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How Adult Bullies Find and Encourage Each Other on Social Media

How Adult Bullies Find and Encourage Each Other on Social Media   © 2024 by Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq. Adult bullies have traditionally been kept on the fringes of society by families, communities, and legal systems that won’t tolerate their bullying behavior, as I explain in my new book Our New World of Adult Bullies: How to Spot Them – How to Stop Them. However, with the advent of social media, they are finding like-minded bullies and encouraging each other in their negative behavior rather than encouraging each other to use more positive behavior. This article addresses three ways in which I see this happening. Dysfunctional Interpersonal Behavior of Bullies As I describe in the book, most adult bullies appear to have traits of three personality disorders: narcissistic, antisocial, and borderline. This means that many of them have dysfunctional interpersonal behavior with tendencies toward being domineering, vindictive, and intrusive. (Wilson, et al, 2017) In the past, most of these potential bullies would have learned that their bullying behavior is undesirable and, in most cases, unacceptable. They may have received consequences for their behavior that made them try to restrain themselves to the extent possible. Social media has changed all of this. Now isolated bullies have found other people who share their interpersonal dysfunction and formed a sense of community around it. Rather than supporting each other in a process of positive behavior change, such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, some are supporting each other in defending and justifying their undesirable behavior instead. For example, author and psychotherapist Alexander Kriss believes that many people with borderline personality disorder can improve and that the diagnosis itself is unhelpful. He is particularly concerned that online communities are forming and reinforcing the negative behaviors of the disorder. For example: Such communities, Kriss fears, can “pervert” B.P.D. into a self-serving justification for misconduct. He cites the musician Abby Weems’s posts about her relationship with the podcaster Dustin Marshall: “He made it so easy to rationalize his behavior, telling me ‘that’s just what happens when someone has BPD.’ His personality disorder made up so much of his identity that any abusive behavior fell under the umbrella of his condition. (Singh, 2024, 24) Of course, this is not to say that all people with a diagnosis or self-diagnosis of borderline personality disorder behave this way. There are many who are working hard at recovering from this disorder, including treatment groups such as those using the skills of DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy). (Dimeff & Koerner, 2007) Political Polarization and Bullies One of the big concerns around the world today is: Why are we so polarized politically? The same media and social media dynamic appears to be taking place. Traditionally, political power was something that grew by building relationships with many differing people who were able to agree on enough shared values and policies to hold themselves together. There is a pro-social element to such political power. It is built around the middle ground that brings the most people together. This has been the nature of political parties around the world—in the past. Today, through the influence of high-emotion mainstream media—which constantly promotes conflict, crises, chaos, and fear—everyone is more anxious and open to more extreme policies and more extreme groups. As I explain in my book, when people in polarized groups just talk to themselves they become more extreme, not less. Social media enables groups of extreme and anxious people to find each other and join together and strengthen their extreme thinking. So, in a two-party system, such as in the U. S., the parties used to be center-left (Democratic) and center-right (Republican) in order to get anything done. With social media, they are pulled farther and farther apart by the most aggressive people and get very little done beyond getting attention and reinforcing each other’s extreme thinking and behavior. This is happening worldwide. The extreme groups are getting more attention in the high-emotion media—mostly mainstream media and social media—because bullies have the most emotional personalities and the biggest drive to get attention. These social connections legitimize their behavior as ordinary and necessary politics, with bullies as “ordinary” leaders. The result is that the more extreme players can form the strongest bonds with each other and are able to energize each other as they promote more and more extreme values and positions. Politics has become a process of finding your support group in extreme opposition to others rather than finding your support group in agreement with others who may disagree on a lot but are willing to work together on a larger common agenda. Mass Shootings I used to think that individuals who committed mass shootings (three or more deaths) were lone wolves, isolated from society. Recently, however, those who study such shootings say the shooters tend to be between the ages of 18 and 21 and belong to social media groups. Apparently, they encourage each other. As one researcher said: “These are young guys who feel like losers, and they have an overwhelming drive to show everybody they are not on the bottom,” he said. “In the case of the Buffalo shooter, it was about trying to impress this community of racists he had cultivated online. In the case of the kid in Uvalde, it was about going back to the place where you felt disrespected and acting out violently.” (Thrush & Richtel, 2022) While it is hard to believe, such behavior seems to have a social purpose in the distorted thinking of the shooter. When such young adults connect with other like-minded young adults, the potential for danger can be very high. Peer pressure and the drive to belong are very powerful at this age. Ideally, they would have pro-social activities to engage them and give them a positive sense of community and purpose. Unfortunately, when left on their own to fill their time exploring the internet, their social needs may get met by social media of the most negative type. Conclusion Social media

