructive behaviors that weren't on this questionnaire? What are they?_____________________________________________

Which of these behaviors does s/he indulge in most? Give an example of how s/he does this to you_____________________________________________

Now, take the test for yourself. Do you exhibit some of these characteristics? Which ones?_____________________________________________

If you discovered that you sometimes behave like a bully, are you willing to read this book and look for ways you can treat people more compassionately? Explain._____________________________________________




Intentionally hurts others

Occasionally hurts others

"I'm going to make him sorry he ever met me."

"I didn't mean to say that. I'm sorry."

Rejects reasonable efforts

Responds to reasonable efforts

"It's my way or the highway."

"Let's figure out what's fair."

Wants only to win

Will accept a win-win

"If you don't like it, too bad. Take it or leave it."

"Okay, I'll give a little on this if you agree to that."

Refuses to admit fault

Recognizes when at fault

"You're dead wrong, and I'm not going to listen to you."

"I wish that hadn't happened, and I won't do it anymore."

Runs over others' rights

Respects others' rights

"I don't give a darn whether your family's upset. This is the way it's going to be."

"I don't agree with them on this. However, we'll do it their way when we're in their home."

Aggravates violent individuals

Advances in the opposite direction of violent individuals

"Hey, you fat jerk, sit down. I can't see the game."

"Usher, could you please talk to the man in seat 45B? He's spilling his beer all over everyone."

Sam Horn, president of Action Seminars, has presented her real-life workshops to more than 400,000 people since 1981. Her impressive client list includes Young Presidents Organization, National Governors Association, Hewlett-Packard, Four Seasons Resort, the Fortune 500 Forum, the US Navy, and the IRS. She was the top rated speaker at both the 1996 and 1998 International Platform Association conventions in Washington DC, and is the emcee of the world-renowned Maui Writers Conference. She is also the author of Tongue Fu!, What's Holding You Back?, and ConZentrate, which have been featured in Readers Digest, The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Cosmopolitan, Entertainment Weekly, Family Circle, Bottom Line Personal, and Executive Female, to name a few. She is a frequent media guest who has appeared on numerous TV and radio shows, including "To Tell the Truth" and NPR's popular "Diane Rehm Show." She lives with her sons Tom and Andrew in Virginia.