Monday, September 23, 2013

How to deal with bullies.

No quirky title here. Dealing with bullies or people who may not be bullies but ARE being mean, can be a difficult task. There are a few approaches all of which I have used.

So what qualifies me to give advice on the topic? I was bullied pretty heavily in high school and little bit in elementary/middle school. Additionally, I witnessed my siblings be bullied. I have a pretty good perspective having had to deal with it myself and see loved ones struggling with it.

1. Check yourself.
[Is there anything you're doing to bring it on or make it worse?]
2(a). Ignore it.
[Don't give them the satisfaction of seeing you react. Just don't.]
2(b). Tell someone.
[Make sure someone knows what is happening: a friend, teacher, parent, etc...]
3. Act.
[If its unbearable, speak to an adult who can help you: counselor, teacher, police officer (depending on severity), etc...]

(There are a lot of personal anecdotes in here. Sorry if its wordy, but I feel they help me get my point across)

STEP 1: 
Check yourself.
What are people saying to upset you? Are you doing or saying things that are bringing it on yourself? Are you really mouthy? Are you saying mean things to them also? Are you a chronic nose-picker?

Take a look at what is going on and WHY. Sometimes, it IS possible that whatever they're saying is based in fact or something you're doing.

A friend of mine would have these weird, overly-sensitive or sarcastic reactions to things people would say. If someone said "Hey *Amy, can you move your desk over there?" she would comeback with "Yeah, give me a minute and I'll go all the way to Siberia."

In school settings where conformity is king, reacting in any way other than a neutral way could invite a bit of teasing. Amy's reactions to things never bothered me because we were friends and I understood that it was part of her personality to be a little over the top. However, her good-natured, witty comments didn't always translate in situations where she wasn't speaking with friends. She got teased a little for being off beat, but she was a total champ about it.

Once you've looked at what, if any, your possible role in the teasing of bullying may be, its a lot easier to work out a plan to deal with it.

STEP 2(a): 
Unless the harassment is physical, the best thing you can do is ignore it. Tall order, I know. Fire can't burn without fuel; and they can't really deliver meaningful blows if you're not reacting. They'll keep repeating themselves and eventually get bored.

When I was being harassed** I would ignore it for the most part, but I was big on "shooting them looks." I didn't give them any extra ammo by having strong reactions, I just let them say what they were going to say.

I WILL NOT DENY that what they said WAS absolutely damaging. The insults DID affect me. However, I knew that letting them seem me get tripped up would not be to my benefit.

I was pretty lucky that I had some good friends outside of school. So while having strong friendships in school was difficult, I had a network of people who were completely removed from the situations at school. And my out-of-school friends were really tough and badass... so I had that.

The basic formula I followed was to keep a strong face in school, and deal with it however I needed to after school. I was into singing and sports and I had a job, so I had plenty of other activities to throw myself into. I rarely needed to cry or be emotional about it, but I usually needed an outlet to take out my anger and frustration.

**(I actually hate the word "bullied," because that infers that I was a powerless victim. I won't allow them that power-- even 10 years after the fact)

STEP 2(b):
Tell someone.
You need for someone to know what is going on-- no matter how well you think you can deal with it yourself. I chose to tell my work friends and my parents, and my school friends were occasionally witness to what was happening-- but they didn't know how it really made me feel.

It is SUPER important to tell someone. If something were to happen, or if you snap, you need to make sure you have someone in your corner who can verify what had been happening. The last thing you want is to snap, hit the douchebag, and YOU get in trouble for just having the 'pressure-cooker' reaction.

There may come a point where you NEED to do something about the harassment. For me, it came during my Junior year in high school. I was just sick of hearing it. I wasn't overly emotional, but rather just really annoyed. I knew I should be able to go to my locker without having to hear insults thrown at me from behind. I remember the exact reaction I had: I was in my locker and the demon instigator (I'll just refer to him as the D.I. from now on) walked into the room with his friend (who I had known for almost 12 years at that point), and just started spurting hate in my direction. I was having a particularly frustrating day, so I spun around and said "******, I'm sick of you're bullshit. I've had it." I immediately marched into the Guidance Office and told my G.C. what had been happening for the past 2.5 years. He was disappointed that I hadn't told him earlier. I don't think they dealt with it appropriately, but the boy was spoken to.

[Sometime thereabouts, a group of guys loosely related to the D.I. drove to my home (3 different times) and smashed my mailbox. The last time, they happened to get my neighbors as well and one neighbor, who is now Mayor, caught them and had the police bring them in. I regret not pressing charges, but there was one kid who had always been particularly normal towards me, and I couldn't justify screwing up his life and college acceptances just to fry the other two.]

After the D.I. was "dealt with," things let up a bit and it was to the point where it didn't really bother me anymore. I was a Senior and graduation was on the horizon.

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