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Turning the Tide on Toxic Teams: Introducing New Ways for Work®—Leaders Training

Turning the Tide on Toxic Teams: Introducing New Ways for Work®—Leaders Course   © 2024 by Cherolyn Knapp, B. Comm, Q.Med Have you ever found yourself leading a toxic team? When a tide of negativity is threatening the whole team, it’s confounding and confusing. Employees can be quick to identify that they work in a “toxic workplace” but how do leaders know the team has gone toxic? Reports of bad behaviour are brought to you and you find yourself thinking, “come on, we’re all adults here, can’t we just sort this out and move on?” As a leader, you are going from fire to fire and might be feeling burnt out yourself. As a leader, you might be spending most of your time dealing with “HR issues,” or dreading dealing with those issues, rather than the work of the team. When yet another interpersonal issue happens, you might say to yourself, “I’ve never seen anything like this before” or “I think I’m a pretty good leader but the stuff I normally do just isn’t working now.” When leaders find themselves in this situation, it’s time to step back, look at the whole picture and figure out what needs to happen to change deeply entrenched problem teams. High conflict teams and the individuals who fuel them Sometimes an entire team can seem to take on the characteristics of a high conflict personality: there is repeated blaming, unmanaged emotion, extreme behaviour and all or nothing thinking. Most of the individuals seem reasonable when you talk with them individually but you keep hearing about problematic behaviour like hyper-criticism, destructive gossip and chatter, disrupted team meetings, and reply-all email or text chats that take on a life of their own. The workplace culture may have become polarized into us vs. them. People are constantly upset, unfocused on work, quick to demand accountability, slow to take responsibility, calling in sick and leaving. And there so many complaints. At HCI, our knowledge and experience leads us to believe that most times toxic teams and workplaces are likely being fueled by one or two key players with high conflict personalities. You yourself have probably been involved with a work group that seemed impossible, but when one person went on vacation, the entire team breathed more easily and managed to interact productively. There are a couple of key reasons this can happen. Primarily, emotion are contagious. If there is a high conflict personality on the team who experiences unmanaged emotions and extreme behaviour, that’s going to be catchy and before you know it, everyone is regularly upset. Secondly, people with high conflict personalities tend to cultivate negative advocates. They can be convincing and they look for allies who support their distorted outlook, which fosters division and polarization on the team. None of this is child’s play. The cost of toxic teams can be high. There is lost productivity because everyone is mired in the conflict rather than the work of the team. Quality decreases. Good employees who can’t deal with the toxic culture anymore leave, taking organizational knowhow with them. People feel burnt out and their wellbeing suffers. Recruitment and retention in an already tight labor market becomes near impossible. Missteps by well-meaning leaders As leaders, our first inclination is often to talk with the person who seems to be at the centre of the problems about how their behaviour lands on others. If we lack high conflict savvy, these well-meaning coaching chats go in circles. The high conflict employee is adept at taking control of the conversation and we end up listening to them vent about everyone else. The venting never seems to make them feel better and they never grasp what we want them to change. Other members of the team say they bring forward their concerns but “nothing ever gets done.” Another possible direction these conversations go is that the alleged “problem-person” may say all the right things, which is confusing. They’ll say it’s not fair that people haven’t come to them directly – even if they have and it didn’t go well. People with high conflict personalities may say they welcome open communication but in reality they are very sensitive and even mild feedback feels like an attack. Well meaning leaders may incorrectly conclude that both people share responsibility for conflicts and expect co-workers to sort it out rather than setting clear limits on destructive behaviour. Another possible direction when leaders try to get an employee to see how their difficult behaviour is landing on other people is you become the target of blame. The employee accuses you of singling them out for mistreatment, or favouring their co-workers, or being a bully. Every time you try to inject reason into the conversation, your competence is challenged, or your ethics, or whether you actually care. Leaders who understand high conflict behaviour can avoid missteps that lead them into the above traps. We have worked with many very competent, well-meaning leaders who make these common mistakes when grappling with toxic team behaviour: Relying on the same leadership skills to work with all the people all the time Avoiding dealing with things because of leadership portfolios that are too demanding and hoping things will sort themselves out in time Giving too much benefit of the doubt to employees who are actually derailing the team and concluding that both “sides” are contributing equally to difficulties. Not realizing – or forgetting – that some people actually seem to thrive on creating chaos. Not setting clear expectations for workplace behaviour and imposing consistent consequences when those expectations are not met New Ways for Work®—Leaders At HCI, we are keenly familiar with the impact that people with high-conflict personalities have on creating a toxic team culture and the challenges that poses to workplace leaders. New Ways for Work – Leaders is a brand new course designed for people leaders in any workplace. That includes supervisors, clinical leaders, managers, directors, executives, board and committee chairs, union leaders, and elected officials. This

