I cannot overstate the importance of sticking together in the fight against bullying. When you can’t stop the bully. Empower the targets. Be supportive. My personal effort to “practice what I preach” in supporting my coworkers, has brought me a great deal of satisfaction. I received the following email message from my coworker this week:
Hey, this is my last letter to you tonight. It feels great to have you in my corner because I feel all alone most of the time. I wish to talk to no one about my tribulations. It is great you are there for me. Thank you again.
We’ve got to stick together. That’s the only way we can win this thing. United we stand, divided we fall. Let’s not stand on the sidelines while the casualty count continues to grow. Every target we can keep from collapsing under the pressure, is another victory for the cause. Viva La Resistance!
Strive for peace, but put your dukes up! Can you do both? While it may seem difficult, there are people who can, and some are very skilled at it. Of course, I’me using “dukes” (fists) metaphorically here for defenses. But, as with fists, if you walk around with your defenses up all of the time, you are likely to frighten away a lot of people. This will probably include both bullies and potential friends. So that’s not a good idea. When it comes to putting your dukes up, timing is everything. If you’re good at it you can sense an attack coming, and get your dukes up in a flash. This action usually prevents an attack from ever happening. When an attack has occurred, having your dukes up allows you to block your attacker’s blows, and to strike back if necessary. There are some people who are very good at this. I have had the distinct privilege of knowing a few. I’m talking about masters at “swimming with sharks”(See my post “Coping With a Brand New Breed of Shark!”). It’s hard to imagine if you have never seen one of these skillful individuals in action, but I’m here to tell you, they do exist, and are worth studying. They are living proof that you don’t have to be a bully to defeat a bully. You can defend yourself and still demonstrate a spirit that draws respect and admiration from those around you (eventually, sometimes even from the bully). I don’t know whether this ability is inborn or if it comes from years of tweaking and practice, but I’m willing to learn from those who have it . Here are some things I have noticed they have in common:
- They have good self esteem. They believe that they deserve respect
- They don’t beg others for acceptance, they embrace it when it comes
- They don’t show fear. They never cower, hang their heads or tuck their tails
- They are willing to stand up for others besides themselves
- They are friendly, and helpful, so they have back-up when needed
- They anticipate an attack, and are always prepared.
- They meet an attack with an immediate response. (usually not an emotional one)
- They are proactive and take steps to avoid or combat future attacks
If you are not a pro, and decide to try some of the things I’ve mentioned above, be careful NOT to make the following mistakes:
- Confuse arrogance with self esteem
- Scoff at the need for acceptance, and have an I don’t need anyone attitude
- Get up in the bully’s face or stage a showdown
- Take sides with those who are clearly in the wrong
- Go around complaining to everyone you meet
- Confuse anticipation with being paranoid
- Respond emotionally. Lash out at the bully in anger
- Play your entire hand at once, or eliminate the element of surprise
These are more likely to get you in deeper trouble than to help you survive.
Drawing by Vidacaramela
Standing up to a Bully is never an easy thing to do. It requires nerves of steel, and a thick skin. Whether you are the target of a bully, or an innocent bystander, chances are you will think more than twice before you act. It’s much easier to second guess yourself if you are the target, or to “blame the victim” if you are an observer. Since no one is perfect, the focus is shifted from the behavior of the bully, to the faults of the target. When this occurs, it needs to be recognized for what it really is… Fear. It’s the battered wife who thinks she deserved the beating because she made her husband mad. It’s the child who thinks she’s too fat, or ugly to deserve respect on the playground. Its the coworker who thinks his colleague who was humiliated by an administrator during the staff meeting, somehow earned it, because she’s new and she hasn’t been very friendly. The truth is, a bully does not need a good reason to inflict pain. They get the sense of power when they do. When they can’t deal with their own pain, they unleash their pain on others, and fire at will. The devil doesn’t make them do it, and neither do the targets of their agression.
English: the picture consist of articles on bullying, I obtained it from public domain. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Real change, requires real action. Laws, codes of conduct and consequences that make it difficult for bullies to to torment their targets indiscriminately are crucial factors in the fight to eradicate bullying. Legislation must be updated to address the latest forms of bullying that have arisen from our growing use of the internet as a social networking tool. Cyberbullying has become a huge problem today, and the laws for addressing it have not been firmly established. Bullying in the workplace has also been overlooked as far as legislation goes. We need our leaders, and local politicians , to acknowledge that there is a crisis, and to take the necessary measures to fix it. Recently, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed into law new rules designed to protect children against cyberbullying. The law, which takes effect next year, will require school officials to investigate complaints of bullying that happen online and to respond in ways to prevent acts of bullying from recurring. In addition, Jamie Isaacs, founder of the Jamie Issacs Foundation for Anti-Bullying, Inc., has worked with New York State Senator Jeffrey Klein to help pass a criminal component of currently existing New York State harassment legislation. New York is not alone in its actions to combat cyberbullying. Anti-bullying legislation is cropping up all over the nation. If bullies are forced to answer for their behaviors, and if they find that the consequences for bullying outweigh the pleasure they derive from hurting others, they will be forced to find other, less destructive ways of dealing with people. Perhaps, the thought of being fined, fired, reprimanded, or prosecuted might give them pause. And if it doesn’t, maybe the new laws and measures will furnish the targets with a sense of empowerment, and give anyone who wishes to “stand up against bullying,” the legs to stand on.
