Bullies are everywhere-on the road, at your workplace, in some people’s homes even families. You may not be a bully but I bet once or more in your life you expressed a bully streak. You know, your anger got out of control and you took it out on another person. Yet likely you had a great social system of friends, family, teachers, work colleagues who helped you back in line. Maybe you even had unconditional love and worked through this aberrant behavior before it took hold and developed into a habit.
Some unfortunate ones in our society do not have this help. They are either so far gone or allowed to get away with the behavior that it is too late. Not too late to change, but likely too late to have quality relationships that help the bully repent, recover and return to being a decent human being. Or more likely, lacking in the resources and people dedicated to helping them turn around.
I write this post because I want to take the compassionate route. I want to understand and help rather than blame, judge and condemn. Why? Because I know that in each one of us is a part of our personality that wants to get our way. I need to be a bit tough to get your attention though. So bear with me.
Are you a bully?
- aggressively fight to get your way at the expense of other people’s needs?
- respond with anger when challenged by another?
- use your larger physical size to stand down others and get your way?
- intimate the threat of more physical or violent action?
- actually resort to violence?
- repeatedly offend despite reprimand and warnings from others?
- disregard or have no respect for authority?
- consider yourself outside of the rules?
- go behind people’s backs to undermine them or get in their way?
- raise your voice, control the conversation, not listen or at least if you do pretend and then get on with only your point of view anyway?
- make veiled threats?
- respond to situations emotionally charged?
- set up situations so others look bad, you win and then take control?
If you answer ‘yes’ or ‘maybe’ to even just one of these comments then it is time to take a hard look at what is happening in your world before such behavior continues or gets out of hand. Why? Because exacerbated, you may just have an incident that you can’t undo.
If you think no but you have had other people confront even tell you that your behavior borders on or is bullying, then go back and seek help. Someone in your network cares enough to tell you, they may just care of enough to help you.
If you answer no, then I am th rilled that you have socially developed yourself and can function in our society and your community as a role model of non-bullying behavior.
But what if you said no but still know someone who would answer yes? What if you are a witness, observer or in regular contact? What if you are the victim of this bullying behavior?
Well two things:
- Under no circumstances should anyone tolerate or accept bullying behavior.
- If you are a witness, observer and do nothing, go along or support than your behavior is comparable in that it supports and encourages.
Ripples of the wrong kind of influence
Now take this language down a notch. Just observe some of the undercurrent of related behavior in our society. Is it ok for a parent on the sidelines of their kid’s sporting event to yell abuse at a referee? No. What about other parents? No. What about the players on the field for the other team? Well maybe, some might say. I of course say no. Yet this is one example where you see socially sanctioned behavior that is tantamount to bullying.
What about the business meeting? You know, the heated discussion where the manager wants to get a plan through, budget allocated to their division, or plain simply wants everything their way. Not acceptable you might say? Yet it happens.
Time for change
So why am I ranting today about this? Well for one reason. I am tired of society turning a blind eye to people who get away with bullying. I am tired of our children seeing role models on the sporting sidelines of belligerent loud parents. I am tired of meeting people in business who recount story after story of how they got out of their last job to escape the tyrant for whom they worked. It just can’t keep going like this.
A second reason is that in today’s socially networked world, bullying takes on a new level. We now can experience or act as bullies with the veiled protection of a computer interface. What is said on-line can be taken out of context and perceived as worse than what it means. So the risk of people being victimized is greater. The risk of people standing by and doing nothing is even greater.
Yet sometimes people do stand up. Sometimes the victims, the observers say enough is enough. It just takes one or maybe a collective few to voice their side of the story and the tables turn. I have heard amazingly brave stories to the tune of “It’s either me or he goes” and the he that goes is the bully. I have also heard the opposite.
Yet here is where my compassionate heart steps in. How do we as a society, as companies, as communities, as fellow parents, friends and families help those who bully or have tendency to bully? How?
I don’t have the answer. I would like to know if you have an idea, a thought, experience. I would like to start a conversation about this. Not to point fingers or shame a person but to help create a more relationship oriented, supportive and collaborative environment for all of us.
I also know that there are organizations, groups and people making a difference in the ‘anti-bullying space’ especially of recent with campaigns on anti cyber-bullying. I also am aware of schools instigating comprehensive no bullying policies and sporting groups running campaigns to quiet the sideline yelling.
So I encourage you to connect and help out where you can. Effectively if each person does something actively to stop this happening maybe we can all stand tall and bring some decency back to relationships.
One final word-mine
I have been a victim. I did not stand up to the bullies in my life at the time. I did not have the courage nor capacity. I wish I did. I so wish I did. I lived a long time as a victim and held myself back from many opportunities or directions requiring a more assertive demeanor. When I did need to get my way, as many of us do sometimes, I failed to negotiate or work things out. I either played the stubborn streak, rebelled or just got out of there. It was not until later in life that I got the right kind of support that helped me truly stand up for me. How did I do this? I got comfortable with me from the inside out. I stopped valuing myself based on what other people said or did. As my professional career moved more into the people helping profession I also could see a way of helping. I also found more and more that as a parent of two young children it is important for me to do my part to help make the world that they grow up in a better one. This blog post is not about my story so I will stop here. Yet please know that I speak from experience and I speak from the heart when I ask what can we do to help people so that they don’t hurt others anymore.
Let's go there...