When being polite and understanding gets you nowhere, you may be trying to cooperate with a bully. It simply won't work. You must start by giving him a reason to listen to you.
"He didn't refund my money. I've called three times and actually spoke to him once, and he agreed that I was entitled to a refund. He explained that his bookkeeper was on vacation and told me she would issue the check when she returned. He has not respond to my emails at all since then and I have sent 5 or them in the last month. I don't know what I should do now."
After questioning this highly ethical, hard working professional, I learned that the original payment had been made with a credit card.
"Have you thought about reporting the problem to the credit card company?"
"Oh, I couldn't do that. I don't want to get him into trouble. I would rather resolve the problem with him directly."
She was determined to be nice about the situation. It did not occur to her that he apparently had no intention of refunding her money.
My client made the mistake of believing that everyone is as ethical and responsible as she is. She is using tactics that would work well to resolve a problem if someone asked her for a refund. Those tactics are obviously not working here.
It's hard for her to imagine how differently someone else can approach the world. Some people play by an entirely different set of rules.
Sharks, opportunists or bullies or whatever you choose to call them just don't care about cooperating-that is they don't care about playing a game where everybody wins. What they care about is that they win. It doesn't matter what happens to anyone else.
If they can manage to avoid you, they have no reason to solve a problem with you-they don't even see it as their problem.
Mathematical research* shows that if you want to win, or at least not lose, with an opportunist, you must seize the initiative and command attention. Sometimes you need to use tactics that are distasteful to you.
Once the bully experiences being confronted, s/he may start to behave cooperatively again. Then your original tactics may work-but only AFTER the bully has shown evidence of cooperating.
The ethical professional recognized that this bully had completely ignored her approaches. She decided that complaining to the credit card company might get his attention and was her best current alternative.
*"The Evolution of Cooperation" Axelrod
Copyright 2006 Laurie Weiss, Ph.D.