Deal With Bullies

How to Understand and Deal With Bullies

Bullied-AlFoxxI didn’t give much thought to the challenges faced by those who are bullied until years after my teenage motorcycle crash left me speech impaired and with the left side of my body paralyzed. Adapting to some of the challenges of those who live in the world of the physically different resulted in my using the following line of thought to analyze the world of the physically and socially challenged:

My first discovery was that I was being bullied! Huh? Who me?  Not as is commonly understood by the term “bullied.” But by a subtle variant of the bully term called relational aggression. This type of bullying becomes more and more evident as kids get into middle school, junior high and beyond. It is even common in adult circles where others are purposefully excluded or left out.

Since people are left out of various group activities for a variety of reasons, dealing with this type of bullying can be a challenge for anyone, from kids to adults. Being excluded causes emotional pain, which can interfere with school work or job performance. If a child grows into an adult feeling worthless, rejected or less valued than others, this can cause all sorts of issues.

How can you help someone who feels ostracized?

  • Talk with them and make sure they feel comfortable sharing with you.
  • Don’t overreact or call those doing the excluding derogatory names.
  • Don’t shame them for being ostracized by telling them they should be different or try harder to be liked.
  • Focus on listening and empathizing with how they are feeling.
  • Be sensitive to the difference between unkind behavior and bullying. Sometimes when people, kids or adults, are excluded, it’s not intentionally meant to harm them. And even though it hurts to be left out, it happens.
  • Determine if the treatment is unkind or is bullying with a definite effort being made to exclude someone. Regardless of which situation is the case, don’t minimize the pain that results. Both experiences are painful and need to be dealt with.
  • Discuss what is controllable and what is not.
  • Be sure the one who feels bullied or left out realizes that although they have no control over what other people say and do, they can control how they respond to it. Work with them to come up with ideas on how to feel better about the situation. The goal is to get them to a place of not feeling helpless but rather to feel empowered with different options.

Self Evaluation

BulliedLeftOut-AlFoxxAfter my crash, I felt different and I was frequently left out of group activities I wanted to be part of.  Being different from one’s peers is a common reason to be bullied or left out. Does someone being different than you mean that they are somehow wrong or less than you?

Of course not!

Does you being different than someone else mean that you are wrong?

Absolutely not!

My problem was that I assumed the injuries I sustained in my crash did mean that I was less than everyone else. I could no longer do the things I had done before my crash, and I felt inferior. I didn’t realize that all being different means is that we are different. Being different is OK! Look around, differences are all around us, so why is it that people who are considered different are often looked down on, teased, ridiculed or even bullied?

Do you think you know yourself well enough to accurately evaluate how easy, fun or difficult being around you may be? Of course, you may say. Who knows me better than me? But psychiatrists and psychologists have repeatedly pointed out that the most difficult person to evaluate objectively is ones own self. Yes, we all know smart people who consider themselves foolish, or good looking people who think they are plain or people who downgrade themselves and consider successes as failures.

Plastic surgeon Maxwell Maltz, author of Psycho-Cybernetics describes patients suffering from low self esteem wanting to be operated on to cure a real or an imagined disfigurement. Sometimes fixing the blemish cured the person of their low self esteem. Sometimes counseling them convinced them that their real problem was in how they thought of the supposed blemish. And sometimes fixing a real disfigurement did nothing to improve the patient’s self esteem.

Failures and Successes Reveal

ImaginePositively-AlFoxxDr. Maltz’s patients whose self esteems didn’t improve after their physical defects were corrected obviously had self esteem problems that were rooted in their thoughts about themselves. They imagine themselves in a negative light.

Napoleon Bonaparte once wrote:

The human race is governed by it’s imagination.

Since our imaginations have the power to create worry and fear, why don’t we redirect that same power and use it to see ourselves in a positive light?

There are plenty of examples in sports of people using their imaginations in a constructive and positive way. Consider a golfer who takes imaginary swings at a golf ball before stepping up to the tee. And consider a boxer shadow boxing before stepping into the ring. Instead of spending time worrying about negative results and fearing unwanted  conclusions to your life story, imagine things turning out the way you want them to turn out.

Dr. Maxwell Maltz tells about a psychologist who had two groups of clients who practiced throwing darts. One group threw imaginary darts at imaginary targets and the other group threw real darts at real targets. Amazingly, over the same period of time, both groups improved by the same amount. Since our imaginations often result in self fulfilling prophecies, let’s imagine ourselves successfully interacting with others or successfully doing whatever it is that we want to do.

Al is a Motivational Diversity Speaker, Contact him to speak at your next event.

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