This is one of the things I am asked about – a lot. What comebacks can a person say to a bully that will make the bullying stop. There are LOTS of good options.
First – some guidelines based on behavioral science.
What I teach on this site is based on behavioral science. Basically – how do we train a bully to stop using – rewards and reinforcements. Notice – I did NOT say – punishments. Those are counter productive. Sorry.
- To get a bully to stop – you have to stop rewarding/reinforcing them.
- Being nice and compassionate – despite their being mean – is a great way to remove their reward. Why? Because they most likely are trying to upset you and if you aren’t upset – they fail.
- Stopping a behavior (extinguishing a behavior) takes time. It is a process. There is not – quick fix to this.
- Whatever you choose to say – you are going to need to repeat it- probably a lot. So – the less emotional the better and the more humor – the better.
- Being mean – justifies the bullying and turns bullying into a conflict – so – don’t go there. You can still be witty – and nice.
- How you respond depends on what is happening. If the bullying is verbal – you can respond verbally. If you are being hit or hurt – what is happening is no longer bullying – it’s assault and battery and you need to get to safety.
What this means for comebacks?
What this means for comebacks is that you are looking for something you can say that will NOT reward the bully and that is something you can repeat easily. In fact – the easier it is for you to say the better, since you will need to say this when being directly challenged by a bully.
Also, understand that what you are saying is more for the audience than it is for the bully. Your goal is to make it not fun to bully you and give the bystanders motivation to intervene on your behalf to make the bully stop. Your audience – is the bystanders.
This is best achieved by saying something that is nice, and a non-sequitur. Brooks Gibbs has some great examples of how this works in his videos:
Fighting doesn’t work
You will notice that in the first go around – when Brooks fights – all he is doing – is feeding the bully. And ramping the bully up. When he instead – is nice – the bullying stops. Brooks completely disarms a bully – through niceness.
The other thing is – think of how the audience is responding to this. In the first – it looks like a fight. In the 2nd – it’s clear that the bully – is being defeated but that the target – is not a jerk themselves. By being nice – and direct – the audience sees the bully for what they are – but … the bully is allowed to save face.
The great thing about this – is that – the audience – sees through the bully. The bully doesn’t get what they want – instead – they look like a fool and their only option is to disengage. If they disengage – you win.
More importantly – if you do this – they lose momentum and literally – deflate before your eyes – quickly.
What are some comeback lines that will work?
If you are insulted – you can say the following things over and over again until the bully gives up and leaves. Feel free to choose one and practice saying it out loud until you can say it in an unemotional way – or at least – with some humor. You do have to practice saying these things out loud – or they won’t come out of your mouth when you need them.
- Thank you for that information – it’s very helpful.
- I didn’t know that. Really?
- I’m so sorry you feel that way.
- Whatever you say.
- Stop. (said as an order – not as a plea).
You don’t need to be creative. You just need to be consistent. And either unemotional – or slightly amused. And again – you can just repeat this until the bully gives up and goes away – or – worse – if their friends encourage them to give up and go away.
When you say these things – repeatedly – to ANY mean thing that is said to you – you will not be fun to bully. Period. The bully – can’t perform if they don’t have a foil and you – not being fun will make them look like a bully. And they don’t actually WANT to look like a bully. So – just – repeat your chosen phrase over and over.
If you are being threatened:
If you are being threatened – you need to let them know – if they carry through on that – you will report them. This needs to be said – not as a request – but as a statement of fact.
“If you do that – I will report you.”
If they don’t immediately disengage – report them. What you want them to learn is that – you aren’t playing a game. If they continue to harass you – you will report them. The ONLY way for them to learn this lesson – is for you to carry through on your threat – and report them.
There is literally – NOTHING else you should say to someone who is threatening you. If they are threatening to out you in some way – call their bluff. If you do that – I will report you. If you argue that whatever they are saying isn’t true – they win by virtue of you joining them on their playing field. Instead – you make the rules. If they do whatever they just threatened to do – you will report them. Fact.
If they revert to verbal bullying – you de-escalate and respond with whatever comeback you want to say – until the bully gets bored and leaves you alone.
Understand – that this will take time and you will need to repeat yourself for a short time until the bully learns – you aren’t fun to bully. Don’t allow this to upset you – it’s just part of the process. So – have fun with it and enjoy the bully not knowing what to do with you.
This website has so many free materials including video lesson, and a toolkit and more – and all of it is free, with the exception of the Bully Vaccine book. So – take advantage of this information and share it with others.