Thursday, 27 October 2016

Cut those bullies down to size

       Think of a bully and you might picture a thick-necked yobo who’d last several rounds with Mohammed Ali in his heyday. But not all bullies use their fists. Truth be told, the typical bully relies on their tongue, using sarcasm, ridicule and insults to make their target feel small.
       They don’t even need to be in the same vicinity to threaten or upset their victims. Mobile phones and social network sites are rife with abusive messages and cruel jokes at other people’s expense – often sent anonymously.
       Age is no object, either. While still at primary school, Rebecca* received a nasty letter, full of lies and innuendo, supposedly sent by a fellow pupil who also received a similar letter, supposedly from Rebecca. Their parents took the letters to school where the form teacher recognised the handwriting as that of another pupil in the same class, who in turn had been pressured into writing it while her ‘friend’, an 8-year-old girl, told her exactly what to say. Cunning, manipulative and designed to cause the maximum distress.
       Gender doesn’t come into it, nor does class; a public school pupil has as much chance of being bullied and harassed as someone attending a local comprehensive. But just because a problem may be unavoidable doesn’t mean it can’t be solved.
       Let’s just examine one or two motives of a potential bully. Some who cause misery may not even mean to hurt their victims, viewing their taunts as simple banter or what passes for humour. This kind of behaviour is common in large families where children may compete to get a rise out of each other or even to gain attention from parents – even negative attention is better than none.
       Some people have been brought up to be plain spoken. The area where I was born can be a particularly challenging place to live for sensitive types, as many people pride themselves, not only on their gritty sense of humour but on being rude and overly free with blunt personal remarks. Whether any malice is intended or not, the best way to handle this situation is to simply laugh or shrug it off. This way, any unpleasantness is deflected, as the perpetrator realises his/her words have no effect. He or she may be testing you out, to ‘see what you’re made of’, and will soon tire of the game if you fail to play along.  On the other hand, trading insults will only make matters worse, like throwing petrol on a fire! Refuse to let the bully enrage you and the fire will just die out. You'll also prove to the bully that you're not influenced by anything they have to say - what he or she really wants is a reaction. Don't give them the satisfaction!  They're the ones who are pathetic, not you!
       Should the bully threaten to get physical, of course, the wisest course is simply to walk away - or run if necessary. And if, but only if, there’s no other way out, then of course you have the right to defend yourself as best you can. Yet, surprisingly, your most powerful weapon in almost any situation is ‘mildness’. Keeping your cool is always the best answer to a bully who will view your self-control as a sign of strength, while a kind word can literally stop them in their tracks. Remember, a bully may be frustrated, insecure and desperately unhappy, and the last thing they expect is for people to be nice to them. 
       Clever bullies are often quite intuitive about their intended victims; always seeking out the people they perceive to be weak, shy and easily intimidated.  That’s why it’s good to have ‘attitude’. People who seem poised, confident and assertive rarely get picked on - they’re more likely to stick up for themselves - so by cultivating a self-assured air you can deflect a lot of adverse attention. Basically, most bullies are cowards; preferring victims whom they feel would never fight back.
       Bear in mind that no one, no one has the right to harass you and make your life a misery. If you receive threats and ridicule on a regular basis, you should talk to your parents and listen to their advice. Other people you can turn to are teachers or counsellors, who are usually trained to deal with problems firmly and discreetly, with no comeback on you. Failing that, there are Helplines you can call, where experts can guide you through your problems.
       Some pupils, particularly girls may face sexual harassment, which is perhaps easier to avoid in advance rather than having to deal with when it arises. For instance, any form of flirting is not advisable, as your ‘admirer’ may get jump to the wrong conclusions. Nor should you hang around with girls who tend to be forward with the opposite sex, as you’ll be viewed in the same light. The way you dress may also be a factor - if you can see down it, up it or through it, then you’re bound to get noticed, for all the wrong reasons! How you dress is often how you get treated!
       Both genders can be targeted and propositioned, in which case a firm, direct and unequivocal ‘No’ should be your determined response. Giggling or simpering, even in embarrassment, can create a false impression. Make it clear from the start that you’re not interested and you’ll save yourself a lot of hassle.
       If, in spite of all objections, someone tries to touch you inappropriately, don’t be afraid to make a scene. Yell at your attacker; tell him not to touch you in that way and chances are he’ll be too embarrassed to continue, especially in front of his mates. Should he persist, walking or running away may be necessary and if that doesn’t work, a smart blow to anyone who grabs you should make your feelings clear!  And, same as with any other bully, you need to tell your parents!
       Remember, you deserve to be treated with respect. Be determined not to give into threats, crumple under ridicule or allow anyone to harass you. Before starting a fresh term at school, write down different scenarios which could apply to you. Then plan how you would deal with a given situation – what you could say, how you should conduct yourself and how to avoid the problem in the first place. Discuss your plans with your parents, ask their opinions and ask them to rehearse with you. That way, you can be prepared. 

How to protect yourself: 
  • Cultivate self-respect and show confidence and poise
  • Refuse to respond to taunts or ridicule
  • Exercise self-control
  • Be firm and direct and make your ‘No’ mean ‘No’
  • Avoid associating with people who court attentions from the opposite sex
  • Don’t wear revealing clothes which send the wrong signals
  • Tell someone – especially parents and guardians

* See also "How to Beat a Bully Without Using Your Fists"[search_id]=8a3fa79a-9b90-414d-b767-08f116828aaf&insight[search_result_index]=0

From Bullied to Brilliant by Karen Clarke

No comments:

Post a Comment