“Bullies are always cowards at heart and may be credited with a pretty safe instinct in scenting their prey.” – Anna Julia Cooper

The secret power of the business bully is his charm. If he were simply pushy, you would keep him at bay. He would never work his way into a domineering place in your psyche. Business bullies — the dangerous and effective ones — are more than one-dimensional. They have attractive qualities too. They are sometimes smart, sometimes funny, sometimes pretty, sometimes sexy, etc.

A business bully finds a way to make you like him — if only a little. He needs a psychological hook to hang his tether on. And that hook is something in him that you find mildly or even considerably engaging. Once he gets a positive reaction from you (a laugh, a smile, a positive comment), he works hard to deepen the relationship quickly. What he wants is not so much for you to like him but for you to want not to offend him. Your reluctance to hurt his feelings is his greatest weapon against you.

It’s a miserable experience to be linked to a business bully. And it’s hard to get yourself free. As an Early to Rise reader advised on “Speak  Out”, “You’ve got to watch for the warning signs of a bully and break off the relationship early. Thomas Jefferson once said that the art of living is learning to recognize situations that will lead to trouble. Mr. Jefferson was right, but you can’t always recognize a bully right away. And money can cloud your judgment. But a good test is to ask yourself if the person in question is trying to coerce you into doing something you’d rather not do.”

That’s very true.

My spouse is my model when it comes to dealing with bullies. She has an uncanny nose for their foul ways. She detects them early and makes quick work of them. However funny, fun, intelligent, famous, rich, or whatever the bully may be, once she has detected his nature, she’s done with him. While I’m still finding him charming and “not so bad,” she has already determined that she will have nothing more to do with him. For sure and for good.

I have tried to emulate her and have found that, when I do, I’m happy I did.

If you find yourself besieged by business bullies now and then, do this:

Start by admitting to yourself and a trusted friend that you are being bullied. Say the words out loud. Say, “I am letting so-and-so bully me.” This will give you some immediate relief. It will remove the added pressure of having to rationalize your unbalanced relationship with someone who clearly doesn’t have your best interests at heart.

Next, set a time limit for liberating yourself. It could be a week, a month, or three months, depending on how entangled your relationship is.

Set intermediate goals and write them down in your monthly, weekly, and even daily to-do lists. Give yourself specific objectives, such as “Today, I will respond to his taunts by saying, ‘Jack, I don’t think that is a fair comment.'”

Free yourself bit by bit. Gradually, the bully will notice that the relationship is changing. He will sense the power moving back to you. He may try to resist it, try to seduce you one more time — try almost anything as he gets more desperate to regain control.

Hold strong. Just take it step by step and — before you know it — you will be in charge of your own life once again.