Throwing Someone Under The Bus: Real Life Example

cartoon of a man throwing someone under the bus

Throwing someone under the bus might is an advanced technique of social and power dynamics.

But there are many social situations when throwing someone under the bus is the best course of action.
And there are some cases when you absolutely have to, or else you lose social points because of their stupidity (or rudeness).

Indeed, knowing when and how to throw someone under the bus is the hallmark of highly socially intelligent people.

By the end of this article, you will know what throwing under the bus means, how you can throw someone under the bus, and what you can do if someone is throwing you under the bus.

cartoon of a man throwing someone under the bus

What Throwing Under The Bus Means

Let’s attempt a definition of “socially throwing someone under the bus:

Throwing someone under the bus is a social form of punishment which lowers someone’s social status. It is usually done by ignoring someone, cutting him off the conversation or social group and/or otherwise punishing him throgh social means

The person you throw under the bus is usually not an open enemy. And sometimes you might even have a good social relationship with them.

But they have made such a big mistake that they risk dragging you or others down with them.

At that point, as painful as it might be, you need to cut them loose to avoid a domino effect.
And that’s when you have to throw them under the bus.

When You Need to Throw Someone Under The Bus

There are several situations when you need to throw someone under the bus:

  • They made an offensive comment

Imagine someone making an offensive remark, a racist joke, or simply saying something stupid.
And then they look at you and smile, expectantly, as if to communicate you two are in cahoots or you two agree on the topic.

At that point, if you don’t distance yourself from them, it will seem like you are tacitly agreeing with them.
And in many situations, you might not want that.

Something similar happened to McCain.
One of his own supporters made a silly remark about Obama. It was not an easy situation for McCain: accepting the comment would have won him points with the lady speaking and, possibly, with the audience.

But he knew it was not the right thing to do.
And so he chose to throw her under the bus by cutting her short:

Notice though McCain was too rough there. Throwing someone under the bus can be emotionally painful for people, so if you can somehow help them save face, you should.

  • They make a socially dangerous comment involving you

Here’s an example that happened to me some time ago.

We were sitting down with me, a friend, and a couple. The friend made a joke about me being a threat to their relationship status (for possibly going after her).
That’s a kind of joke when you need to throw your friend under the bus.

  • They’re butting in on a conversation they have no place to join

You’re having a private conversation, or you are hitting it off with a girl. And here comes a clueless guy trying to talk to you.
He might not have bad intentions, but at that point, it’s either you give up your 1:1 conversation or… You throw him under the bus.

How to Throw Someone Under The Bus

The general under the bus throwing power move follows this structure:

  1. Social faux pas from the bus lover
  2. Hit him (socially)
  3. Move on
  4. .. And leave him on the outside with no way of hitting back

Throwing under the bus is not about escalating or making a big fuss. It’s about hitting and then moving on, leaving the bus lover without recourse.
It’s a ruthless yet subtle move from your side.

Here are a few ways:

  • Turning your back on them
  • Not replying
  • Pretending they’re not there
  • Turn your face away
  • Make a disgusted face for everyone to see
  • Start a conversation with someone else, leaving him alone
  • Leaving and letting him stand alone

Etc. Etc.

Throwing Someone Under The Bus Example

Watch this video and see if you can spot the move:

Of course, you can, you wouldn’t be reading here otherwise :).
Here’s how she did it:

#1. Flash a Fake Smile

Throwing under the bus usually is not a nasty escalation or an all-out war.

In this case, Trump had authority over her, so avoiding any nastiness was a must.
And her smile keeps the semblance of acceptance and goodwill.

A smile or any sign of friendliness is not a necessary must, but without it’s much nastier.

See a great example here:

#2. Social Slap (Sarcasm)

Next comes the hit.

It could be coldly uttering “thanks” or sarcastically saying “very funny”.
In this case, it was nonverbal sarcasm expressed to her with her smile.
It’s as if she was saying:

Funny, veeeery funny, Donald

Right after that, she cuts him out.

#3. Cut Him Out

The next move is to distance yourself from him or to cut him off from the interaction.

In the Donald Trump example, she turns her face away from him and toward the other guy who was speaking. That effectively ignores him and cuts him out of the interaction.
It also adds a further social slap as it communicates he’s not worthy of her attention.

Saving Someone From The Bus

In this case, Donald Trump was partially saved by the man who laughed at his joke. That was a life preserver that he threw him. On the other hand, she was aided by the cowboy guy who kept speaking and all the others around who ignored the joke.

Indeed, the people around you can make all the difference in how a social power move will play out. Read more here:

And that’s one of the advantages of having lots of power: all the sycophants around will side with the power.


Throwing someone under the bus is rarely a pleasurable activity.

But sometimes, you just gotta do it to avoid letting the bus lover drag you down. This article showed you a great example of how to throw someone under the bus with great social grace.

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