Dealing with Bullies

My eight year old daughter is taking an active interest in my blog.  She’s reading the posts and commenting about what she likes and doesn’t.  She’s also starting to throw out ideas for posts.  One recent suggestion is to write about bullying.

At breakfast the other day, our family was talking about bullying and how bullies feed off the unhappiness and suffering of others.  Our experience with bullies suggest they feel better somehow by putting others in their place.  When they can do it in front of their close friends, the have an increase in their sense of power.  There’s a nice Wikipedia article on the topic that relates to many aspects of life from school to cyberspace. There are four main categories of bullying:

  • Physical (hitting, punching, or kicking),
  • Verbal (name-calling or taunting),
  • Relational (destroying peer acceptance and friendships) and
  • Cyber (using electronic means to harm others).

My daughter is lucky as her school focuses on connectedness of the students and zero tolerance for fighting which helps.  Despite this, there are still opportunities for the bullies to express their power when adults are not looking.   All we can do is talk to our daughter about possible strategies for dealing with tough situations, but it is ultimately up to her to find her own way of dealing with it.  And, so it goes with us as adults.

Any one of us can find ourselves in a situation where another person attempts to express their power over us through physical, verbal, relational or cyber means.  The first thing we can do is be aware of it.  When another person uses emotional means to intimidate us; their place at work to have others do more activities; or attempt to put everyone in their place with their superior knowledge, we simply need to recognize the situation for what it is, bullying.  We also need to recognize our own worth and potential for harm in a given situation.  There are times to stand up to disagree.  There are other times we need to agree to disagree. And, there are times we simply have to let the situation play out until the harm passes, we let go and move on.  There is no one solution or strategy to the bullying problems we may face.  However, if we integrate with the people and systems around us, become aware of the larger issues at hand we can navigate the opportunities and degrees of freedom in a given situation.  This is easier said than done.  In the heat of the moment our own temper can flare, feelings of self-worth and lack of power can reduce our ability to see what manageable properties or freedom we have to act.  Relative to preserving the business of you mindset, knowing our own intention and using whatever opportunities may present themselves will serve us more than getting lost in our own negative feedback when confronting a bully.

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