What to do if you are being bullied
Set boundaries. This means that you don’t listen to insults, you don’t take calls you don’t want to, you text when you want, you see whom you choose, and you decide what you do and when. Say “no” to unacceptable behavior. A good response to provocative behavior is no response. A person who bullies picks on people who react and show that they are hurt and therefore, vulnerable.
Be honest. A person who bullies will feel he or she has manipulated you when you fall into their lies. Keep your words and actions honest. That way, all the lies and deceptions they create do not enter your world. For instance, if a person trying to bully you tells others that you tripped in the hallway, tell the truth when asked. Lying about it will just let the bully know you are embarrassed and you come off as a liar, not the bully.
Confront a bully. Don’t let a person who bullies get away with her actions. If you witness a lie from a known “bully,” call him or her on it. He or she will be less likely to try to get away with it (with you for sure) again. This is tricky though because people who bully hate to be called out for their actions and they may try to take it out on you. You are wise to have your friends support you and be with you when you take this action.
Seek help. Look, these people who bully are no fun. But many trained professionals are available to help you deal with them – teachers, coaches, social workers. Even your parents can help. Find help. Indeed, the people who bully need help as well. One of the best things you can do is to get a trained professional involved.
Maintain eye-contact. The eyes have incredible power. When you look away you are being submissive (showing weakness). Looking away gives the person who bullies the power. If you do look away, make sure it is with confidence, perhaps with a small smile and an eye roll that silently says, “You are so stupid if you think I’m going to be scared of you.”
Keep the power even. As soon as you feel a shift in the power, don’t take it – bring it back to even. Don’t let the conversation go from “Hey, Laura looks great” to “You look horrible.” Keep the power even. Remember in the books when Joe pushed Steve and the power began to shift? Steve brought the power right back to an even playing field as soon as he stood up, looked Joe straight in the eye and came up with an even counter-remark.
Use humor! When you can laugh at the stupid stuff that a person who bullies says or when you can prove that he or she is not upsetting you at all – not gaining power – then you shut them down. Humor is a great way to achieve this. We have some examples below.
Change the focus. This is helpful in all situations. If you are beginning to feel uncomfortable because the conversation has just shifted into awkward-ville, look for a new topic or do something that requires a different focus, such as “OMG! Has anyone noticed how the food in the cafeteria has gotten so much better/worse?” OR “Does anyone have extra sweatpants for gym today, I forgot mine?” One strategy is to have a new topic ready to discuss when the old topic feels like it might turn on you.
Do not get defensive. Responses like, “But I really like my new shoes,” will only fuel the bully into attacking you more. Dismissive, I-could-care-less-about-what-you-say-to-me responses are much more effective.
Here are some more concrete examples:
bully: “Look, it’s ugly brace-face!”
Victim: (Big smile and eye-contact) “That’s original.”
bully: “That’s the ugliest outfit I’ve ever seen….”
Victim: (Eye-contact) “Thanks, picked it out myself”
bully: “You look like a total dork.”
Victim: (Eye-contact, dismissive) “Yeah, well, whatever.”
Post Question: If you have been bullied, how did you handle it?