Of course he had a reputation as a bit of a bully himself as one of Gordon Brown’s enforcers and he may have been bullied himself as a child (bullies often were).
He says he only used his “challenging behaviour” with people he knew could stick up for themselves – like Gordon Brown (who has a bit of a reputation in that direction himself) and Tony Blair – and denies he treats people as badly as he was treated.
But is he really doing them any favours? Could a little adversity help you to become better adjusted as an adult?
Studies at the University of California have shown that when children respond to hostility or bullying, whether face-to-face or on-line, in kind they are liked more and earn more respect from their classmates and teachers according to a report in The Times.
Whilst not pleasant experiences the children remembered them more vividly than friendly events. Trying to placate your enemy doesn’t seem to pay whereas giving as good as you got earned higher ratings for maturity and social competence.
No-one is saying it is a good thing to have a lot of people hostile to you, and children no-one disliked were the best adjusted, but the research suggests that rather than ignoring bullies or people who dislike you, or trying to placate them, or even being completely unaware of them, it is better to confront them.
Similar results have been found by researchers at Strathclyde University. Children who are good at standing up to bullies, whether for themselves or others, are better at resolving problems without conflict, are more emotionally literate, and better at taking other people’s perspective.
In other words they display the emotional intelligence skills of self-awareness, self-control, empathy, and managing relationships.
Updated from post originally on EI 4u May 2010