There is a scene in 1988's United Artists film "Rain Man" where Charlie Babbitt grabs a hold of his older brother Ray's neck out of frustration - simply because he felt he could. Ray suffered from Autism and didn't have the social wherewithal to defend himself. Instead, Ray pulls out a notepad to document the attack, writing: "Squeezed and pulled and hurt my neck." Sure, it was silly, but the one iota of standing up for himself against his bullying younger brother took Charlie by surprise.
Bullying comes in so many forms, it's hard to tell how to combat a bad situation since bullies are so different, and so are their victims. Also, the time and place of bullying needs to be determined so one can react effectively.
There is the age of bullies involved. I'm 40, so I'm beyond understanding highschool drama these days, but do remember being in the 8th grade when I saw girls-on-girls tease and make fun of each other to gain power and acceptance. Some of it became potentially violent with threats of taking a beating "just because".
As an adult, bullying can be found in our daily lives at work, within family, from neighbours, and in passing at the store or in traffic.
Then there is online bullying, which I'll touch on later, but to me is basically the most dangerous for vulnerable minds to be exposed to coming from the most insecure people who have nothing better to do than talk tough online. (It's also why I did not allow Anonymous posting on this piece.)
One thing to remember if you are in a situation to combat bullying is to realize that your attempt may end badly, at least at first. The insults will fly and the bully will feel threatened enough to become reactive. What is almost guaranteed is that they won't see it coming, which is why the backlash is so negative. Instead of being normal and snapping out of a bad mood and apologizing, the bully disrupts and becomes threatening. It is learned behaviour. This is a sign of the person's weakness, and inability to adapt. Knowing that you're up against a scared person is the trick on how you yourself may react.
1. Know who your bully is. Is this a person who is failing school, losing friends, or can't attract the opposite sex? In my experience, the people who do this take pride in one thing they can be good at, which is being a pain. Since they have no skill or positive trait to show off, they have to compensate by being awful and in some perverse way, being proud of it. It`s the one thing they`re good at.
2. Know who you are as a victim. Are you a threat to someone's social life, or at work vying for a common goal? If you pose as some sort of threat, bullies usually hit their threshold of "good" and since they have nothing more to offer, try to grab the brass ring by kicking their threat down. If you begin to believe it, they will have succeeded in their own cheap way. If you are a stranger, in the wrong place at the wrong time, know that the bullying is reactive and your five-second interaction has only to do with them rather than what you might have done.
3. Is the bullying done publicly? Bullies sometimes need validation from a crowd. Public bullying, often times done when they are within a group of their own friends is to show off false strength. This has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them. You may be targeted if you have no back up yourself. Understanding that when stripped of their "fans" they are very different people. This shows that the bully seeks attention and validation as they feel that they cannot achieve it any other way.
4. Is the bullying done in private? If the bully waits in the wings for your support to leave, they might strike at that time when there are no witnesses. This is done by cowards. If someone truly had enough confidence to say what they need to say, they will do it in a smart way regardless if you have your friends or family around you. Points can be made without condescension and often times a bully will strike when they know what they're about to say will be ill-received by others, had they heard it. This is often done at work with someone who is in a position of power, or in the family when siblings or step-parents, or anyone who feels helpless try to take control.
5. Are you noticing online bullying? If you notice someone stalking you online or making your feel inferior online, check to see if the person is making anonymous remarks or if they are using seemingly new profiles which are all used to mask the person's identity. Why? Because they are scared, naturally. Not revealing themselves before they even start speaking means they are putting insurance on their bullying or hurtful remarks. This sort of bullying should be the least of everyone's worries, but can be severe when they target a vulnerable person, spotting their insecurities and attaching them to gain some control.
What you can do...
You need to identify the bully and the bullying in order to make an educated decision of how you will responsd (that`s if you will respond at all). Take notice of the bully's choice of words, where they are doing their bullying, and why they've chosen to pick on you.
- Ask someone in their group if they're okay
- Keep calm
- Collect your thoughts before speaking
- Take one full day to remove yourself from the situation
Ignoring is so hard, but once you get the hang of the art of ignoring you will find that your bully has noticed they made wasted efforts to get under your skin. They may continue prodding on to get your attention, trying more things to annoy you, but what they truly want is a reaction to keep their bad behaviour going.
