Here's why it may not be what you think...
verb, gerund or present participle: bullying
- use superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force him or her to do what one wants.
"a local man was bullied into helping them"
synonyms:persecute, oppress, tyrannize, browbeat, harass, torment, intimidate,strong-arm, dominate
Another problem with bullying is that we all have different 'buttons'- things that make us feel bad when pointed out. One of the biggest issues today is that we don't always know what serves as a button or trigger for someone else. While it may be perfectly normal to joke with your family in a certain way, friends, co-workers or acquaintances might be more prone to take something personally. This has left some people feeling like they have to walk on proverbial egg shells to avoid offending others. No one wants their freedom of expression limited, but how far is too far? That is a question that we may not be able to answer. The truth is, however, that a major problem with bullies and bullying is that the person in question may not actually realize that what they are doing is wrong. They may not realize that the words they are saying are hurting people to the degree it does, that teasing or joking could really cause lasting damage to the victims, or that they are in fact, a bully, and not just better than their victims.
Do bullies think they are better than those around them? Are they trying to prove that they are? I believe that the answer to this, at least on the outside, is yes. Bullies may think that they are actually better than the person they are bullying, in which case that person might even deserve the bullying.
I think that typically, the answer is that the bully is trying to prove that they are better through the vehicle of bullying. By using intimidation, teasing, and trying to dominate either verbally or physically; a bully is essentially trying to elevate themselves at the expense of someone else. Another tactic is to use the power of ignoring someone, or leaving them out of fun activities, so that that person feels excluded.
Why would someone do this? We hypothesize that, in reality, a bully is secretly very afraid that they are not better, but are in fact, not feeling very good about themselves at all.
Where does that leave us when it comes to the unwitting bullies? Does this mean we need to include everyone, watch our words, never point out others bad behavior or issues? No, but I think much of this dynamic has to do with intention.
If it is your intention that everyone feel accepted and cared about; that doesn't mean you need to include them in everything, but it does mean that you should, at the very least, not point out what you perceive to be flaws, intentionally hurt them, or intentionally exclude them when it doesn't make sense to. If they are a co-worker, and everyone at work is going to a bar, then leaving one person out isn't the kindest act, especially if you know that they would want to come if invited.
We have to teach our children, and indeed accept it as adults ourselves, that we are, in fact, all equal. No one is better than anyone else, but no one is worse either. Diversity and differences are important. If everyone were the same, thought the same, and acted the same way all the time; we wouldn't get anywhere. It is in our differences that we have strength. If you've ever worked in a really dynamic team where it was like the pieces of the puzzle fit together, then you know this to be true. The answer lies in not trying to fit people into any one mold, but in finding what makes each person unique, what their gifts are, and attempting to draw those out and appreciate them more. Bullies need to learn that they are special and important too, just like their victims. This is the inherent similarity between bullies and their victims. In general, unless someone is mentally unsound, people don't want to hurt each other. The truth, as we have found it, is that hurt people, hurt people. So we need to understand the real reason behind bullying behavior, figure out what button it's pushing in the bullies, and the victims.
At Bullying Exposed, that is part of our focus. Revealing the hidden hurts of both parties allows for healing all around. We also promote self-esteem, self-worth, acceptance of differences as strengths rather than divisive elements, and also bystander intervention, which helps to dispel the illusion of power the bully assumes with their victim. It's important to not then turn on the bully, especially a child bully, but to recognize that they are attempting to grab power typically because they themselves feel powerless. If you have any thoughts on this, or experiences you would like to share, then please do comment or email us!