It is an unfortunate fact that many if not most kids and even adults these days are victims of bullies. Here are a few thoughts on how you can effectively deal with bullies.
Why is a Bully a Bully?
Bullying takes place when somebody isn’t sure of their position in the social group or wishes to improve their perceived position in the social group. This social uncertainty can come from any aspect of the bully’s life, but what it boils down to is that the bully lacks self esteem. This lack of self esteem causes the bully to attempt to gain power over other people that they think are good targets.
“Good targets” can be
- people that the bully perceives as weaker or inferior,
- people that the bully is envious of,
- people that the bully wishes to be friends with but tries to do so inappropriately or
- people that the bully has romantic feelings towards but lacks the self confidence to approach appropriately.
So how do you Bully Proof Yourself?
First remember that this is NOT YOUR FAULT. Just because a bully has selected you does not mean that you are "less" in any way. The bully is the one with the problem, unfortunately you have to deal with some if it. Try to figure out which of these items, or combination thereof, is the reason that applies to your bully.
If the Bully perceives you as weak.
Take some steps to build your self confidence. This doesn’t mean that you become a bully yourself; it means that you change the things about yourself that can be perceived as weak. Believe it or not, your physical stature is not a factor. First, I strongly recommend that you enroll in a quality Martial Arts, Dance, Gymnastics, or other such Program. Getting really good at something is a great way to make new friends and build your self confidence. A strong person is one who believes in him or herself. A strong person has self confidence.
Self confidence means that you develop the ability to have a stable social standing, making you an unlikely target for a bully. Even if you are targeted you have the confidence to deal with it effectively. More on this later.
With that said here are some simple things to practice.
1. Improve your posture. People with self confidence stand up straight. Bully’s look for people with low self confidence.
2. Make eye contact. People with self confidence make solid eye contact with others. Play this game: smile and make brief eye contact with people until they blink or move somehow. This needs to take place quickly and in a way that the other person doesn’t really notice that it’s happening. This establishes your position of dominance.
3. Smile pleasantly. People with self confidence smile. Not in a weird forced way, but in an easy, pleasant manner.
4. Pay attention to your clothes. Wear clean clothes to school and wear them in an way that is socially acceptable to your peers. Most importantly, wear them in a way that you like and feel comfortable and confident in. Remember, you don't have to pay top dollar for what you wear. Asheville has several excellent thrift stores where you can get practically anything. In fact, you don't need to buy anything- there are tons of websites about how to make old clothes and hand-me-downs look good.
5. Don’t try to be cool. Just be you. As Abe Lincoln said, it is “Better to say nothing and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and prove it.” In this case, this means to speak if you have something to add, but don’t fake knowledge, an accent or vernacular. Don’t try to be something you are not by saying things just to fit in, this only proves you to be a fool. Be genuine in your speech.
6. Understand your faults, but look at your strengths. What this means is look at and know all the reasons that you are a valuable and worthwhile person. The bully thinks that you are weak, but the bully doesn’t have to be right. He is only right if you think he is right.
If a Bully is Envious of You.
Sometimes somebody will bully you because you are smarter, better looking, have better fashion sense, have more money, more friends, get better grades, are liked by somebody the bully wants to be liked by, or whatever other thing the bully can think of. The bully secretly, or not so secretly, wants your social position.
In these situations there are a few actions you can take. First, do everything mentioned above. Next,
1. Don’t care. The bully is the one that is envious, not you. They are the ones with the problem. Sometimes, by acknowledging his or her attempts to bully you, you put the bully on the map- you lend credence to what the bully has to say. It could be that the bully is simply beneath you in this area. This may not be PC, but it is true.
2. Help the Bully. In some cases, you can take the bully under your wing and kindly give the bully tips to improve in whatever their area of concern is.
If the bully wishes to be friends with you but tries to do so inappropriately.
If this is the case the bully already thinks you’re cool but doesn’t know the right way to go about being your friend. Here’s what you do.
1. If you think this person has potential as a friend, confront him or her politely. Use humor (not at the bully’s expense) to politely point out that the bully’s approach is not right, but if a friendship is possible perhaps you could suggest a different way to go about it. It is my recommendation that you do this casually and publically in a way that you do not lose face and neither does the bully. Perhaps sitting around with a group of friends at lunch? Respectfully bring the now former bully to a place beneath you in the social order so that you can politely and compassionately offer corrections until you are comfortable with the former bully’s social skills enough to be equal friends. Do not use this opportunity to be a bully yourself, be a leader.
2. If you think there is no chance that this person could be your friend, confront him or her politely. But this time do it privately and politely so nobody loses face. If you think it is possible that the bully may become violent with this bad news, have backup available close by. If the bully doesn’t take this well in other non-physical ways, display social dominance by making eye contact, having good posture, smiling pleasantly, and being polite to a fault, especially if the bully says mean things around others in an attempt to anger you. If the bully attempts demeaning humor directed at you, be overly polite while completely ignoring the childish rudeness.
If the bully is romantically interested in you and displays it inappropriately.