Keeping calm, choosing your words carefully, and even showing some sympathy takes almost all bullies by surprise. Since validation and acceptance is what they're after, imagine their surprise when it comes from the one person they are trying to kick down? What's more, show your intelligence. A bully is usually not a very smart person, so when you can articulate properly and give the person a reason to know they are no match for you intellectually, they hate looking foolish and may find that though they can intimidate you, you can actually outsmart them.
In a regular occurrence such as in the workplace or online, giving yourself a day to think before you act often times does wonders. If you send that angry email while you're fuming, leave it in your draft box overnight. Read it the next day. If it still angers you, leave it again for another day. Most often, a situation is handled very differently within that short time and you'll thank yourself for not following through. Online, if someone is being a pest, if blocking and ignoring doesn't help, then removing yourself from the environment where the bullying is taking place for one full day or more will clear your mind. This is not you running away, it`s you preventing yourself from doing or saying something to make the situation worse.
I've stood up to bullies, and thought you'd like to hear my stories. Some ended badly, some ended not-so-badly, but the point is that they ended. :)
As a young girl, I played baseball. The coach's daughter was rough and tough and bullied the entire team around, particularly my friend who was the weakest and smallest. After embarassing her after a strike-out, I whispered to her, "Don't even listen to her." The bully overheard me and roared in my face, "Do YOU wanna coach this team?!" Her anger turned from one girl to me, and I became quite scared. But it was the first time anyone stood up to her. I quit the team the next day and made it known to my parents that baseball was no longer fun. The attempt to combat the bully hurt me, yes, but I bet she never forgot that day either. :)
At a variety store, a customer berrated a young clerk who took over for another employee from their break who couldn't find some batteries. The boy was unsure of the merchandise or where certain items were. The customer took advantage of the boy's inability to stand up for himself as he was younger, inexperienced, out of his department, and in a position to NOT tell a customer anything negative. So *I* did. "That's enough out of you!" I said. The customer turned and said something idiotic like, "Well.. no one should shop here!" I said, "He can't say anything to you, but guess what, *I* can, so what are you going to say to me?" The guy left scowling something out of the store, and the boy at the counter told me I was his hero. :)
A man living in my apartment building ignorantly allowed his car alarm to go off the entire day before he went to work. I left a note on the car, letting him know how annoying the alarm was. When he returned from work he still let the alarm go off. I decided to go out and copy down his license plate number to report it. He caught me and moved in close to my face to yell and intimidate me. He asked me if I was the one who left the note on his car and I said yeah. Instead of apologizing or explaining if there was a problem with the alarm, he began mooing at me, calling me a fat cow, and continued mooing very loudly so everyone could hear it. He told me to ``suck his left nut``, to which I replied, "Why? Do you only have one to suck?" He erupted in to very loud name calling, some names very gross but the usual "bitch" and "cow" included. Knowing that I was taking his plate number down and not messing around meant he took better care of turning the alarm off. I cried for hours over the humiliation he caused me in public, but behind my closed door, he knew I had his plate number to report to city hall at any time if I heard it again, and oddly enough, I never did. Thanks, One Nut.
My latest situation involves my site manager. He bullies me when the owner and supervisor are away from me. Sort of like my bodyguards, if you will. I've identified that he views me as a threat as everyone knows I do great work and the owner and supervisor love working with me. He also knows everyone hates him. When we are alone, that's when he uses his right time to tell me things I do wrong or tells me I should or shouldn't do things. The way he does it is condescending and rude. One afternoon, I told him to knock his shit off. Just that. "Knock your shit off." I also told the owner and supervisor that I hit my brink and told him that. He stopped.. for a while. Eventually started back up and bullied me in to thinking I made mistakes I hadn't been making. I made sure I documented things to prove he was false. This angered him, knowing he couldn't get away with much with me. Today, he finds the perfect opportunity to strike when we are alone to simply be a condescending fool, and all I do now is ignore - though it's hard - knowing that the only reason he is doing it is for self-esteem. I recognize he keeps his mouth shut around all those who are on my side, who have told me I have nothing to worry about (as in I won't lose my job), so ignoring now is much easier.
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Sorry for the long take, but I believe that this is a problem that many don`t have the courage to handle yet we seem to have this big War on Bullying. Teachers are not standing up to parents of bullying kids (who are bullies themselves), and people in the workplace are fearing losing their jobs if they don't speak up. There are so many forms of bullying, and no one way is handled the same as another. I just hope we can keep the conversation going so that somehow, in this topic and others, someone will find a method that might work for them.