To B or not to B: Bullies, Beliefs, and the Fear of Different

What does it mean to be a “bully?” I have worked with a public high school, and a Federal agency on bullying issues. In the latter, we used the American Psychological Association “psychologically healthy workplace” framework and standards as a guide.

A bully is someone who doesn’t respect others. They don’t respect differences between them and others. They won’t suspend their judgment long enough to give any consideration, let alone respect, to the characteristics of others such as race, gender, or religion. They won’t give any consideration to what others may think about issues. They only want their own way. Their own beliefs. Their own values.

Yesterday, Chris Christie gave an interview at the large conservative CPAC gathering, at which he defended himself against the claims that he is a bully. He said, according to the article in the Times of Trenton, that his being called a bully “comes from the fact that he won’t mince words or back down” (the words of reporter Jonathan Salant).

Mr. Christie went on to say that “the word they miss is passionate. If you really care about something, you need to go all in.”

No. No, Mr. Christie. We can be passionate. We can be committed to our beliefs and values. But literally telling citizens who dare to disagree with you to “shut up and sit down” is not about the passion of anyone’s beliefs. It is about your lack of respect for the citizens you are supposed to serve. It is, sir, with all due respect for the commitment you have to your beliefs, about you being a bully.

Your explicit intransigence and unwillingness to respectfully analyze and consider facts and opinions of others may not be bullying. It may indeed reflect your commitment to your own values. Such intransigence will be welcomed by those who happen to agree with you. In my experience, it is not a positive quality in anyone seeking a leadership position, and having to deal with complex challenges where the “one right answer” is neither known nor knowable. Regardless of one’s passionate beliefs to the contrary.

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