Let The Lambs Be Silent No More

So I think we all can say that we have been bullied in our lives. Some of us fight back, and many of us don’t. In my last installment, I discussed the potential consequences of not standing up and speaking out. Standing up to the bully does not have to be with a fight, and does not have to be done alone.

To understand our reactions to bullies, as kids or adults, we have to go back in time. We may not want to realize it, but as I stated in the last installment, we often feel like kids when we feel bullied. Bullies also often isolate and divide to conquer. When you think about your past, how many times did you feel singled out by a bully? Even if you were part of the crowd, the bully would often point out flaws in different people, and too many times we just felt happy when it wasn’t aimed at us. Did we want to say anything that could possibly bring their site to be aimed at us? No.

So, just what can we do to support ourselves and not leave others out to dry?

Step 1: Don’t pick a fight back with bullies. They can become unpredictable, and the more they feel that they may be losing a conflict, the more erratic they may become. There are also those circumstances that bullies shy away from a confrontation, but then that can deteriorate to the victim becoming the bully and kicking the bully when they are down. Bullies don’t often need to be “taught a lesson”; they often became bullies because they were treated harshly in the past. Even if they have lived a life of entitlement, running roughshod over others, it is important to model the behaviors you would appreciate in return.

Step 2: Become clear on what you are really feeling: fear, shame, guilt, embarrassment, humiliation, failure… whatever the emotions are, you want to be clear on what is going on within you before you try to address the issue. If you need to write these out to become clear about it, it is a valuable exercise. Ask yourself, “What age(s) do I feel?” and really spend some time on this. Help yourself to see that you are stuck in other situations, and it is these parts of you that are reacting to the present situation, often not the “you” that is in the present. When we understand that our emotions are often stuck in past issues, we can make more knowledgeable choices on how to behave in the present.

Step 3: If you have time, script out what you might want to say and/or role play with someone. Make sure the person that is role playing the bully is willing to play “the bully” to push your reactions so you can discuss it and practice it. If you don’t have time to script it or are caught in a bullying situation, use these guidelines: 1. stay calm and don’t allow yourself to be baited into the conflict. Remember, no one can take away your power unless you give it. 2. Stay focused on your and their behaviors. 3. Point out solutions for everyone’s behaviors that can lead to a positive outcome for all. 4. Be willing to walk away and offer the opportunity to revisit it later if they do not calm down, and/or be willing to ask them to leave if they cannot behave respectfully. 5. Set and discuss ground rules for future interactions and remain firm in following those guidelines.

Step 4: See this as an opportunity to help yourself and possibly someone else. I see these situations as opportunities, not obstacles. We all have chances for change. As I said in my last post, what troubled me more was not the actions of “the bully”, it was the actions of those, including myself, who allowed it to go on. We can learn from these situations, and if we don’t allow this behavior to occur, bullies will have no choice but to change their actions.

Step 5:  Don’t come to the rescue of someone else who is “being bullied” merely to come their rescue. You may not know all of the details. Furthermore, your response is often more about you than it is them, and if you are not there to follow up to see what happens after you leave, it can often lead to the bully taking their frustrations out on this person when you are not around. We have to learn to teach “victims” to stand up for themselves and support them in the process.

I hope these give you some guidelines to consider as you venture out into the world. In my next post, I will provide an example of how the situation in my first post could have handled.


Dr. E…