Body Language of Bullying: 12 Ways Bullies Communicate Dominance, Superiority, and Hostility

Bullies always display these types of body language, especially around their targets.

Dominance and Superiority Body Language1. Bullies take up lots of space to appear bigger. You will often see bullies place their hands on their hips and stand extra tall.

2. They will often stand extra close to their targets– so close that they will sometimes touch them as they deliberately invade the target’s personal space. They do this to intimidate them.

3. Bullies will also frown and purse their lips at the target while maintaining unblinking and unwavering eye contact (boring their eyes into their target like a dagger) without moving their heads.

4. They will freely touch their targets because they have no regard for their personal space. For example, a bully may give the target a hard slap on the back or grab the target by the arm and lead them where they want them to go. A bully may also physically move the target to the side or shove past him/her.

Girl sitting on the ground and drawing personal space

Understand that the bully intends to show the target who’s in charge or to compete with him. The bully may also do these things to signal ownership of the target. Yes, in the bully’s mind, he owns you if you’re a target. The message is, “You’re mine, I own you, and I can do what I want with you.”

5. If the target is sitting, the bully or bullies will often stand over him to look bigger and more intimidating. Bullies who are short in stature will often stand on something to appear taller than their victims. Some may stand on their tiptoes.

Bullies will also lay claim to a territory (desks, spaces, parking spaces) and expect others to obey rules when near the claimed area or object.

6. Other ways of Invading the target’s space and claiming ownership – bullies may walk into the target’s room, office, or home uninvited and without knocking. They may sit in the victim’s chair without asking permission.

Other invasions include leaning on the target’s vehicle, parking in their parking spaces, cutting in front of them in line, or propping their feet on the back of the target’s chair when sitting behind them (I had a group of girls do that to me in school, and it was unnerving).

Understand that bullies crave control and do these things to take away the target’s power.

7. Bullies also put their hands on the target’s personal belongings with a carefree attitude. But know that the message the bully is sending the target is this. “I own you, so I own anything that is yours.”

 Here is a classic often seen. Bullies may walk up to the target’s table during lunch, pick a French fry off their plate in front of them, and pop it in their mouths. They may pick up the target’s fork and take a bite of their food.

Bullies may also pick up the target’s phone and began scrolling through the contents. Bullies will even rummage through the target’s purse or pick up the target’s jacket and go through the pockets. The hidden message the bully is sending is, “I can take whatever I want, and what are you going to do about it?”

8. Another way bullies invade territory is to walk in the center of a hallway or sit on a flight of stairs, expecting people to move and go around them. Bullies may also stand in the middle of a road and driveway or take their time crossing the street, forcing cars to stop and wait.

9. Bullies also show dominance by how they dress or the car they drive.

Do Not Ignore This. Always make yourself powerful as well.

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If a bully violates your space or belongings, always call them out on it. Never let it happen without asserting yourself. If a bully stares you down, always return the stare. Either look them in the eye or look them between the eyes.

If they look at you while standing feet apart and arms akimbo, reflect the exact same stance back to the bully. Mirror the bully to show that you’re not the least bit intimidated by them. If the bully is rushing you, slow down. Do not speed up! Remain calm.

Dress your best and look your best. This shows that you take pride in how you look and conveys confidence. It also helps you to feel better. When we look better, we also feel better!

10. Hostility Body Language – Bullies may look at their target while pinching their chin. The pinching of the jaw is used to release the hostile thoughts without acting on them– it is a way to hold back the urge to physically attack the target.

Understand that when a bully looks at you and pinches any part of the face, this signals the bully’s secret wish to harm you.

11. Another sign of hostility as when a bully looks at their target, then pounds a fist into a tabletop, wall, or the palm of his/her opposite hand. Any object the bully pounds is only a substitute for the victim’s physical body.

Girls and women will often bite their lip, suck on the inside of their jaw or chew the inside of the mouth while looking at their target.

12. Bullies also show hostility by sizing up their target. They size you up by directly facing you, clinching their fists and puffing out their chests.

Male bullies will snarl at their victims, whereas female bullies will glare at their targets with dirty looks. Clenching a jaw where the jaw is protruding outward is another sign of hostile intentions.

Bullies often glare at their targets persistently and intensely without blinking. Their faces turn red, and they will often stretch. These are sure signs that a bully wants to physically attack you and they will do it soon. Again. Do not ignore this!

Non-Verbal Means Bullies Use to Violate Targets

Bully boy teasing into camera, expressing aggression, POV victim of bullying

Most seasoned bullies seek to intimidate others by nonverbal means. Why? Because nonverbal bullying is subtle and least likely to be detected.

This type of bullying can occur either at school or in the workplace. Here are a few such subtleties.

1. They lean against the target’s desk, office doorway, car, etc. Anytime we lean against something, we stake a claim to or show ownership of that object.

How you handle it is to tell the bully point blank and in a stern voice,
“Get off my desk!”

Narcissist

2. The bully will sit in the other person’s chair. Again, any chair you sit in, you non-verbally lay claim to.

Address it by telling the person in no uncertain terms to unseat your chair.

3. The bully may also pick the target’s notebook, purse, off their desk, touch their property, etc. Understand that anything of yours the bully touches, he is laying claim to.

The unspoken message that the bully is sending is, “I own your desk, car, notebook, and anything that’s yours.”

Don’t ignore it and don’t be quiet about it. Open your mouth and tell the creep to keep his hands off your stuff.

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When I was in school, I saw a bully walk up to a table of freshman boys during lunch and pluck a French fry from one of the ninth grade boy’s plates before popping it into his mouth without even asking.

It was clear that the bully was challenging the boy. The message was,

“I just took a piece of your lunch. Now, what are you going to do about it?”

Female bullies will often go through their target’s purses or jacket pockets or flip through their notebooks, yearbooks, or diaries. I’ve also heard of bullies walking into their victim’s homes without knocking.

I remember going on a school trip and finding out that my bullies had gone through my luggage and stolen fifty dollars, a dress, and jewelry from me while I was out of the room. Because there were so many bullies, it was difficult for me to confront the thief. Though I had a pretty good idea who stole my belongings, I couldn’t prove she took them!

Vector prohibiting palm

Understand that bullies will claim ownership to your space and your property, which only means that they believe they own YOU!

4. Bullies will violate your personal space. Bullies are notorious for getting too close.

Understand that when the bully gets in your face or looms you from behind, he is either trying to intimidate you, dominate you, challenging you, or attempting to provoke a fight. Do what you have to do. Tell this idiot to back the hell up!

Understand that these types of bullies have unlimited audacity, and they do not respect boundaries! With people who are bold and audacious, you must take a stand!

Never ignore them or allow yourself to be intimidated because these kinds of folks will only increase the behavior if you do.

The more you know!