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SLIC Solutions: Setting Limits and Imposing Consequences in 2 ½ Steps

SLIC Solutions: Setting Limits and Imposing Consequences in 2 ½ Steps   © 2024 by Bill Eddy, LCSW, JD We live in a rapidly changing world, with rules and standards frequently in flux. However, most people are sufficiently self-regulated to maintain civility and cooperation in the midst of vagueness and uncertainty. Not surprisingly, setting limits on those with misbehavior has become one of the most important skills to have in today’s world, especially in high conflict situations. This is especially true since the pandemic and the increase in high conflict behavior worldwide. But in today’s world, Setting Limits is often ineffective if it isn’t combined with Imposing Consequences (thus the acronym: SLIC). People often say: “But I told him to stop!” Or: “I’m sure she’ll come to her senses.” As I describe in my new book—Our New World of Adult Bullies: How to Spot Them – How to Stop Them—some people really do lack the ability to stop themselves, so others have to do it. While most of us dread imposing consequences, it doesn’t have to be complicated. Since 2008, High Conflict Institute has been developing and teaching simple techniques for managing high conflict behavior. These skills can be learned by almost anyone with practice. SLIC Solutions is the last of four simple techniques that we teach for any conflict situation in our overall CARS Method® of conflict resolution: CONNECTING includes a simple EAR Statement® for calming upset people and connecting with them. ANALYZING options includes Making Proposals in 3 Steps™ for making decisions large and small. RESPONDING with a BIFF Response® can be used with emails and other written communication when someone is hostile, demanding, or misinformed. Now, for SETTING limits. we suggest SLIC Solutions™ which can be applied in 2½ steps. This article will explain how you can gain confidence in setting limits and imposing consequences in any situation. Step 1: Setting Limits Setting limits simply means defining the behavior you want or don’t want another person to do. It’s good to emphasize the positive—what you want someone to do—although sometimes saying what you don’t want may be just as important. For example: “Please be quiet in the hallway or move your discussion somewhere else. We’re trying to have a meeting in here.” This is always better than yelling “Shut Up out there.” It helps to set limits in a matter-of-fact or just slightly-raised tone of voice, even if you’re upset. When you vent intense emotions on another person, it tends to trigger their defensiveness and they may react to your tone rather than thinking about how to fulfill the limit you requested. Try not to make it personal, so that the person doesn’t feel that their life, reputation, or credibility are being challenged. Instead, make it clearly about the specific behavior you want. “Please refrain from discussing with Fred the confidential information I gave you yesterday.” This is much better than: “Shut the “f” up about what I said yesterday, you a—hole!” People often confuse being aggressive and profane with being firm. Showing that you are in control of yourself, and that you can be calm and reasonable are usually much more effective and you will be respected more for it. Including a Credible Threat of Imposing Consequences Setting limits without the credible threat of imposing consequences is often pointless when serious behavior or high conflict people are involved. They don’t like being told what to do. At first, when you are setting limits, you might put it as a request or an order, if you are a parent, a judge, or administrator. But if it is important to you and it is ignored, then the second time you say what the limit is it helps to notify the person of what the consequence will be. “If you keep talking about my mother in those terms, then I’m going to have to end this conversation.” “If you keep interrupting me in front of my supervisor, then I’ll have to meet with him without you.” “If you keep scheduling events for our child during my parenting time, then I’ll have to talk with my attorney about next steps.” “If you keep talking after your three minutes are up at this community meeting, then I’m going to have to turn off your microphone and have you escorted out of the meeting.” Amazingly, a credible threat of serious consequences may at least give a high conflict person pause to think about their behavior. They really don’t routinely think about consequences as they are so emotionally preoccupied in the moment. It can be especially impactful if your tone of voice and history of setting limits show that you are very likely to impose the consequence if necessary. Step 2: Imposing Consequences If the person continues engaging in the behavior you set limits on, then it’s time to impose the consequences. Sometimes you may decide to go more quickly to the consequence or give the person a third chance. But be careful not to continue to make empty threats. That’s the surest way to teach the person that you do not mean what you say for now and in the future. Setting limits without imposing consequences can make things worse. When you are imposing the consequence, make sure it is something you have control over. Telling someone that they should feel guilty or ashamed of themselves for their behavior, or telling them that they are being inappropriate, is not effective limit-setting. Yet people say this all the time as a substitute for real limit setting. It just doesn’t work because you don’t have control over how another person thinks or feels. With high conflict people, they may believe that their behavior is normal and necessary even when no one else does (because it has been part of their personality possibly from birth or at least early childhood. Think your consequence through ahead of time, especially before you announce it. Don’t be surprised when the other person argues with you and resists

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