What About The Bystanders?

Often bullying takes place in the presence of a large group of uninvolved but somewhat enthusiastic bystanders.  The bully creates the illusion that he has the support of the people present.  This illusion instills the fear of speaking out in protest over the bullying activities taking place.  Unless someone speaks up to challenge the bully, a bully mentality becomes the accepted behavior pattern for the group.  Should this happen, the group will indulge in a steady stream of injustices and abuses.  Bystanders to bullying activities are often unable to recognize the true cost that their silence regarding the bullying activities has to their state of mind:

●they lose their ability to empathize with the victim;

●they are unable to muster any effort or energy to stop what is going on;

●they live in fear of becoming the next victim.

It is the general unwillingness of bystanders to intervene that bullies often rely upon in order to maintain their power.

In order for the bullying activity to succeed, there needs to be an aggressor and an unwilling target or victim upon whom the bully can perpetrate his hostile brand of manipulation and disrespect.  Moreover, in order for the bullying to succeed, there must also be an inadequate response on the part of the target.   That is, a response by the victim that is seen by both the bully and the target as insufficient to prevent the bullying-cycle to continue.  A response calculated to stop the bullying cycle might include:

●Look brave and act brave.  Watch your body language.  Walk by with you’re your head held high.  Don’t look like a victim.

●Ignore the bully.  Simply ignoring a bully’s threats and walking away without commenting either verbally or physically robs the bully of his power.   Bullies want a big reaction to their nasty teasing and mean comments.  Acting as if you didn’t notice and don’t care is like giving no reaction at all.

●Stand up for yourself.  You can stand up for yourself with strongly spoken words (see some suggestions below).  Tell the bully to stop whatever he is doing and then walk away.

●Don’t bully back.  Fighting back with words or gestures just encourages more aggressive and disrespectful behavior from the bully. You do not want things to escalate; you just want the bully’s behavior to stop.

Call upon legal intervention.  Depending upon where the bullying takes place, you may wish to discuss the issue with the head of school, human resources, your immediate boss or your boss’s boss.

Have a selection of handy verbal comebacks at the ready. A great comeback line is brief and leaves the bully feeling that he did not get to you. However, if you are not good at this skill, forget it.  Remember, these clever lines and words are for situations where there is no threat of violence. The key to using comeback lines is to look the bully in the eye while remaining calm and cool.  Avoid trading insults with the bully.

You’re good!

Very nice!

Oh my, that really hurt!

Thank you.

You ought to be on TV.

Great try.

Sticks and stones.

Mission accomplished.

You need new material.

The real you can’t be this mean.

And you were so cute when you were little

Using me for laughs again?

I hope that one didn’t keep you up all night.

Brain exercises again?

Your goal is to sufficiently discourage the bully from repeated attempts at attacking you.  When you show yourself to be a poor choice to play victim in the bully’s little drama, he will go find someone else to co-star with him.

Typically the bullying-cycle must include both an act of aggression on the part of a potential bully, and a response by a potential target that is perceived by both as a definite sign of submission.  The cycle is only set in motion when both of these two essential elements are present.  Once both of these two elements manifest themselves, the bullying cycle often proceeds to feed on itself over time.

The cycle can be easily interrupted and broken at any point by the target.  While group involvement may seem to complicate bullying activities, the act is most often an implied agreement in principle between a chief bully or instigator and the target who is the willing victim.

In the act of bullying the bully attempts to make a public statement to the effect of: “See me and fear me.  I am so powerful that I have the ability to inflict pain on a target person without having to pay any consequences.”   Should an intended target exhibit an attitude of defeat in response to chronic bullying, then the bullying is likely to continue.

Should the intended target respond with a clear attitude of self-confidence that clearly demonstrates the bully’s attempt to dominate is futile, then the bullying attempt will quickly diminish or end all-together.

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  • Abril  On May 3, 2011 at 11:55 pm

    Looks like you are an expert in this field, Great article and keep up the good work, my friend recommended me this.

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    • deannerosenberg  On May 12, 2011 at 2:33 pm

      Thank you for the feedback. I appreciate that you are following the blog. Anger uses up a tremendous amount of energy that would be better spent at other things. The more understanding we gain about this troublesome emotion, the less energy we will put into it – I hope.

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