When we hear the world bully or bullying a lot of us think about schools, playground, children or teenagers. However bullying is well known also amongst adults, at the workplace, the neighborhood, in our circle of friends, amongst colleagues, you can name pretty much every part of your life.
Why do you get bullied?
- Your appearance
- You are successful
- Shyness or you are too confident
- You are poor
- Your belief-system
The list can be endless. A bully does not need a valid reason to bully you. Bullying is a form of dominant behavior. They want to be “above” you, feeling stronger or better than you, they want to be in control. A bully expects one of the two responses from you, either you fight back, or you be submissive. What the bully does not expect is, that you are not bothered by their behavior and do not enter their game.
How to respond to a bully?
Parents, friends or significant others might have told you to stand up for yourself, set boundaries, make very clear that you do not tolerate a behavior like this. While this might work in some cases, I genuinely believe that it also can escalate the situation. As mentioned before, the bully looks for a response. If we feed into dominant behavior, we enter the game of the bully and start displaying an even more threatening or hurtful behavior. A situation can get completely out of control. Feeding into such behavior is I believe not what we need. Something though seems to be in us who do not want to tolerate it; we want to win the game, we want to be the more powerful one.
But what would happen when we do not feed into aggression, which bullying is, and rather stay cool? What if we would at least look like it is not affecting us what the bully has to say and do not take the verbal attack of a bully seriously? I think we all witnessed when a so-called small argument has gotten out of control because both people started to shout and be more aggressive to each other. Brooks Gibbs, a social skills educator is advising to stay calm and not enter the game of a bully. He is taking the focus of the bully and placing the power back into the hands of the person who is at the receiving end of the bullying.
Is it Utopia to not respond or stay calm?
Some people mentioned to me that this is not an ideal world and staying calm in front of a bully and not taking their words seriously and not respond back in an angry voice, is not possible. My question would be: Is it not insane to believe that we can beat bullying with a hostile response? Why giving the bully what they were looking for?
The world is based on fear
Our whole society is based on fear. If you do not hit your targets at work, you might lose your job. You do not get a partner if you do not look attractive enough. If you do not pass your exam, you will not get a career or job. All of this is fear based. If we look around in our world, we use fear to get to our goals. We punish aggressive behavior with aggression. We punish unwanted behavior. Some people would say that this is precisely what we need to do, we need to punish bad behavior so it will not repeat itself.
Lead by example
We all heard the phrase to lead by example and I think this is what we need more in this world. Did you ever have a day where you were grumpy, bumped into a person who was friendly to you and for no reason you snapped at them or shouted at them? How did you feel afterward? Very likely not well. You might have felt guilty because you snapped at the person.
Or have you witnessed a person who lost it and responded to a person in anger but they stayed calm. Ask yourself a question. Who looked like the winner? The person who was aggressive or the person who stayed calm? The bully will stop because they do not get anywhere with their approach, they will look for another victim. Again I am not including physical harm or damage to your property to bullying; I think it is wrong to put this in a category of bullying. Physical harm or vandalism should be treated as a crime and not as bullying, and I am there on the same page with Brooks Gibbs an expert on bullying and a social skills educator.
Treat the bully how you want to be treated!
I like the attempt Brooks Gibbs, a social educator, is using in saying: “Treat the person how you want to be treated.” He also talks about building up our resilience.
Isn’t it better to accept that this world will have mean people in it and the way we can treat it, is by staying calm and leading by example? I believe it is worth a try because fighting aggression with aggression leads only to one thing, escalation and therefore more aggression.