How can we protect ourselves from bullies? Firstly we need to recognise bullying by looking at patterns in the behaviour. Whether it is an argument or a national invasion, on any scale bullying is one type of behaviour. Therefore, by seeing it we can learn to protect ourselves from it.
Why do people bully?
Firstly, why do some people become much more susceptible to bullies that others? Are bullies being bullied themselves?
You can find sources of some of this information. However, the aim is to introduce new ideas to the conversation to perhaps benefit a few people.
Many celebrities, especially stand-up comedians, mention bullying in their memoirs. Margaret Atwood’s book Cat’s Eye is an informative semi-autobiographical tale of getting power back after being bullied.
As written about in ADDitude magazine, there is evidence emerging that young people with ADHD also tend to be hypersensitive. Imagine going to a party and being the only one to sense the aftermath of an argument, but it becomes personal because you mention it.
Release Valve Theory
It may be that people who are more prone to be sensitive display signs of this from the earliest age. Before we can even speak, a child can sense tension in a room. They do something silly to attract their parents’ attention, which dissolves the tension. This then becomes a pattern of behaviour to achieve a result.
We start with a sensitive child who has learned to distract attention to release tension from a room. Then the child goes to school and meets different tribes for the first time. You could picture groups and loners in any environment. Perhaps vhildren with roots in the local area form naturally into groups while newcomers float around on the fringes.
In your earliest memories of school, perhaps you were the pack leader who everyone feared. Or maybe the lonely child who everyone picked on. Perhaps you were secretly envious of any child who wasn’t being bossed around.
Bullying is likely to have ancient roots in the human story. Subsequently, our first school experiences have much to teach us. For example, this North American article draws comparisons between gangs and political leadership. The quote below could also work in school playground politics.
“What you’ve got to do is recognise that you don’t control everything for a start, you’ve got to play the cards you’re dealt, the hand of cards you’re dealt, as best you can, and that’s what I always seek to do.”
– Malcolm Turnbull in 2015
By understanding our own behaviour we know what we can control. However, what is said and done to us is another matter. The outcome depends on the response we give.
Although there is no legal term in the United Kingdom for bullying, it is illegal in some states in America. Wikipedia provides insight why someone might bully others. The overall suggestion is that it is always about the bully and not their target. It is important to realise that the reasons you are picked on are not about you. It is about the bully.
Studies have shown that envy and resentment may be motives for bullying. Research on the self-esteem of bullies has produced equivocal results. While some bullies are arrogant and narcissistic, they can also use bullying as a tool to conceal shame or anxiety or to boost self-esteem: by demeaning others, the abuser feels empowered. Bullies may bully out of jealousy or because they themselves are bullied. Psychologist Roy Baumeister asserts that people who are prone to abusive behavior tend to have inflated but fragile egos. Because they think too highly of themselves, they are frequently offended by the criticisms and lack of deference of other people, and react to this disrespect with violence and insults.
Wikipedia – Bullying
In order to achieve their aims, a bully needs a reaction. When our parents advise us not to react to bullies, they are correct. It is hard to heal the self-esteem of a bullied child, but this would be a great start. We may not understand that “sticks and stones can break our bones but words will never hurt us” until adulthood. It would be natural to understand this saying after learning to defend ourselves, not before.
The above shows why people bully others and how they choose their targets. Understanding this can lead us to become more bully-proof. Unfortunately, an incident of bullying can surprise us as adults, which means we need to recognise bullying in all its forms.
Before the Internet, the press bullied various people in the public eye, such as Monica Lewinski and the McCanns. Bullies have attacked celebrities, royals and reality TV personalities. Look again at a range of hate campaigns in the news and you will find them characterised by definitions of bullying.
Reviews on Goodreads, a website for independent authors, illustrates cyber-bullying. This blog explains the difference between bullying and bad reviews. Again, patterns of similarity between off-line bullying emerge if you look at the reasons used by most of the negative reviewers on Goodreads:
- They focused on formatting issues that were not the work of the author.
- They do not criticize anything about the writing, story or characters of the book as they have not read it.
- The same 17 or so people write similar reviews for many authors.
Anyone studying some of the negative reviews on Goodreads for recognition patterns would see they are not personal to the book, story or author. Goodreads damaged itself as it did not define good reviewer behaviours in time.
Following Too Closely
Tail-gating by driving too close to the car in front is an ideal example of bullying and how to shake it off. Most of us tend to slow down when a car is following too closely behind, which makes them more angry. The thing to realise is they were angry to start with, so decided to bully the driver in front to get a reaction to off-load their frustration.
Aggravating other road users often gets a reaction. A car on the back-bumper feels unsafe. Even if you are hogging the middle lane of the motorway, they will go away if they cannot dominate you. Domination is classic bullying.
If you ignore an aggressive driver behind, they will go off and tailgate someone else. This is the scatter-gun approach to finding victims by targeting new people until they hit someone’s button.
Hiding your buttons
The idea behind not reacting to a bully is so that they cannot trigger you. If they do not know what buttons to press, they will move on.
You must not give your power away. In other words avoid revealing something about you that an unpleasant person will try to use against you. Therefore, they will have to deploy a hit and miss approach. If they keep missing they will go away to satisfy their needs for domination elsewhere.
More on how to become bullyproof and protect others from bullies on this website here.