Don’t react. If you react you are liable to show emotions, and that is just what the person who bullies is hoping for. When you respond calmly and cleverly, you think before you act (this is a concept we discuss and develop in the books). Think about how you are going to deal. Hopefully you already have some strategies and a plan.
Don’t walk away as if you have been hurt. You will find some people suggest that the victim tell the bully to stop and then walk away. But when you walk away (especially in a way that seems cowardly) you give the person who bullies what he or she wants: power. If you say “stop saying those things” in a way that sounds like you are whining, then the person who bullies will press on and keep at it. This is a game the person who bullies is bringing you into and one that you’d rather not play.
Avoid the person who bullies and the bystanders. This means to literally figure out where they are and don’t be there. It may be a challenge at first but think of it as a game you are playing. And by the way, if you are getting emails and texts and feeling cyber–bullied, show it to you parents and even the cops. Meanwhile, don’t engage. How can you avoid the person who bullies? First, do some detective work. Don’t walk the halls where he is. Sit away from her even if that means that you have to privately ask your teacher to move your seat. Some kids we know have had their schedule reworked to avoid the person who is bullying.
Have some “come-backs” ready. These are the strategies we talked about above. No matter the insult (and by now, you probably know what it is about yourself that they may target), be ready with some disarming tactics to get them off your back. Here are a few good ones:
“That’s fine, say whatever you want.”
“Okay, if you say so.”
“You may be right about that.”
Remember, part of their power comes from anticipating what you will say and loving the idea of being right. When you surprise them by showing no emotion, looking them in the eye (conveying no fear) and by NOT walking away until the power is even again, then they are at a loss. Keep that up a few times and the person who bullies will likely find a new target. (Then go to the new target and give him or her the 411!)
Do not defend yourself in a way that shows you are hurt. This is showing that you are upset – an emotion the person who bullies is looking for! For example, trying to defend a rumor (“That’s not true! How could you say that?!”) or trying to get even with someone (“No, you’re the jerk of the century!”) fuels the fire because the person who bullies lives for it. Don’t give her the power. Remember your character. Keep to the high ground where you can find your character, don’t sink beneath the dirt where the person who bullies’ character lies.
If the covert bullying involves a previously friendly group who are all of a sudden ignoring you or not including you in their “club” then find another group. When you feed into their plan of hurting your feelings, then they have won. When you walk away (but not in an I’ve-been-hurt-by-you way) and find other (real) friends, those old “friends” will be out of power and out of your friendship.
Victims need friends. If you have a solid group of friends, the less likely you are to be bullied. Being bullied can be a bit of a downward spiral in the friendship arena: not many people want to hang out with someone who is being bullied because they are afraid of being bullied too and of seeming “unpopular” by hanging out with the kid who doesn’t have many friends. This isolates the victim even more, making the problem worse and giving the person who bullies more power and opportunity to do harm. Don’t support the person who bullies in this way. Try to rise above this mentality: Include people in your group who may be at risk for being bullied.
Most kids have something about them that a person who bullies will find to ridicule – what is your ‘thing’? How are you weak? Are you new at school and dreadfully nervous about it? Are you overweight? What is it about you that someone might pick on? Okay, how do you deal with that thing? Is it such a hot-button that if anyone came along and called you ‘fat fanny face’ you would crumble? Or would you say, “Wow. That’s original” and keep staring at them? Look, if you are overweight, you know it. If it bugs you then it will be the trigger every person who bullies pulls on you. Don’t show your triggers. If you have them, unload the bully’s gun. Make your triggers meaningless to her. Sure, you may be upset, but don’t let the person who bullies see that you are upset! Pretend you are on stage and you are going for the Oscar performance of your life, because you are. Fake it. Pretend nothing bothers you. And the person who bullies will most likely back off. But if things get nutty, tell a parent, trusted adult, etc. That information is below.
Gossip is a gross form of covert bullying. Don’t get sucked in. Avoid gossiping about other people. Oh, if only it were so easy, right? After all, you see grown-ups do it all the time. Don’t continue the trend. Try to notice how often you say nice things about people versus how often you say mean, gossipy things. Think about how you look as a gossip? Does it send the message that you are trustworthy? Kind? Respectful? Not really, right?
If you are the target of the rumor or the gossip, don’t let it get to you.
Here is one idea:
Answer a question with a question. Someone says, “I heard that you cheat on all of your tests! Do you?” This comment from a gossip gal/guy won’t get anywhere when you ask, “Would you like to know what I heard about you? Or is it better to stop spreading false rumors and gossip? Let’s talk about something else, because generally I like the things you have to say.” (In the eye, straight face, no emotion!)
Here are more…
Gossip and threat: “Gabby says you are loose with the boys and you stare at her boyfriend all the time. You’d better watch out.”
Response: “That’s so funny. Who is her boyfriend? I’ve been seeing David for three weeks now. Gabby seems to have her information wrong.” (No emotion, no defense, no cowardice, eye contact!)
Rumor, Gossip: “Did you hear that Stanley likes Michelle but Michelle likes Alec?”
Response: “Did Michelle say she got that cool shirt from Free People or Hollister?” (Change the subject before you become known as a gossip girl yourself!) (Yes, we were a bit gender-stereotyping because girls actually do gossip much more than boys – but we can’t get into all those reasons here!)
One of the worst feelings is when exclusion happens (another covert form of Bullying). Here are two examples:
*You are walking into the lunchroom with your tray of food and you don’t see anyone you know. As you approach an empty seat at a table everyone at the table moves so you can’t sit there. Although you probably feel horrible, your best bet is to look them right in the eye and say, “Oh thanks, saved me the trouble,” and walk away. They may be left wondering what you meant but you can leave confidently since they won’t have a clue as to whether they bugged you or not. Remember, these kids are making themselves feel better about themselves by leaving someone (you) out. Do you really want to be a part of that? Do you feel good about yourself when you leave someone out?
*You walk into a room and a group of people who were just laughing and talking suddenly turns silent as they stare at you and then turn their backs on you. Just go about your business. Did you walk in the room to chat with them? If so, go right up to them and act as if nothing happened. You’ll know soon enough if you were just being paranoid or if they are not your good friends after all.
Post Question: Do you see gossip as bullying? Why do you think people gossip?