Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,
Our BULLY FOR YOU guest postess today is Nick Elson, who blogs at Nicki Elson's Not-So-Deep Thoughts. When Nicki read some of the other guest posts, she became concerned because other guests said that "try ignoring the bully" doesn't work. I told her that I thought her post was fine, and I still think so. Ignoring the bully is the first thing I'd do. Occasionally, it works. Some bullies back down more easily than others. If the bully won't give up, then we need to move onto something else, and Nicki recognizes that.
And now, Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell, here's the talented author Nicki Elson:
I’m the mother of two teenaged children, so the topic of bullying has been prominent on my radar. Not because my kids have been bullied or are bullies, but because the schools around here have assembly after assembly on the issue. But here’s the thing—assemblies don’t stop bullying.
The group lectures & video watching may have some small positive impact, I don’t know, but what I’ve personally witnessed is my kids coming home either feeling like they’ve just been yelled at for something they didn’t do or worse, they suddenly start interpreting every incident of teasing or snide comment as bullying. To me, a mass approach to the issue just doesn’t make sense. I think the teachers and staff know exactly who the bullies are, so I wish they’d take those kids aside, look them in the eye and tell them, “We know what you’re doing. Knock it off.” Bullies often turn to wimps when they know someone with authority is on to them.
But the risk of the look-’em-in-the-eye approach is that the troublemakers’ parents firmly believe that their little poopsies would never ever do anything wrong, so they’ll get all over that school’s arse, and yadda, yadda, yadda. And so the school treats everyone equally by pulling the students into impotent mass assemblies, and the bullying goes on…
And it’s not just kids who bully. I come across adult bullies all the time. Since bullying is a fact of life, my opinion is that we need to focus less on helping kids to define themselves as victims and more on teaching them how to deal with the inevitable bullies. I loved Janie’s bullying post about the Hurricane—that little girl handled the situation she was in and prevailed by growing into a kickass adult.
Sooooo, here is my stab at a three-step approach to dealing with bullies. But please note, the first two steps are for dealing with low- to mid-grade bullies—the ones who are fairly harmless and mostly sting with words. Those dealing with high-grade bullies—the ones who don’t relent and threaten or follow through with physical violence—should go directing to stage three.
First: Ignore them.
Bullies want a reaction. It’s what feeds their need to feel superior. It’s their way of knowing they have impact on this world. So don’t give it to them. Walk away if you can. Click off your Facebook or whatever. Don’t read the nasty things they say. If forced to sit in the same room with the bully, tune them out, as hard as that may be. They might persist for a while, but eventually many will give up.
In Junior High, cute Jimmy used to break my pencils. Every day he’d ask to borrow one, and then he’d snap it in two and laugh with his friends. He’d apologize the next day and promise he wouldn’t do it again, and then he’d do it again. I decided Jimmy wasn’t cute anymore. I stopped giving him my pencils, but his desk was directly behind me, and all through class he’d whisper nasty things to me. I didn’t turn around, I didn’t give him any reaction, and eventually he either stopped or I was able to successfully tune him out, I don’t remember which, but after that class ended, he never bothered me again.
Second: Bite back.
If you’re stuck with a bully who doesn’t relent, it’s time to bite back. I’m not suggesting you throw punches or do anything that will escalate the problem, but find some way to let the bullies know you won’t be messed with. Sometimes it’s as easy as calling them out on their behavior. Stay perfectly composed and become their psychotherapist by asking, “Does putting me down make you feel better about yourself?” or “What do you hope to accomplish by saying/doing that?” Maybe you’ll cause them to actually reevaluate their behavior, but even if you don’t, you just might stun them into a few moments of silence, long enough to walk away. This sort of thing works all the time on a low-grade bully I have to regularly deal with, and I daresay I’ve nearly driven the bully right out of him.
Several months ago I had to bite back at a coworker who’d become aggressive with her dislike of me doing my job without catering to her obsessive need for control of every little thing. First I laughed when she told me straight to my face (while flanked by two of “her people”) that I have a lot of nerve—full disclosure: that was a happy accident. Totally thought she was joking. I mean, who talks like that?—and then I started cc:ing the big boss on my communications with her. She backed right down and doesn’t mess with me anymore.
Third: Tell Someone
If either the threat of or actual physical violence is involved, or if the first and second approaches to stop the bully haven’t worked, tell someone about it. Actually, tell someone about it even before it comes to that point. In my example above, it was pulling in the big boss that got the bully wannabe off my case. If you’re a student, parents seem like a good first stop, but I realize not every relationship makes this a good option, so think about what adults you’re comfortable with. Who will have your best interests in mind? Even if this person isn’t someone who can directly intervene, they can make a wonderful coach for dealing with the situation.
My daughter used to work at a bakery/coffee shop that’s owned by a psycho who makes himself feel like a man by intimidating teenaged girls. When his bullying tactics weighed heavily on my daughter’s nerves, I was a safe place for her to vent and a sounding board for her ideas about how to deal with his volatility. He eventually crossed a line, and I’m so happy that she understood that it was his problem, not hers, and she had the confidence to quit and walk away from the bully. If she’d kept all of her anxiety to herself, I’m not sure she’d have been able to keep such a healthy perspective.
I realize my three-step approach is fairly simplistic and limited to my minor experiences with bullying, but maybe it’s a start. It’s also only one side of the equation. “How to Not Be a Bully” is a whole ‘nother post…who’s gonna write it?
THE END :)
Thank you, Nicki!
Infinities of love,