We have the power to avoid becoming the victims of bullies, and to reclaim our stories if bullies get to us.

These days, we hear of people abusing power much too often. Headlines exposing corrupt leaders and revealing major scandals all suggest that power brings out the worst in people.

But power itself isn’t the problem. In most cases, those who abuse power have certain insecurities, and so they use whatever power they get to make themselves feel better.

Desperately wanting power and control can turn people into bullies, and it’s easy to feel completely vulnerable when we encounter them. But this doesn’t mean that we actually are. In fact, we can claim our power and flip the script by acting differently.

The key message here is: We have the power to avoid becoming the victims of bullies, and to reclaim our stories if bullies get to us.

If we don’t want to be the target of bullies, we need to spot them before they strike. This means knowing what to look out for. We should, for example, avoid people who don’t take no for an answer, or those who are overly critical of others, even if they’re nice to us.

We should also avoid places where bullies might feel empowered. In the same way that criminals often attack in dark alleys or quiet streets, abuses of power tend to happen where no one else can see them. Examples of this include private contexts or places where regular rules don’t apply, including work meetings outside the office or after hours.

Unfortunately, even with these precautions, we can still become targets of bullies. In these cases, we should behave in ways that will deter them.

One approach is to act unaffected by what they do. Those who abuse power enjoy seeing their victims angry, upset, or scared. But if we don’t take the bait, we become boring targets and they move on.

Another approach is to calmly call out bad behavior when it happens. This shifts the power to us, and lets the perpetrator know that they’re being watched.

If we fall prey to bullies despite our efforts to avoid or deter them, being a victim doesn’t have to be our story. We can regain our power by removing any blame that we might place on ourselves.

Believing that we caused or deserved the abuse can make us targets for other bullies or lead to self-destructive behavior. But when we realize that we’re not at fault, it becomes easier to move past the experience and to move on with our lives.