We all have bullies or people we work with who are just unpleasant to be around. The problem is when you have to be around them, in work or at school, it becomes too much of a hassle to avoid them.

When you’re in middle school and high school, dealing with your bullies can take two forms: either submitting to the tormentor or bite back/become the tormentor. (There’s also that elusive third form where you are aware of the bullying but just don’t care, and you can kind of float above all that nonsense.)

But when you graduate from high school and finally mature enough to recognize mean behavior, you still won’t be able to avoid those mean people (they are literally everywhere). Then it becomes of problem of how you'll deal with these bullies now that you’re more mature now. So what do you do at your new college or new job (or both) when you encounter an unpleasant jerk of a person?

You could submit, but you’ve been there before. No one wants to go back to middle school and go through all of that nonsense where for several years you were pretty much a doormat getting stepped on by bullies. No, you have come way too far to get knocked down again. Besides, you’re on your way to adulthood and adults are suppose to be in charge of their life and not get bullied anymore. But adults have bosses and bosses can be jerks. Also, jerks are everywhere, and you just have to deal with them. In order to hold your own ground and live your life, you can’t roll over and break under a bully. But you also can’t bite back (if you’re used to doing that). If you bite back and retaliate to a boss, you’ll most likely get fired or written up.

And if you’re biting back in the form of becoming the bully to your customers or anyone under you, then just stop. You can’t take out your problems on innocent people and most likely if you’re being mean to customers you’re going to get fired. And if you’re biting back to a college student then you’re picking fights and are on your way to becoming a mean person.

So, that elusive third way of dealing with bullying become more valuable as a lifelong skill. To be able to float above all that nonsense and just be okay with being yourself apart from your bullying is self-esteem skill that I would love to have. That is like the zen way of life. That would be (at least for me) reaching inner peace. But I know I’m a self-conscious person, and I’m not the only one who is affected by the words and opinions of others.

So we’ve established that I, and many other people, have to live with jerks on the daily basis. How do I handle these people as the mature adult that I am?

My solution? I’m polite to them. That’s just means if I’m forced to to interact with a bully then I’m going to keep things as civil and superficial as possible. That means, I’m going to give very short answers if they ask me questions, I won’t initiate conversation, and by the end of the time we work together they won’t know very little about my personal life and will only remember me as the polite girl who put up with their personality.

It may sound kind of two-faced, but it’s not like I’m actively badmouthing them to my friends on a daily basis. I may mention what they did that annoyed me to my friends but, generally speaking, bullies aren’t important enough to get upset over. Besides, I have to live with these jerks at least for a little while and I don’t want to be feuding that whole time. It’s also interesting to note, that if you’re polite to someone mean, they’ll leave you alone (for the most part anyway, but bullies don’t seem to know when they’re being offensive). At least in my experience being polite really works to keep a safe distance between yourself and a bully.