Have you ever been targeted by a bully? Are you being bullied right now? Well, don’t feel bad – you’re not alone. Almost everybody has had to cope with a bully at one time or another. Being bullied creates a helpless feeling and makes you feel lousy. Nobody likes being the target of ridicule or harassment.
But the good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. In this article, I’m going to reveal how to handle a bully and what to do if you see somebody else being bullied. But first, I want to explode a couple of bullying myths:
Myth #1 – Most Bullying Happens Face-to-Face.
This is false. These days, any communication tool can be used by a bully to harass or intimidate others. This includes text messages, instant messages, chats, social media and cell phones. Bullying doesn’t just happen on the playground or hallways anymore. In fact, some types of social media bullying (such as posting unflattering pictures of a person on MySpace or Facebook) can actually do the most damage to a person’s self-esteem and reputation. This is called “cyberbullying”.
Myth #2 – Only Boys Bully.
Again, this is false. While it’s true that boys bully (and are bullied) more, girls bully, too. But there are differences. Boys tend to bully in physical ways (such as slapping, pushing and hitting) while girls tend to bully through “relational aggression”. This means spreading rumors, revealing secrets, isolating people socially, and embarrassing others (think “mean girls”). But whether it’s physical or relational bullying, know this: both types of bullying are destructive.
So in the next few pages, you’re going to discover how to handle both types of bullying head-on and cope with a bully of any kind. The first thing you need to do is…
Put Your Foot Down
The first step in coping with a bully is making up your mind you’re not going to take it anymore. Sometimes, if a person has been bullied for a long time, they actually start to accept that sort of treatment. Don’t. Being bullied is unfair and you have a right to be treated with respect and dignity. Decide that today is the day to finally put your foot down and start turning around your situation. It’s the start of a long process; it does take time to overcome a bully.
Strength In Numbers
Bullies love an audience. They often harass victims to impress friends, show off or gain “respect” at somebody else’s expense. By surrounding yourself with a group of friends who disapprove of the bully’s behavior, it saps the bully’s impact. According to Greatschools.net (a site for teachers and parents), “when bystanders know how to act in a bullying situation, it’s one of the ways to stop bullying in school. When they respond appropriately and safely, they take away the bully’s power”.
Remember, too, that like any type of predator, bullies like to single out those they perceive to be weak. In the natural world, for example, lions target prey that are smaller, weaker or cut off from the main herd. As a matter of fact, one of the first things a lion does when hunting is separates the prey from its natural group).
So the lesson here is simple: there’s strength in numbers. One of the best ways to sidestep bullies is to reach out to other friendly students and “blend in with the pack”. Make friends and stick with them during times when you would otherwise be bullied. Not only can friends step in to protect you, but they can also serve as witnesses if you ever need to report an incident.
Finally, try to get into an area where adults are present. That’s because most bullying incidents happen in areas where parents and teachers are not present. Avoid being a target by blending in with the crowd, making new friends and surrounding yourself with good people.
Don’t Fight Fire With Fire
One of the biggest mistakes when dealing with a bully is taking their bait. If a bully challenges you, never get antagonistic in return. Don’t ever give in to a bully’s taunts, dares or verbal challenges. Doing so only feeds the negative cycle and escalates the problem.
If the bullying is face-to-face, walk away and don’t confront the bully. Get out of there – if possible. A good phrase to help you save face is the old “whatever”. If somebody says something mean to you, just say, “whatever” and walk away. The phrase “whatever” is not confrontational, doesn’t challenge the bully directly and normally doesn’t escalate the situation.
But what if the bullying is online? It might be hard to restrain yourself, but don’t respond to inflammatory posts (or emails) and don’t forward them to others. However, you should save the evidence (more on that in a minute). Again, don’t take the bait. I know this is difficult sometimes – especially when somebody is saying something truly outrageous about you – but responding only feeds the cycle. Don’t fight fire with fire and don’t seek revenge. Just like face-to-face bullying, responding only escalates an already-bad situation and lengthens the cycle of violence.
Get a Plan
If the bullying incidents increase in frequency – or become a set pattern – it’s time to get a plan in place. First, grab a notebook and write down (or “log”) your incidents. Make sure you keep very detailed notes – be specific and jot down names, places, situations, any physical contact that occurred and exact words used. Describe everything in detail. If the bullying is online, this is easy: just save the evidence. Be sure to hang onto posts, email messages, voicemails or text messages.
This does two things for you: It prepares you for the next time something happens. By writing down what happened in the past, it helps you think through your response next time. Second, writing things down helps you build a case against the bully if you can’t solve the problem on your own. If, for example, the bullying normally happens at school, it’s a lot harder for school officials to ignore incidents when they’re written down and documented each time. Yes, evidence is everything when dealing with a bully. Which brings me to the next point:
Talk to Somebody
If an incident occurs (especially a physical incident), you need to report it to an authority figure immediately: a teacher, parent, school counselor or any adult you trust. You can even come to me, your instructor! With the input of your parents, we’ll craft a plan to deal with the bully’s aggressive behavior and seek ways to solve the problem (by the way, a tactic that almost never works is telling the bully’s parents).
Remember that school leaders have a duty to keep you and every other student in your school safe. If a bully is picking on you, chances are they’re doing the same exact thing to somebody else. So by stepping up and alerting somebody, you’re not only saving your own skin, you might be saving somebody else’s, too. Don’t fret if action doesn’t happen right away. Be persistent in asking for help. Keep asking for help until you get the action you need. Be the squeaky wheel that gets the grease! Also: get over the idea that reporting an incident is “tattling”. It’s not. Any bullying incident needs to be taken seriously.
Move On With Your Life
Once your bullying situation is over (and it will be over at some point), it’s natural to feel angry and resentful. Don’t dwell on the situation or replay incidents in your mind 1,000 times. Anger only rips you apart and hands the bully the ultimate victory. Instead, find it in yourself to forgive the bully. This isn’t for them…it’s for you! Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and move beyond this chapter in your life. You’re going to feel a lot better that way.
Let’s Wrap This Up
Whatever happens, remember this: You have no right to be bullied. You don’t deserve it. You ARE valuable…and it’s NOT your fault. Like I said earlier, when you’re being harassed, it’s natural to feel bad about yourself. But don’t let some creep get your self-esteem down. What matters most is your opinion of yourself. Remind yourself of all the positive qualities you have.
Unfortunately, bullying is something most of us have to deal with sooner or later. It’s common. So please remember the advice you learned in this article and see me if you’re having a problem with a bully!
— Senior Master Babin
- Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use
- Education.com (keyword “bullying”)