Friday, May 4, 2012

What NOT to say to a bully to make him leave you alone

You've Been Lied To
There is a lot of misinformation and bad advice on handling a bully online and, even in school anti-bullying programs.  I'm sorry about that but it's why I started my BullyProofing programs.

Proven Methods Vs Guesswork and Denial
Here are some suggestions that may help you make a smarter and safer decision on your approach.  Nothing is guaranteed to work 100% of the time but these techniques have worked for thousands of others and now you can exercise more options.
Don't confuse knowledge for ability.  Some of the smartest people are terrified victims.  Just because you understand it doesn't mean you can do it.  You must practice until you have confidence in it.

NOTE: Each bullying situation is unique because of the personality, strengths and characteristics of the individuals involved.  Tough love advice does not help if the child targeted for bullying doesn't have the courage, confidence and ability to pull it off.  

Bullies Vs. Victims, Angels & Devils
Often times, the bullying is going both ways.  Bullying is a behavior cycle.  Assuming you, friend, your child or little brother is the angel can be a mistake.  This is a presumption of perfection and that one person is good and the other is evil.  Although that happens, it is rare and full of dangerous judgement that could lead to negative consequences. [I'm not saying blame the victim here.] Remember, it is when people perceive themselves as victims that they tend to lash out the most.  The goal is to avoid fighting, not encourage it.

The peaceful options are almost always found through approaching the issue with centered calm, objectivity, empathy and an effective plan based on accurate facts.

"Just stand up to him!"
This is incomplete advice because it assumes too much about the individual and the situation.  Standing up is not specific enough to help someone.  While the concept is usually right, how you actually do it is what determines the outcome.  Should you try to scare the one bullying?  Should you yell?  Should you threaten?  Should you give an ultimatum?  Usually the peaceful option is to show centered calm and inner-strength.  For most kids targeted with bullying, this is exactly what they haven't been doing.  It will probably take practice and some training to get to a level of confidence to do it right.

"Tell on the bully"
Telling on the bully is usually one of the worst ideas for a first step.  It can often be interpreted as bullying back to get the kid in trouble or bullying by proxy.  Being a bigger bully isn't right either.  Plus those with advanced social skills can sometimes manipulate teachers and retaliate.
If you want to escalate the situation, telling as a first option is a great way to do it.  Furthermore, you will have a lot of trouble having self-respect when you have to abdicate all your power to a teacher as a first option.  Sometimes it is important and necessary to get a teachers help but you should know when and where to do it.
The people who instruct you to tell on the bully first were probably bullied as kids.  Many still don't know why they were bullied or how to stop it without getting someone else to stop it for them.  That doesn't have to be your situation.  You can learn solutions that really work, keep you safe and preserve your dignity.
Another problem with telling on the bully is that it can earn you a reputation as a tattle tale.  This is a fast way to lose the respect and trust of your peers.  Nobody likes a rat.  If you have to tell, you should learn HOW to tell.  There is a difference between telling and tattling.
There is a right way and a wrong way to tell.  
Telling is not a wise first step in most situations because it has so many consequences.  There is a time to tell (when you must) but try the other steps first like Verbal Judo and making friends if you can.  Here are some more specific examples.

"Threaten to get the bully in trouble"
Threatening to get the bully in trouble or create some nasty consequence is another way to escalate an abusive situation.  People can really get upset when they feel trapped or threatened and act even more cruel. Empathy and options are a better way to get what you want as first steps rather than threatening.  That does't condone or make bullying right, it just shows that peace is more important to you than revenge and punishment.

Interviewing Bullies 
BULLY FACT: When interviewed, children who bully often report that they continued bullying because the other child tried to get them in trouble by telling on them or were mean to them. When see themselves as a victim, they want revenge.  This is how it can escalate.

"Punch Them in the Face One Time as Hard As You Can"
This is a really great way to get in a lot of trouble with your school.  Furthermore, it can be very dangerous if you aren't prepared for a physical fight.  It might even make other kids jump in to defend their friend and now your problems are compounded. People who tell you to punch a bully were probably people who use bully behavior to get what they want.  Fighting is not a wise solution to bullying and often ends up with you suffering more serious consequences, including physical harm.  Never mistake fighting with self defense.  Self defense is a last resort and when you have no other escape or options.  Fighting is a choice that comes with serious risks to you and the other person.

"Just walk away"
Most likely, you, your friend/sibling or child are being picked on because of this gem of advice.  It is very common to those who do not understand bullying dynamics.  Denial is not an effective safety or self defense strategy.  Just walking away can inadvertently give permission to the other person to keep picking on you day after day.  In effect, they are getting permission to pick on you.
It's not what you do, it is HOW you do it.  When you just walk away, some people interpret that as consent.  They may also interpret that as weakness and a good reason they need to toughen you up.  No, it isn't right and bullying is always wrong, but that is how some people think.
It is important that you make eye contact and acknowledge them with centered calm, a sense of humor or even agreement.  They key is to take them off their game and no matter what, avoid showing anger, vulnerability or an exaggerated reaction.

Whine and protest. "Stop it!" "You have no right to do that!" 
This is a great way to irritate and antagonize others.  Think of it as cheering on the bullying behavior.  I know that seems like the opposite, but some people really enjoy cranking people up emotionally.  It is a rewarding experience for them - like an experiment on a lab rat.  They like to see how far they can push and get away with it or make you do embarrassing things.
My recommendation is to keep your composure and preserve your dignity.  See it as a game and avoid whining, angry responses and emotional reactions that could be interpreted as weaknesses and vulnerabilities.  Remember, we are playing a game of perceptions here and we teach people how to treat us. Think of it like an interview and how you want to make an impression.  When you are tested with teasing, taunts, name calling, picking, poking... respond in unexpected ways with strength.  One of the greatest ways to show strength is to laugh (with, not at them) or show kindness.  Granted, it's not easy but it is very, very powerful.  You will likely need to build your confidence through practice and maybe even video your role playing until it looks strong and centered.

Evict The Victim Mindset
You can start feeling stronger by recognizing that others, just like you, have overcome bullying.  First you have to be willing to seek help with building your bully-busting skills.  The price is practice. Bullying behavior is part of life so learning how to deal with it successfully early is an important skill.  You should't do it alone so ask for help from people who are good at it.
No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.- Eleanor Roosevelt
Stop seeing yourself as a victim because that is what causes others to perceive you the same way.  Neither is there power in being a victim unless you want to live your life fishing, hoping, manipulating, begging for sympathy and never knowing your true potential and personal power.  Yes, some live entire lives that way but you don't have to live in fear and judgment.

You are unique and should be proud to be who you are.  Nobody on Earth is exactly like you.  You are far more powerful and valuable than you realize.  

If you really need help, I'll be your bully coach.  It's free and anonymous. You're worth fighting for. Wage peace my friend.

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