Drawing by VidaCaramela
The voices of those who are being bullied need to be heard and validated. While many targets feel powerless and alone, and while some suffer in silence, the bullying is left unchecked. One way to counter this is to let these targets know that they are not alone, not to blame, and that they have done nothing to deserve the treatment they are receiving from the bully. There is NO justification for it. Most targets report feelings of self doubt, and self deprecation. Remind them of their strengths, and assure them that they are not worthless, like their tormentors would have them believe. We cannot afford to turn our backs on the targets of bullying. We feel outraged when we hear the story of a mother who lets her children suffer at the hands of an abusive father and denies that it is happening, but we treat the targets of bullying in similar fashion. It seems like it’s human nature to choose the path of least resistance. The problem of bullying will never be resolved if it is rationalized or ignored. Sometimes, it’s the fear of drawing attention to ourselves, that keeps us from advocating for the targets of bullying or from validating their concerns. After all, who wants to join in the suffering? This attitude results in the isolation of the target. This is one of the most destructive impacts of bullying. It reminds me of the way predators often hunt for large prey. They maximize the efficiency of their attack by isolating the individual from the pack. There is a way to fight this, and that is to operate under the principle that there is safety in numbers. Targets need support. If we begin to listen to, and bear up their complaints, instead of hiding our heads in the sand, or worse, asking the target to join us in doing so, then change will come.
First, people need to recognize bullying for what it is. Bullying should never be confused with personality conflict. Bullying involves repeated mistreatment of a target by one or more individuals. Webster’s dictionary defines a bully as a person who uses strength or power to harm or intimidate those who are weaker. When we see a bully push a kid on the playground or take away his lunch money, we have no problem identifying the behavior as bullying. But when the bully uses emotional abuse instead of physical abuse, or when both the bully and the target are adults, it’s much harder to peg. From studies of workplace abuse, Blase & Blase (2006) derived a list of non-verbal emotionally abusive behaviors, which include staring, dirty looks, snubbing. ignoring, violations of physical space, finger pointing, and slamming or throwing objects (p. 124). Blase & Blase also site examples of abusive verbal behaviors, including angry outbursts, yelling and screaming, put downs, lying, public humiliation, threats of job loss, name calling, excessive or unfounded criticism of work abilities or personal life, unreasonable job demands, blaming, exclusion or isolation, initiating malicious rumors and gossip, withholding resources or obstructing opportunities, favoritism, dismissing an individuals feelings or thoughts, not returning phone calls, and behavior that implies a master-servant relationship (p.124-125). Whether the bully is in the schoolyard, at home or on the job, he or she will use tactics of intimidation, harassment, isolation and shaming. These are classic signs. Even if the bully is not using these tactics on everyone around, as long there’s at least one target, then it’s bullying. (Next Blog – Bully Fix: Step#2)
Physical bullying at school, as depicted in the film Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Bullies come in all shapes and sizes. They rob the dignity of those they target. They murder self-esteem, and destroy lives. Few people can stand by and watch a bully hurt someone and not be hurt by it themselves. Lately, there’s been a lot of discussion on the topic, and people are fed up. It’s time do something “Real”.
On February 8th, our school celebrated P.S. I Love You Day, by wearing the color purple. According to Brooke DiPalma, the founder of P.S. I Love You Day, “wearing purple will not only show that you’re standing up against bullying, but you will see everyone around you wearing purple, and know that you are never alone. P.S. I Love You.”
For the victims of bullying, standing up is not as simple as wearing purple for a day, it’s a daily weekly, monthly battle that can last for years, and campaigns like P.S. I love you not only aim to raise awareness, but to actively fight against bullying, and to provide concrete assistance to its victims.
The targets of bullying need our help, not just our sympathy. If it was a simple matter of trying to get along, giving the bully what he or he or she wants, or just fighting back, we wouldn’t be faced with such a widespread epidemic. Before we can effectively take a stand, a few things need to be clear. (Next Blog – Bully Fix: Step#1)