In the event that the bully is romantically interested in you would take the same steps outlined above for establishing a friendship, but be especially careful. DO NOT even consider allowing the bully into your social group or accept the bully’s advances if you get even the slightest hint that the bully is violent or will mistreat, abuse, or in any other way be mean to you. Life is too short to put up with that garbage.
A good way to know if the bully will be mean to you is to look at how he or she treats other people, other peoples belongings, and even their own things. If the bully is not respectful of others or themselves, they will not be respectful of you. Don’t go near them.
If you feel that you are in some way unable to tell the bully no by yourself, get a group of your friends together to back you up. With them standing behind and next to you, respectfully and politely tell the bully to please stop his or her inappropriate behavior. Do not be mean and do not be aggressive in tone. Your friends don’t have to say anything. Their show of support will be enough.
Bully Stopping Strategies
Keeping all of the above information in mind, here are some thoughts on specific strategies that you can use to deal effectively with the bully. Remember, these need to be done consistently.
1. Talk to the Bully. If somebody is bullying you tell them right then and there that you do not appreciate what they are saying. Say something like, "Why are you being mean? Please stop that."
2. Tell your parents. There is actually a lot that they can do to help you. First, they need to inform the school that this is taking place and then document the dates and times and who they talked to at the school. Second, your parents need to tell your teacher that this is taking place and document it as well. With this kind of documented contact you will still get in trouble if you get into a fight, but at least the school knows what is happening and you are less likely to be labeled as a trouble maker and more likely to have the sympathy of the school staff. Third, it may or may not be appropriate for your parents to talk to the parents of the bully. Fourth, once again, I strongly recommend that your parents get you involved in a quality martial arts program that focuses on building self confidence. Parents, look at this blog post to see if your child is being bullied.
No matter what always tell your parents so that they can help you as best they can.
3. Tell your teacher. Bullying is a big deal in all of the schools in WNC, so your teachers not only want to help you, they have the tools to do it. For example, your teacher can strategically place you away from the bully, so the bully never gets a chance to bully you in school. Telling your teacher will help you a lot and is not tattling.
4. Tell your friends. Your friends can have your back. If somebody is bullying you ask your friends to tell the bully to stop and that what the bully did wasn’t cool. You and your friends need to back each other up on a constant basis, having a friend tell the bully one time isn’t good enough. You and your friends need to back each other up every time the bully tries to bully you. A group is always stronger than an individual.
5. Ignore the bully. If it is possible to socially shun the bully do it. This means that when the bully tries to get into your head verbally or with whatever action you completely ignore him or her. It is even better if you can get your friends to shun the bully as well.
6. Avoid the bully. I do recommend this. If it is possible to not walk past the bully then there doesn’t need to be a problem in the first place.
7. Just walk away. This needs to be done correctly so as not to be counterproductive. As stated above, bullying is about social order, or pack behavior. The lower animal in the pack in the one that tucks its head and walks away. When you just walk away without exhibiting any self confident behavior you have issued an open invitation to be bullied at will. You are acting like a victim. Don’t walk away from the bully, walk past the bully. Walking past the bully works when you
- Genuinely do not care about the bully and what he or she has to say. You cannot pretend to not care, you must be genuinely apathetic towards the bully. Basically, they are beneath your notice and don’t even register on your radar.
- Have enough self confidence to be stronger than the bully. The idea is that you are so much higher in the pack or social order that the bully is being silly by even considering challenging you. By having more self confidence you have good posture, make eye contact and smile charmingly at the bully as you say nothing and don’t even stop walking.
- *** In either case, do not walk away from the bully, walk past the bully.
8. Use Comedy. If you are a funny person it is possible to make a joke out of the situation. As you do this, consider the fact that it is not a good idea to make fun of the bully in your comedy, when you make fun of somebody you are just acting like a bully yourself.
9. Agree with the bully. With a smile on your face and a twinkle in your eye, while making eye contact with the bully, agree with his or her unkind remark. “You’re ugly and you smell like a goat.” Just chuckle and say, “You know, I’ve been meaning to work on that.”
10. Fight the bully. This is indeed a possibility, but it's best to avoid a fight. You are absolutely guaranteed to get into trouble. Remember, bullying is about social position. Therefore, if you do fight the bully it needs to be a fair fight where you dominate him or her enough to firmly establish your social standing. However, the reason that I don’t even recommend a fair fight is that, to be honest, often times the bully picked you because he or she can take you in a square fight. Getting beaten up won’t help your cause. On the other hand, if you do win the fight then you are labeled a fighter by your peers and now a whole bunch of other people are going to challenge you to a fight. You don’t want to be that. It’s better to use social dominance skills and avoid fighting all together.
11. Think on the fly. Use your brain. You are the one in this situation, think of what you should do and go with it.
These are some thoughts on effectively dealing with a bully. Take what is useful to you and apply as you see fit. Remember that not every suggestion here is right for everybody and not all of them will work for you. The big idea of this is for you to start thinking proactively about actual effective things that you can do to stop being a victim of the bully.