The Best Ways to Protect Yourself and Others from Being Bullied

It's good to hide personal baggage from bully-types so they have less to target - Image by GraphicMama-team from Pixabay

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.

Inequalities within a family cause tensions and can make holidays together stressful
Bullying can happen anytime, even on a peaceful family outing – Photo by Brina Blum on Unsplash


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.

When going on holiday we must only take the luggage we need
It’s good to hide personal baggage from bully-types so they have less to target – Image by GraphicMama-team from Pixabay

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

there are scapegoats in most group settings
Being sensitive or the newcomer can make us a natural scapegoat – Image by Manfred Richter from Pixabay

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.

Tribal Theory

Ignoring another member of our team when playing together is bullying
Using rules as in a game creates a level playing field – Image by Michelle Maria from Pixabay

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.


Be sure that whoever we are giving stuff to is ready for it
When people have too much on board they need to off-load – Photo by Arseny Togulev on Unsplash

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.[23] Research on the self-esteem of bullies has produced equivocal results.[24][25] While some bullies are arrogant and narcissistic,[26] 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.[27] Bullies may bully out of jealousy or because they themselves are bullied.[28] 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.[29]

Wikipedia – Bullying

Scatter-gun Approach

A fisherman spreads the net wide to catch more fish. A bully wants any victim
A bully chooses victims simply by throwing the net wide like a fisherman – Image by Quang Nguyen vinh from Pixabay

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.

Ignoring cruel comments online is the best defence. Without a reaction they will give up.
The cyber-bully will wait eagerly for any response so ignoring them is a huge snub – Photo by Headway on Unsplash

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

Following too closely is to get a reaction
Drivers in a genuine hurry would never slow themselves by tail-gating – cartoon by Claudia Murray

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

Even being told when to wear glasses is a form of bullying
Learning to stop people from bullying us is part of life – Photo by timJ on Unsplash

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.


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Sophie Sweatman
Born in south London and brought up in Surrey I had a very enjoyable social and active childhood and then got sent to boarding school where the only escape was team sports and music. I greatly enjoyed trying to predict number one records. My first published piece was in the school magazine, then after my O’levels I got the plum work experience job on the local paper and after a second attempt at house style, got all the wedding reviews printed that I had written up, plus a few extra pieces. This led me to a job offer at GQ magazine but my “housewife and mother” education was continued and I went to cookery school. I started work writing for a café and booking bands, which led to work experience at Lynne Franks PR, where I learnt to do music listings, putting me in good stead for 10 years of music promotion. I booked bands at the Laurel Tree in Camden in 1997 amongst various other places, some sadly gone. Some curdled mayonnaise later I went to an art college, which was part of the American College in London to do all sorts of art-based subjects and being taught English in American was interesting but they taught Harvard Referencing so well it was no bother and I got a top grade for a 10,000 word dissertation on music law focusing on George Michael’s court case against his record company. After looking for work in non-arty south west London I moved to Crouch End and had a painting exhibition in 1994. After working for the local paper I got into the London College of Communication to do a postgraduate in periodical journalism. This was followed by an industrial placement at the Camden New Journal, where I wrote health columns inspired by What Doctors Don’t Tell You a newsletter started by Lynne McTaggart that still goes today. The Camden New Journal also inspired me to do theatre reviews, which I did each week for the London Newspaper Groups stable of papers from 1998 til 2000. My thirties was spent on self-development, resulting in a good job by 2010, when I started planning a move out of London. With an unconditional place at London College of Communication to do an MA in Broadcast Journalism but instead I moved to Falmouth and did a Professional Writing MA. In Cornwall I write for various publications and work for a record company promoting musicians and local artists. I still read What Doctors Don’t Tell You and research on health, nutrition, ancient humanity, science and various other subjects.